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Greener Pastures: When It Comes to Beef, Is Grass-Fed Better?

By Patsy Jamieson, "Greener Pastures," March/April 2008


READER'S COMMENT:
"This is such a wonderful article. I recently watched Food Inc and I am in the process of reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. I find most people just don't want to know where their meat comes from. In fact, I bought the documentary so I...

Healthier How?

Grass-fed beef advocates—like Ridge Shinn, founder of Hardwick Beef, a distributor of grass-fed beef produced by a small group of New England farms—will also tell you about grass-fed beef’s nutritional boons. Ridge points out that grass-fed beef is richer in beneficial fatty acids. While it does not compare with the omega-3 content of wild salmon, some research suggests that grass-fed beef has more omega-3s—according to some studies, significantly more—than conventional beef.

Another type of “good” fat found in meat and dairy products from ruminant animals is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Research on the benefits of CLA to humans is in the early stages, but a few animal studies have shown a relationship between CLA and an improved immune system, as well as a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. CLA is present in all beef, but one 1999 study in the Journal of Dairy Science found that grass-fed beef had 500 percent more CLA than cows fed a conventional grain-based diet.

Another type of “good” fat found in meat and dairy products from ruminant animals is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Research on the benefits of CLA to humans is in the early stages, but a few animal studies have shown a relationship between CLA and an improved immune system, as well as a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. CLA is present in all beef, but one 1999 study in the Journal of Dairy Science found that grass-fed beef had 500 percent more CLA than cows fed a conventional grain-based diet.

Take note that the nutrition advantages of grass-fed beef diminish when grain is introduced to the diet. Ridge likens it to being “a little bit pregnant.” He says, “It is 100 percent grass-fed or it is not. Any time spent in a feedlot negates the added benefits of grass-fed.” Look for the label “100% grass-fed and finished” or ask the farmer or rancher who raised the animal how the beef was finished.



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