Worried about eating beef? Don’t like all the bad press you’ve heard about red meat and disease? But what if you’d like to use red meat as a source of nutrients? Beef is, after all, the number one food source of protein, zinc, and vitamin B12, according to some researchers.
You probably know that most of the bad press centered around red meat concerns its saturated fat content. And before you protest that beef contains too much saturated fat, here are some points to consider. The cattle industry feeds their animals either grain or grass. This gives you a choice: buy grain-fed beef or buy grass-fed beef. The wisest choice is most certainly grass-fed beef. It even trumps so-called “organic” meat. In a nutshell, the difference lies in the fat content of the meat. Grass-fed cattle have far more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed cattle do.
Cows were meant to eat grass; they naturally exist on pastures. Grass is healthier for them and, in turn, it is healthier for us. Why would we feed them grain, which is less healthy for us? The answer is that it is cheaper for the farmers. It is also easier to control grain feed than to allow cattle full access to a pasture. Instead of this, they are put in feed lots, where they are fed grain in an effort to fatten them up and get them to the market more quickly.
Basically, cows manufacture omega-3 fatty acids from the grass in their stomachs. And with the evidence out there about the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio (most of us are higher in omega-6s than we should be), it’s clear that beef cows fed grass need not be considered something to avoid altogether. It can be, like fish, an important source of the unsaturated fat you need for the maintenance of good health.
Australian researchers in one study have stated that because grass-fed cows have significantly more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed animals, such beef has the ability to enhance your health. They tested cattle raised on grass, cattle raised on grass but then switched to grain for a short time, and cattle switched to grain for a long period of time. The latter is, unfortunately, what goes on most often in the U.S. The grass-fed cows had much higher omega-3 levels than both the other groups that had switched to grain did. This beef had enough EPA and DHA to qualify as a “significant” source of these fats, which are more commonly linked to eating fish. The grass-fed meat also had less total fat and saturated fat.
Don’t be afraid to add a little red meat to your diet. Eating grass-fed beef once a week may actually benefit your health if you find that your levels of protein, zinc and/or B12 are low.