Most of us have been to restaurants and seen on the menu things that sound so good they make your mouth water. Wagyu beef, marbled steak, grain fed for 90 days etc. They all sound very appealing and a bit fancy too. You will also generally pay a premium price for these things too. But to me, any of these terms, makes me steer well clear. I love my meat and steak is one of my favourites. I love it done rare, smothered with a nice creamy sauce, so I would love to order it when I go out, but will only order it if it says pasture or grass fed. Why you may ask? Read on to find out…
There are really two separate issues here with the grain fed beef industry. The first being completely on ethical grounds and the second to do with health. Lets look at the ethics of grain fed meats.
Why would you feed a cow grains? When we think of cows, we all picture them out in a paddock surrounded by grass happily grazing away. When we feed them grains as a staple of their diet, the meat tends to get veins of fat through it, making the meat more tender (marbling). It also has a far more consistent taste to it than grass fed. Which all sounds good. But in reality, when a cow is put in a pen and fed grains, they are crammed in far tighter than they would in any grassy paddock, sometimes knee deep in their own waste and forced to eat something which can cause severe stomach pains and upsets the balance of their digestive system.
When cows eat grass, it first heads to a section of the digestive system called a rumen. It ferments here for a period of time, is then regurgitated as a cud, rechewed into smaller particles and is then passed through the rest of it’s complex digestive system. Grains do not ferment like grass does. Grains cause excess acid build up and severe bloating. Cows have been reported to kick their own stomachs to alleviate some of this bloating.
The cows tend to grow far more rapidly on this diet and can surpass the weight of a 12 month old cow in a matter of a few of months. Better for the farmer, as they need less land due to the cramped conditions they can keep them in and a much higher turn around as they can be slaughtered much younger. Why would they consider pasture feeding?
To cut a long story short, when you buy a grain fed piece of meat, you are essentially buying part of a very sick animal and supporting an inhumane industry. These animals are in fact so sick that they are routinely fed antibiotics to prevent illness. This ends up in the meat we eat. I know there are many vegetarians and vegans out there who would tell you to avoid the stuff all together for similar reasons. But I like eating it, I believe the right sources of meat are very healthy and contain many essential vitamins that you will struggle to get elsewhere. Although I am not comfortable in supporting a method of farming such as this one.
As far as your health goes, the balance of nutrients in grain fed beef is far different to that of grass fed. The omega 3 to 6 ratio in our diets is quite important. Too much 6 compared to 3 causes excess inflammation in the body. Omega 3 is anti inflammatory and omega 6 is pro inflammatory. So the balance is quite important as with all parts of the diet. With grain fed, the omega 6 tends to be far higher than that of grass fed, while the omega 3 is minimised and in some cases, non existent.
Grass fed beef also tends to be far higher in fat soluble vitamins and minerals such as selenium, calcium and magnesium and is far richer in a fat known as Conjugated Linoleic Acid, or CLA. CLA consumption has been linked with a reduction in things like cancer tumor size, heart disease, high blood pressure, body fat, inflammation, allergies among many other things.
So it’s your choice, eat the meat form a sick animal and get sick, or choose a healthier alternative and live a longer healthier life.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg. I could do pages on this topic, but I really don’t want to bore you with the finer details. If you would like to find out more about farming practices, the good and bad, watch a movie by the name of Food Inc. It really will make you think twice next time you go shopping.