Why Grass-fed Animal Products Are Better For You
Dr. Joseph Mercola
Author of the Total Health Program.
A Quick Review of the Fats That Make Up Your Body
All food fats are a blend of the different types, saturated and unsaturated. Unsaturated fats include poly-and monounsaturated fats. omega-3s and 6s are types of polyunsaturated fats, called essential because we have to get them from food, our bodies can’t manufacture them from other fats.
The Story on the the Good Fats and Bad Fats
Whereas cellular proteins are genetically determined, the polyunsaturated fatty acids composition of all cell membranes is to a great extent dependent on the dietary intake.
There are many kinds of fats in the body. Some of the most crucial fats are in the list of compounds that make up the cell walls for all of the body’s cells.
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.
Why are Omega 3 Fatty Acids Important For Your Health?
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for normal growth and may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of:
• coronary artery disease • hypertension • arthritis • cancer • other inflammatory and autoimmune disorders
Your Body Can’t Make These Fats So You Have to Get Them From Your Diet
Omega 3 and omega 6 fats are not interconvertible in your body and are important components of practically all cell membranes.
Whereas the proteins in your cell are genetically determined, the unsaturated fats of all your cell membranes is to a great extent determined on what you eat.
Therefore you need sufficient amounts of dietary omega 6 and omega 3 fats and they need to be balanced for normal development.
Your Diet Has Evolved From Your Ancient Ancestors
On the basis of estimates from studies in Paleolithic nutrition and modern-day hunter-gatherer populations, humans evolved on a diet that was much lower in saturated fatty acids than is today’s diet. Furthermore, the diet contained small but roughly equal amounts of omega 6 and omega 3 fats.
Plant Fat Ratios
In the past 100 years there has been a rapid and unprecedented change in our diet. The modern vegetable oil industry was developed, and it is based on oil from seeds rich in omega 6 fats. Modern agriculture increased production by emphasizing grain feeds for domestic livestock, and grains are rich in omega 6 fats. Therefore, aggressive, industrialized agricultural management techniques have decreased the omega 3 fat content in many foods: green leafy vegetables, animal meats, eggs, and even fish.
This imbalance where omega 6 fats levels exceed omega 3 levels can be seen by comparing wild edible plants and wild animals and birds with products of modern agriculture. Products of modern agriculture frequently have drastically lower omega 3 levels. It is estimated that man evolved with a omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of one to one from both meat and vegetable sources.
Today the vegetable sources have an estimated omega 6:3 ratio of 10 to one. The modern diet of meat, fish, chicken, and vegetable oils has a ratio estimated to be 20 or25 to one.
Eggs and Beef Fat Ratios
Chickens that eat vegetables high in omega 3 fats, along with insects and lots of fresh green grass, supplemented with fresh and dried fruit, and small amounts of corn
Range fed eggs have an omega 6:3 ratio of 1.5 to one whereas the “supermarket egg”has a ratio of 20 to one.
Modern agriculture’s emphasis on increased production has led to the development of chicken feed that is being reflected in the out-of-balance ratio of fatty acids in the “supermarket egg.”
North Dakota State University conducted a study on the nutritional differences between grass-fed and grain-fed bison. The results of that study closely followed that of the egg studies. The grass-fed bison had omega 6 to omega 3 ratios of 4.0 to one, and the grain-fed bison had ratios of 21 to one.
Additional studies by others clearly show that the longer cattle are fed grain, the greater the fatty acid imbalance. For instance, after 200 days in the feedlot grain-fed cattle have omega 6 to omega 3 ratios that exceed 20 to one. Many cattle are fed 200 days or more in the United States.
With the scientific data that has been published concerning omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, we must assume grass-fed beef is far better for human nutrition than grain-fed beef. If so, then having access to grass-fed beef can be very beneficial for one’s health.
Why Not Get Your Omega 3 Fats From Fish?
Fish, while generally a leaner food choice than beef, is heavily promoted as a good source of the omega-3 fats.
The problem with fish is that over half of the US burns coal to generate electricty and 80,000 pounds of mercury is dumped into the oceans every year as a result.
Nearly all fish are contaminated with mercury. It has gotten so bad that even the conservative US government warns pregnant women to avoid eating fish. Additionally, it is my recommendation to avoid all fish, unless you are absolutely certain that it has been tested in a laboratory and shown not to contain detectable levels of mercury and other toxins.
Grass Fed Beef and a Major Source of Omega 3 fats
When we switch from grain fed to grass-fed meat, then, we are simply returning to the diet of our long-ago ancestors, the diet that is most in harmony with our physiology. Every cell and every system of our bodies will function better when we eat products from animals raised on grass.
Grass-fed beef is naturally leaner than grain-fed beef.
Omega 3s in beef that feed on grass is 7% of the total fat content, compared to 1% in grain-only fed beef.
Grass-fed beef has the recommended ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats (3:1.)
Grass-fed beef is loaded with other natural minerals and vitamins, plus it’s a great source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) a fat that reduces the risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes, and a number of immune disorders.
Beef, in its natural grass-fed state, is a health food of the highest order.
The fat content of beef is the primary reason it has lost ground as a respectable entrée on America’s dinner table. Not only do most beef cuts have a high fat content, ranging from 35-75%, but the majority of it is saturated.
Grain fed beef can have an omega 6:3 ratio higher than 20:1
This well exceeds the 4:1 ratio where health problems begin to show up because of the essential fat imbalance. Also grain fed beef can have over 50% of the total fat as the far less healthy saturated fat.
Grass fed beef has an omega 6:3 ratio of 0.16 to 1
This is the ratio science suggests is ideal for our diet. This is about the same ratio that fish has. Grass fed beef usually has less than 10% of its fat as saturated. If you are a pregnant or breastfeeding mom, the extra omega 3 from the grass fed beef will provide incredible nutritional benefits for your child
We Know That Grass Fed Beef, Unlike Grain Fed Beef, Is:
A natural source of omega 3 fats High in CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) Full of beta carotene Loaded with over 400% more of vitamins A and E Virtually devoid of risk of Mad Cow Disease
You May Lose Weight Due to Its CLA Content
CLA is a naturally occurring fat found in animal and dairy fats such as beef and poultry that are not fed grains. As soon as you start to feed cattle grain they start to lose their ability to produce CLA. Animals that graze on pasture have from 300 to 400% more CLA than animals fattened on grain in a feedlot.
As we all know, diet and exercise are required to lose weight. However, University of Wisconsin research, completed this year but not yet published, showed that CLA intake will assist individuals who lose weight in preventing putting pounds back on.
I don’t think we in good conscious can state that CLA enriched beef will enable you to lose weight without other diet measures and exercise.
The human intestine produces CLA naturally from linoleic acid. Recent studies have been conducted on attaining a higher CLA content in daily food intake because of possible health benefits such as weight loss.
Protect Your Family’s Health With Safe Beef
Eric Schlosser, who wrote Fast Food Nation, tells us that since 1993, half a million children in America have been made ill by the E coli bug.
Feeding dead cats and dogs to cattle was legal in the US until 1997 when the government banned the practice because of fears over mad cow disease. Dead horses and pigs, however, are still occasionally ground into cattle feed.
One quarter of America’s minced beef, writes Schlosser, is made from worn-out dairy cattle, likely to be riddled with disease and the meat containing antibiotic residues.
Grain feeding promotes the growth of dangerous E. coli that is more likely to pass through your stomach and infect your colon. When cattle are fed grass, the amount of dangerous E. coli decreases dramatically. From Microbes Infect 2000 Jan;2(1):45-53
The USDA imposed new rules last year reclassifying as “safe for human consumption” animal carcasses with cancers, tumors and open sores. Do you really want to eat beef like this?
When you feed your family grass fed beef, you can feel quite confident that you are doing the best you can to dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, the risk of most of these infections.
How Does it Taste?
The flavor, look, smell, and texture of grass fed beef differs slightly from grain-fed beef. So you may have to learn to like grass fed beef. But many enjoy it immediately because it actually tastes like beef is supposed to taste. Others will gladly learn to like it simply because it does their body good.
I have many patients who were raised in rural sections of Europe where this is the only type of beef they ate and when they came over to the US they were very disappointed with the flavor of our grain fed beef. So it is all a matter of what one is used to.
Due to less fat in the grass fed beef it does need to be cooked differently.