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Grassfed beef versus grain-fed beef

Grassfed beef is healthier than grain-fed beef for humans.1 There are a number of factors that play a very important role as to why this statement is true.

Grassfed beef has a lower fat content per equal weights of beef than a grain-fed animal. The consumption of the leaner grassfed beef actually lowers LDL cholesterol levels in humans,1 whereas grain-fed beef consumption raises LDL cholesterol levels. This can lead to blood vessel plaques. In addition, grassfed beef has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef.2 These omega-3 fatty acids are essential for healthy brain and heart function.3 “Brain and nervous tissue abnormalities figure prominently in diseases linked to omega-3 fatty acid deficiency and omega-6 excess.

Repeated studies show that fetal and infant development is impaired by omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, which is widespread in this country.”4 Among ten populations from five different continents studied, American adults have the highest levels of omega-6 fatty acids, and American infants have the lowest levels of omega-3 fatty acids.3

Omega-3 fatty acids are most abundant in seafood, and certain nuts and seeds, but are also found in 100 percent grassfed beef. Beef cattle that eat grass or green leaves have significantly higher omega-3 fatty acid levels than grain-fed animals.5 Once a beef animal is fed grain in a feedlot, the omega-3 levels begins to fall.1 The most-used feedlot grain is corn, whose “fat is not a good omega-3 fat but rather the bad omega-6 fat.”2

The beneficial ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids is very important for good health. Our typical Western diet has excessive omega-6 fatty acids and is omega-3 fatty acid deficient. This imbalance has been linked with increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergies, depression, obesity and autoimmune disease.1 “The ideal ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids is 4-to-1 or less. Grain-fed beef’s ratio is 14-to-1, which is not healthy. A typical American diet has 11 to 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids.”3 Wild game, such as elk, deer and antelope, and grassfed beef all have ratios around 2-to-1.6 This ratio is considered very healthy. In fact, grassfed beef has the same ratio that fish has, without the danger of mercury.8

Meat and dairy products from grassfed ruminants are the richest known source of another type of good fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).1 Grassfed beef has three to five times more CLA than animals fed conventional grain diets. Grain consumption makes a cow’s rumen (its first stomach) more acidic, thereby decreasing bacterial synthesis of CLA. An additional fat in grassfed beef is trans-vaccenic acid (TVA), which has been shown to convert to CLA.8

Beta-carotene has also been found to be much higher in pasture-raised steers’ muscle tissues than that of grain-fed steers. This important precursor to vitamin A is critical for normal vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division and cell differentiation. The difference in levels between these two types of steers was sevenfold.8

Antioxidants, such as vitamin E, protect cells against the effects of free radicals, which can lead to the development of chronic diseases.8 Grassfed beef has three times the vitamin E of grain-fed beef.

Another newly discovered protein, glutathione (GT), which is in grassfed beef, has the capability of quenching free radicals and thereby protecting cells from damage.8 In addition, grassfed samples are higher in superoxide dismutase and catalase, two powerful antioxidants that are increased in beef raised on grass-only diets.8

Grassfed beef offers the consumer a wealth of healthy attributes that grain-fed beef is unable to offer:

  • Contains a healthy omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of around 2-to-1.
  • Contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Lowers cholesterol levels.
  • Lowers fat content (less calories per equal weight).
  • Contains three to five times more CLA.
  • Contains more TVA.
  • Contains seven times more b-carotene (pro vitamin A).
  • Contains three times more a-tocopherol (vitamin E).
  • Contains glutathione (GT).
  • Contains superoxide dismutase and catalase.

Many of these elements are cancer-fighting antioxidants that are potently packed in grassfed beef. Grassfed beef is not only great food, but also like medicine as it “may play a role in the prevention and treatment of:

  • Coronary artery disease.
  • Hypertension.
  • Arthritis.
  • Cancer.
  • Other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.”7

“If you eat a typical amount of beef (66.5 pounds a year), switching to grassfed beef will save you 17,733 calories — without requiring any willpower or change in your eating habits.”1 You will also be improving your health! 


Gregory Stroncek and Lea Dolan-Stroncek own Seven Seeds Farm in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. They raise grassfed Murray Grey cattle, pasture poultry and pastured pork. The beef is certified by AWA, AGA, USDA and MOSA Organic, and is audited annually by each agency. The Seven Seeds Farm Store is located at 5079 County Road Z in Spring Green. For more information, call 608-935-5757 or visithttp://sevenseedsorganicfarm.com.

Sources:

1. http://eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm.

2. “The Grassfed Primer — your guide to the benefits of grassfed beef,” Animal Welfare Approved, http://AnimalWelfareApproved.org.

3. Masterjohn, Chris; “Precious Yet Perilous — understanding the essential fatty acids,” http://Westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/precious-yet-perilous.

4. Myers, Charles; Myers, Rose; “The New Prostate Cancer Nutrition Book,” Rivanna Health Publications, p.46.

5. http://Americangrassfedbeef.com/grassfed-natural-beef.asp.

6. Simopoulos and Robinson, “The Omega Diet,” Harper Collins, 1999.

7. http://mercola.com/beef/health_benefits.hym.

8. Daley et al, “A review of Fatty Acid Profiles and Antioxidant Content in Grassfed and Grain-fed Beef,” Nutr. J. 2010;9:10.

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