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We have all heard that grass fed, grass finished beef is more nutritious than grain finished beef. Where’s the science? Where are the facts? There have been a ton of studies which have shown the benefits in real, hard numbers; but they can be difficult to find. If you want to check out the full scholarly article ripe with references and links to multiple other studies, check out this link. Otherwise, here’s a shorter version!
Grass finished beef is good for you, period. But why?
#1. Omega 3 fatty acids. Why are they important? (this is a long one)
A healthy diet should be 1-4 times higher in omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3 fatty acids.
A typical American diet has 11-30 times more omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3 fatty acids.
Experts believe the difference in omega 6-omega 3 ratio could be responsible in part for the rising rate of inflammatory disorders in the United States.
Studies have shown there is a significant difference in the fatty acid profiles of grass-finished beef and grain finished beef. Grass finished beef has a more ideal ratio of 1.53:1 omega 6 fatty acids to omega 3 fatty acids, grain finished averages a ratio 7.65:1.
There are 4 major types of omega 3 fatty acids. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are the ones we’ll talk about.
EPA and DHA have been shown to play a crucial role in prevention of heart attacks, depression, and cancer. While our bodies can synthesize a small percentage of these omega 3s, most of them come from our diets. Animals who are allowed to eat food higher in precursor lipids (the building blocks for omega 3s found in forage) produce meat with higher concentrations of essential fatty acids. It has been shown that as the amount of grain an animal eats increases, the amount of omega 3s in their body decrease. In as little as 30 days the benefits of being raised on pasture can be erased by finishing on grain.
Even if animals are raised on grass, when they are finished on grain for a short period of time they lose the favorable omega 6-omega 3 ratio!
#2. CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid)
Health benefits of increased CLA consumption include a reduction in carcinogenesis, atherosclerosis, and the onset of diabetes. The typical American does not consume enough CLA to have a significant impact on cancer prevention or suppression. Grass finished beef is 2-3 times higher in CLA than grain finished beef. Why?
While the precursors (building blocks) for CLA are found in both grain and lush forages, eating grain changes the rumen PH in cattle. The rumen is part of the stomach. This change affects the production of CLA by suppressing the bacteria who are responsible for converting the building blocks from their feed into CLA.
#3. Vitamin A/Beta Carotene
Carotenes (mainly beta-carotene) are precursors of retinol (Vitamin A), a critical fat-soluble vitamin that is important for normal vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation. Grass finished steers have been shown to have 7 times more beta-carotene than grain finished steers. You can actually see evidence of higher levels of carotenoids in the fat color of some grass finished beef. Grass finished beef will often have fat that is more yellow, caused by the carotenoids found in lush forages!
#4. Vitamin E/ α-tocopherol
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that exists in eight different isoforms with powerful antioxidant activity, the most active being α-tocopherol. Antioxidants help protect your body from free radicals which are thought to contribute to chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Grass finished beef has up to 3 times as much a-tocopherol when compared to grain finished beef!
This is just a short list of the benefits of eating grass fed, grass finished beef. There’s so much more if you have been inspired to dig into the research!
Where is this research coming from? The National Library of Medicine.
Who are they and why should you believe them?!
The National Library of Medicine is the world’s largest biomedical library and a leader in research in computational health informatics. NLM plays a pivotal role in translating biomedical research into practice. NLM’s research and information services support scientific discovery, health care, and public health. So they’re the real deal.