I love cows. I have an affinity for them for reasons that I have not even fully realized. I just think they’re…. fun, I guess. They have a ‘way’ about them. But I also love their meat, (BURGERS – no bun) and also – cheese, butter, ghee, ice cream, cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt… You get the picture. (Side note: I like the pastured, organic, additive-free varieties of these goods. Otherwise, my body takes notice.)
What’s “Pastured”, you say? I’m glad you asked. I’ll get to that in a quick minute. When it comes to the beef from cattle – there are a couple of major factors that impact our health when we ingest their meats.
1) What THEY eat
2) How they were raised…
I refuse to buy meat that isn’t pastured. When animals (of any kind) are bred in CAFOs – (see THIS LINK for an eye-opening overview from cafothebook.org) – mass-produced with nothing but profits in mind, there are a plethora of issues that come out of those meats and into our systems:
- Animals fed grains naturally produce more inflammatory omega-6’s – which equate to the same result for us.
- Animals fed grain diets are acidic in nature, and we want to counter that by alkalinizing the body. When the body is too acidic – inflammation and other ailments may develop, persist, and likely worsen.
- Non-organic meats, typically, are still often given doses of antibiotics & growth hormones. (Yes, this is still allowed.) – It’s especially true for grain-fed animals, because they are very likely to develop E.Coli and other bacterial infections by digesting these grains that they were not meant to ingest. The typical grain-fed diet includes GMO grains, which are devised to contain antibiotics as well.
- Non-organic meats are also fed GMO-sourced feed, which equates to pesticides, herbicides, the potential for genetic mutation, and antibiotics in their meats.
- There is also the concern over the animal’s well-being, stress levels, and mistreatment – in addition to improper handling of the mass-processed meats…
- Major pollution; our soils, our waterways, and our entire planet suffer from the degrading practices of CAFO’s/ AFO’s.
- And a GOOD thing: Grass-fed beef and raw dairy from grass-fed animals are the best source for CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) – which the body cannot produce on its own. This potent nutrient is responsible for helping to maintain our health on many levels – including reducing inflammation, boosting immunity, lowering body fat while preserving muscle mass, lowering risk of heart disease, regulating blood pressure & cholesterol, battling insulin resistance, and even fighting cancer.
Now here’s some clarity regarding those labels, as they pertain to beef –
IN ORDER FROM WORST TO BEST:
- Organic: The cattle may be raised in less than ideal conditions, though still a step-up from a CAFO operation. They are still given a grain feed, but this grain cannot contain GMOs, chemical fertilizers, or pesticides, and they may not be given antibiotics or artificial growth hormones. *(You will still be impacted by the negative effects of grain-fed cattle, as noted above.)
- Grass-Fed: Usually this refers to cattle that have been given access to pasture, or are primarily pastured, with supplemental grain feeds. If it is organic AND grass-fed, you have peace-of-mind that the feed doesn’t contain any of the nasty chemicals or GMOs – though you’re still not getting a grain-free meat. These animals are most often grain-finished to ‘fatten them up’. *Guess what? It does the same thing to us!
- Pastured: Typically it means that the animals are left to forage naturally on open landscapes bearing their natural food sources. It CAN also mean that they are given feed to supplement their diets, for seasonal reasons (excuses in my opinion – because why not harvest grasses to feed them during the off-season instead of grains?) – or that they are being ‘fattened up’ with grain before they are sent to slaughter. – They lose so much of their nutritional benefits when this occurs – particularly those omega-3’s we need to balance the omega-6s in our diets, and reduce overall systemic inflammation. We also lose that much-needed CLA that our bodies need to flourish.
- “100% Grass Fed” – or Grass-Finished: These labels mean that the animals were pastured solely – and that they were not given any sources of grain/ supplemental feeds. This is the healthiest animal meat you can eat. Generally – as far as I understand – they are also not generally out there spraying the acres & acres of natural wild grasses with pesticides or fertilizers in most cases. While not having an ‘organic’ label does mean that farmers legally could be upholding practices involving pesticide/ herbicide use on grasses, it’s still nutritionally better for humans to eat fully grass-fed/ finished meat, vs. organic grain-fed beef. And again – most farmers/ ranchers who manage fully grass-fed animals do uphold organic practices, even if they do not seek to acquire an organic label. These farmers maintain these natural practices for a reason – and understand their customers’ desires – as well as the natural ways of managing & rotating natural pastures.
- Organic + 100% Grass Fed/ Grass Finished: The tops! You know for certain that the grasses are naturally maintained without the use of fertilizers or pesticides, there’s nothing else going on that could be questionable, and you have fully pastured animals that only graze on natural grasses. *(A rare combo of certifications.)
TIP #1: Try to buy local grass-finished beef. It’s fresh, and it’s also the greenest, most Earth-friendly option. For us Upper-Midwesterners – my family loves the ground beef from Thousand Hills – produced right in MN. Since that has become increasingly difficult to find locally, we have recently tried and enjoyed Grass Run Farms ground beef as well – found at our local Byerly’s! They are a 100% grass fed beef producer in Iowa. [Thousand Hills is still our top-fave, and we’ve begun to order it online. Yay!]
TIP #2: Overall, I love buying meats in the case from Whole Foods! They have an animal-welfare numbering system from 1-5 (one being lowest-grade, 5 being best conditions) – on all of their meats – with an explanation for what the numbers indicate. Makes decision-making SO much simpler!
Now that we’ve got that all sorted out…. Mmmmm…. Are ya ready for that grass fed burger? I am!