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  • Writer's pictureEloise Palmateer, RDN, LD

Is "Grass-Fed" Better for my Health?

Deciphering the difference between grass-fed, pastured meat versus its conventional CAFO counterpart


In recent years, grass-fed has become a popular phrase stamped on beef, bison, lamb, dairy, and other animal products. With a much higher price tag than it's conventional counterpart, many people wonder - is it all that it's hyped up to be?


The answer depends on who you ask, but MY answer, is a resounding yes. First, let's look into the perils of processed, industrialized meat production. Then, we'll explore the benefits of eating grass-fed animals raised on pasture.


The Perils of Processed Meat


We have all been subjected to vegan propaganda at some point or another, stumbling upon clips of chickens running around with their beaks cut off (so they can't peck at each other), animals confined in crates or pens they barely fit inside, and workers overtly abusing cattle. It turns out that when an animal is raised in these harsh and abusive conditions, the stress hormones pumping throughout their bodies affect the quality of their meat, and ultimately end up in our own diets. ...And we wonder why children are entering puberty earlier than ever.


Aside from the heinous maltreatment of animals raised in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations), there is a lot more to be concerned about. In 2017, a flatbed pickup truck was on its way to a cattle farm in Wisconsin when its contents came pouring out onto the highway... thousands of red Skittles scattered about. When authorities got involved, it was revealed that these red Skittles were missing their "S" stamp, rendering them unsellable. So, rather than bringing them to the dump, they were shipped off to be used as feed. What better way to fatten up a cow than feeding it candy? It turns out that feeding animals "food" deemed inedible to humans is commonplace in industrial farming.


Before slaughter and to prepare them for becoming big, juicy cuts of meat, animals are fattened up by being fed corn, wheat, soy, and apparently, candy. None of these foods are naturally occurring in their diet, and because they don't have the physiology to properly digest them, they become fat and sick. To prevent and treat this consequential illness, they are pumped up with antibiotics, which, surprise surprise, end up in our own bodies upon consuming the meat. And let's not forget about the hormones that are administered in addition to the antibiotics.


That's enough nastiness for now (though I could go on!). Let's look into the benefits of eating animals that are properly raised in their natural habitat and fed their instinctive diet.


The Benefits of Grass-Fed, Pastured Animals


Many studies have found that when animals are raised in their natural habitat and fed what they evolved to eat, their meat and byproducts (think eggs and dairy) is much healthier. For example, the meat from cows raised on pasture that are fed primarily grass and hay contain higher amounts of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats and lower amounts of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats. It has also been found that the milk from grass-fed cows contains up to 500 times higher the amount of CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, than from cows fed soy and grains. CLA is a beneficial fatty acid that has been shown to impart multiple health benefits including aiding in weight loss and managing type II diabetes.


These same concepts apply to other animals as well. When chickens are raised in conditions where they can easily and freely roam about outdoors and have access to their natural diet of worms and bugs from picking in the dirt, the nutrient composition of both their meat and their eggs is superior to those raised in CAFOs and fed an unnatural diet of soy byproducts.


The Bottom Line


When shopping for meat and other animals products, always opt for organic. Organic meat, dairy, and eggs are free of herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, and added hormones. If you are truly invested in your own health, you would pay the extra dollar to avoid intentionally consuming these chemicals and substances that have mysterious effects on our bodies. As often as you can, buy products from grass-fed, pastured animals. As the demand for animals raised this way is increasing, these products are becoming easier to find. Check out ButcherBox.com where you can order responsibly sourced beef, bacon, chicken, and more, or visit localharvest.org to find local sources in your area.




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Sources:

  • https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/01/red-skittles-cattle-feed-agriculture-environment-wisconsin/

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10531600


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