I’ve been searching for a local source for grass fed beef for a long time. This is one area where my frugal side and my health oriented side have been fighting for a while. I want the best quality food I can get my hands on, but I also don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it. Don’t get me wrong, I think farmers should be paid well, after all, they are responsible for feeding us. But I was having trouble justifying paying double the price for beef. I was almost resigned to it, until I found a local rancher with very reasonable prices on his organically raised, grass fed, local beef. It felt like Christmas!
So what is the big deal with grass fed beef anyway? Is it just another marketing ploy in order to get people to pay top dollar for something?
Thankfully, this is one area where its pretty clear that grass fed beef is better for you than grain fed, CAFO beef. Even aside from the health benefits, the living conditions of CAFO animals are absolutely deplorable, and its shameful that we allow something God created to be treated so inhumanely. But, this is a health blog, so let’s focus on the health benefits for now.
Grass fed beef (and dairy) are rich sources of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is known as a “skinny fat”. It’s an essential fatty acid that we need for a number of functions within our body, particularly when it comes to fat metabolism. CLA decreases fat storage in the body, particularly in the abdominal region. It also stimulates the breakdown of fat and allows both your liver and muscle cells to use fat for energy. As if that wasn’t enough, it also increases lean muscle mass. More lean muscle mass means that your resting metabolism is operating at a higher rate, and you burn more calories even when resting. Since you burn 60% of your calories at rest, this has a huge impact on your overall health, energy, and body composition. The sad news is, natural CLA production in cattle has decreased by 80% over the last 30 years. This is due to the fact that cattle are now primarily fed grain rather than grass.
Another benefit of grass fed beef is that the overall health of the cow is vastly superior to those of CAFO cows. Since the cows are eating what they’ve been designed to eat, they have fewer intestinal disorders, lower infection rates, and the benefits of exposure to clean air and water are obvious. Fewer infections and better health mean that these cows don’t need antibiotics and synthetic chemicals to keep them from dropping dead in the CAFO before they reach their goal weight. As I discussed in my post on obesogens, these synthetic chemicals get passed on to us and affect every system in our bodies. They lead to reproductive disorders such as infertility and early puberty, and decrease our metabolisms and lead to weight gain. Antibiotics in our food lead to increased antibiotic resistance and the development of “super-bugs” that are harder and harder to treat.
So, have I convinced you yet that grass fed is better than CAFO raised grain fed beef? If you’re looking for a source of pastured beef in your area, try looking at the website Eat Wild. And don’t despair if it takes you a while to find a good source of affordable beef. Thankfully, people are catching on, and there’s a small revival happening in the world of sustainable farming. If you live in central florida, check out my new favorite rancher at Lake Oriole Ranch. I’ll be cleaning out my deep freezer in anticipation of some yummy, grass fed beef!
This post is part of Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist.