The Ancient Paths Family Farm

Getting Back to Basics in Health and Nutrition

The Health Benefits of Grass Fed Meats

Posted by theancientpathsfamilyfarm on March 12, 2008

Our family farm consists of grass fed beef, sheep and free range poultry. In the beginning we couldn’t afford grain to feed to the animals so we stuck just to grass and grass hay. We were looked down upon by friends and neighbors who would tell us that our meat would be tough and tasteless, or that we’d have a hard time finding buyers for our steers. Of course, we believed them. They were, after all, not only more experienced but some of them are rather large producers. But we were after more of a lifestyle than making a living from the farm, so it didn’t bother us too much. Our cows were happy and healthy in their pastures, the chickens and turkeys roamed through the yard and the woods seeking whatever critters they could find to gobble up, and the sheep (4-H projects) were content in their pasture laying under the big evergreen tree. Everyone was content and peaceful.

Then comes the “all natural” and “grass fed, grain free” interest. We started to think that maybe we had “done it right” after all! So we began to learn a little about the health benefits of grass fed beef, in particular. What we’ve learned has been quite interesting!! I’ll share a little here and include links to other web pages that contain more information and more specific information.

The Basics

Grass fed beef is comparable to skinless chicken breast in it’s fat content and to wild salmon in it’s Omega oil content. WOW! Societies of people who are hunters and gatherers, people who live off of wild elk, deer, salmon, or other wild animals do not have all of the health issues that our modern science has blamed on “red meat”. Now we’re beginning to understand why that is! Wild animals do not eat grain or grain products, they eat grass and other plants. For the most part, the “red meat” in your North American grocery story is grain fed on feed lots.

The difference between grainfed and grassfed animal products is dramatic.

First of all, grassfed products tend to be much lower in total fat than grainfed products. For example, a sirloin steak from a grassfed steer has about one half to one third the amount of fat as a similar cut from a grainfed steer.

In fact, grassfed meat has about the same amount of fat as skinless chicken or wild deer or elk. When meat is this lean, it actually lowers your LDL cholesterol levels.

Grass fed animals do not put on much fat, they are leaner than their grain fed counterparts. So the fat content will be considerably less in a grass fed animal which translates directly to the fat content of the meat on your plate. Now, keep in mind, because the fat content is less you will have to cook this meat a bit differently. It will take less time to cook and sometimes a lower temperature as well. If you cook grass fed beef like you cook store bought (or other grain fed) beef you will end up with a really dry cut of meat. The meat is that different.

After isolating these fats scientific experiments determined that if the ratio of omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats exceeds 4:1, people have more health problems. This is especially meaningful since grain-fed beef can have ratios that exceed 20:1 whereby grass-fed beef is down around 3:1.

Similar ratios are also found in all grain-fed versus grass-fed livestock products.

Grassfed products are rich in all the fats now proven to be health-enhancing, but low in the fats that have been linked with disease.

Omega 3 oils are all the rage these days and I’m sure that you’ve heard of them and how wonderful they are. They are found in higher ratios in wild meats and in grass fed meat.

Omega 3’s, specifically, are important for the prevention and treatment of:
* coronary artery disease
* hypertension
* arthritis
* cancer
* other inflammatory and autoimmune disorders

Other Benefits
Grass fed beef is lower in calories, which is good for us because we often consume more calories than we use. Remember in science class, back in school, where we learned that the term “Calorie” is a unit of measurement for energy? The energy we consume needs to be used up by our bodies and what doesn’t get used up is then stored as fat. The fat we store is the warehouse for toxin storage, too. So to put it plainly – extra calories translates to fat. Grass fed cattle spend their energy grazing and chewing their cud. Grain fed cattle consume a lot of calories in their grain and often do not have access to grazing pasture, so they spend their days standing on a grass-less lot. They do not burn the calories they consume so it becomes fat, which we want to avoid in our diets. So the calorie question is two-fold in beef – the calories the animal has stored in it’s lifetime and the calories you will consume when you sit down to your favorite steak dinner or you summer b-b-q burgers.

Grass fed meats also have a higher content of CLAs and Vitamin E. A lack of these seem to be related links to things like heart disease and cancer.

Now That You Know
Now that you know a little about the health benefits of grass fed beef you might be interested in some further reading. I have listed a few links at the end of this article for you to start your reading with. But you may have heard enough and be interested in buying some grass fed meat for your own family. I suggest finding someone in your local area who raises grass fed livestock. Give them a call, drive by their place and see how the animals are living. Most small producers are just families like us who love living rurally and work hard to be good stewards of their small farms as well as the animals they raise. Buying locally will keep your hard earned money in your own community and will support small family farms, like ours, who are a dying breed. I can’t think of a better way to eat healthy, support your local economy and your local environment.

For further reading:
The Health Benefits of Grass Fed Products
The Benefits of Grassfed Lamb
Enhanced Nutrient Content of Grass Fed Beef: Justification for Health Benefit Label Claim
Grass Fed Beef – Health Benefits
Why Grass Fed Animal Products Are Better For You
The Health Benefits of Grass Fed Beef

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