What it Means and Why You Need to Know
Just when you thought you’d finally figured out the whole organic thing, the grass-fed movement erupted. What is all the buzz about, and what does it mean?
The term “grass-fed” is used to explain how livestock has been raised and fed. Cows that roam the pastures and feed on grass, as opposed to feed, are grass-fed animals.
You may be asking, “so what?” There are two significant reasons that you should be aware of how an animal was raised and fed before it made its way to your market and onto your dinner table.
The Nutritional Content of Grass Fed Beef is Superior
Grass-fed beef has a healthier profile than grain-fed beef does. It is higher in vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. CLA may be an aggressive cancer fighter. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects against cell damage and contributes to a healthy circulatory system. Omega 3 fatty acids promote heart health.
Why? It all boils down to what the cows feed on. It turns out that cows are healthier and live better, longer lives when they are raised on pasture. They require less human intervention, like hormone injections, when they are healthier. They also benefit from their rich, grass diet. Omega 3s are formed in the grass that the cows feed on. These omega 3s are passed on to us when we consume their meat.
Grass-fed beef is not only higher in nutritional content. It is also lower in fat and calories. In her article “Why Grass Fed is Best,” author Jo Johnson points out that a steak from a grass-fed cow can be up to one half the calories of the steak produced from a grain-fed cow. More stunning a statistic, though, is that if you are an average American consumer, you eat approximately 66 pounds of beef each year. If you switched from grain-fed to grass-fed meat products, the calories that you would save would equate to a 6 pound weight loss over the course of a year!
Raising Cows on Pasture is Environmentally Friendly
The environmental impact of raising cows on pasture is significantly lower than the impact of raising cows on industrial farms. As cows graze, their manure acts as a natural fertilizer, creating a sustainable system. As a result, pasture farms experience less land erosion and use fewer chemicals, fuels and fertilizers.
In feedlots, the animals’ feed is raised elsewhere and shipped to the animals. It is grown using fertilizers and pesticides. The animals are kept in cramped quarters where their manure builds up and is ultimately shipped elsewhere. There it pollutes the soil and water.
Where Can I Learn More?
There is much to learn about the grass-fed movement and what it means to you. EatWild.com is a great place to begin gathering more information. You may also be interested in learning about the differences between organic beef and grass-fed beef. Try visiting your local Farmer’s Market to find grass-fed meat in your area.