The Beef about Beef: Part 3 Nutrition and Food Safety
Hello friends and conscientious omnivores!
One more message about beef today. This might be my favorite - how our beef choice is a question of health and longevity for ourselves and our families.
Health & Food Safety Reasons Why we should Choose 100% Grassfed Beef
One of our guiding principles of farming is that healthy soils feed healthy plants feed healthy animals and so on up the food chain. When an animal eats a nutrient rich diet, its tissues will contain optimal nutrition for its predator (that's us in the case of farm animals).
Or, as my friend and farmer Judy Stoltzfus says, “you are what your food eats.“
So in order to talk about human health, we need to talk about animal health. For an animal to be healthy, it needs to be eating a diet that is nutritionally appropriate. That goes for hamsters or goldfish from the pet store, and it goes for people too.
The fact is that cows are ruminants - this means that they have four stomachs (actually four distinct compartments in their giant stomach). Ruminants have evolved to digest fibrous plant material and break it down into usable nutrition. That is amazing, and is why ruminants were the first domesticated food animal roughly 11,000 years ago; they could eat things that we couldn't eat, and turn that into nutritious food for us.
Health Dangers of Commercially Available Beef
When american cattle are moved to feedlots at around 6 months old, they are fattened quickly on concentrated (GMO) corn/soybeans/grain. Along with the negative effects of crowded conditions, what happens then is a series of changes in their digestive system: the pH changes, bacteria responsible for breakdown of food are changed, bloating, liver abscesses, and other serious health problems.
Just as in all other CAFO [confined animal feeding operations] systems, these animals are then fed antibiotics daily as a part of routine disease prevention. This perpetuates the growth and development of antibiotic resistant “superbugs”.
Overuse of antibiotics in the livestock industry are a leading cause of antibiotic resistant infectious diseases.
Another huge issues with this current industrial system is that when the cattle are brought to the slaughterhouses, there is a processing challenge of not allowing the caked on manure (from sleeping and living in their own manure) to get mixed in with the meat. This is how beef becomes contaminated with e.coli and other dangerous pathogens.
Health Benefits of 100% Grassfed Beef
In stark contrast to these health dangers, 100% grassfed beef represents a nutritional advantage; first to the animal, and then in turn to us, the consumer.
Beef is full of protein, B vitamins, and other essential nutrients. 100% grassfed beef has been shown to have plenty of health benefits. Among these are higher amounts of valuable omega 3 fatty acids, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), Vitamin A, E, potassium, iron, zinc, phosphorous, and sodium. Further health claims include potential cancer fighting abilities and lowered heart disease risks with eating grassfed nutrient rich beef.
Perhaps most importantly, grassfed beef contains no antibiotics and a far lower risk of exposure to pathogenic bacteria.
If you have the time, consider giving Animal Welfare Approved’s The Grassfed Primer a quick read. It is a short booklet that goes into some fascinating aspects of the history of thebeef industry (alas, no more room for that today!), and concludes:
“We know that producing meat from true grassfed systems not only improves the health and welfare of farm animals, but that grassfed systems are far less likely to cause environmental pollution. We also now know that grassfed farming has a potentially vital role to play in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through carbon sequestration, where CO2 is locked in the living soil. Grassfed meat and dairy products also offer real human health benefits in terms of higher levels of omega-3s, CLAs and vitamin E, as well as reducing the risk of E. coli infection.”
Morphing superbugs, untested GMO technology that changes biology in untested and unknown ways, deficiency of essential nutrients - these are just a few of the byproducts of an industry that is actually optional. We don't have to keep buying into it, now that we know better.
It is not simply a matter of our own personal health and wellbeing, but a much larger issue of the direction of our collective food supply.
All change begins with us and our choices. Find yourself a good local grassfed beef farmer - there are lots of us here in PA. Let’s choose health and wellbeing for our animals, ourselves, and our planet.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for supporting local foods!