Saturday, July 14, 2012

Does it Matter What KIND of Meat we are Eating?

We are all adults here, so instead of telling you what you should be buying for the sake of your health, I am just going to present you with the information.  Regardless of your choice, I will still love you as a person.  :)

Imagine two fresh and juicy hamburgers (or chicken breast if you don't like beef) sitting in front of you.  They look the same, however the one on the left is made of meat from an organic and grass-fed cow.  The  one on the right is made from the beef of a feed lot cow.  Keep trying to picture these two burgers in your mind.

From Grass-Fed Beef
From Feed Lot Beef
The grass-fed beef burger comes from a cow that has been roaming around a green pasture enjoying the nutrients from grass it's whole life.  It has never been given hormones to fatten it, and only receives antibiotics when absolutely necessary.  When the meat is processed there are no additives and it is minimally processed.  

"A major benefit of raising animals on pasture (grass-fed) is that their products are healthier for you. For example, compared with feedlot meat, meat from grass-fed beef, bison, lamb and goats has less total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories. It also has more vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and a number of health-promoting fats, including omega-3 fatty acids and “conjugated linoleic acid,” or CLA." (source
What is CLA?
It’s Conjugated Linoleic Acid, and scientific research is proving time and again that this stuff:
  • Combats cancer
  • Fights clogged arteries
  • Reduces body fat
  • Delays the onset of diabetes
From the U. S. Wellness Meats site:
Recent studies in Europe indicated that patients with higher levels of CLA in breast tissue had less tumor growth. One study showed that humans receiving CLA had a significant decrease in body fat as compared to the placebo group. Yet other research has shown that CLA delays the onset of diabetes and aids the battle against arteriosclerosis (coronary artery disease).
There are good fats, fats that contain essential nutrients for life and health. In the American diet, beef and milk fat are the best sources for CLA. But studies have also shown that the cattle’s diet has a significant impact on the amount of CLA in the meat and dairy products. Not surprisingly, when cattle eat their natural diet, foraging pasture grasses and legumes, CLA levels are 30-40% higher. CLA levels drop dramatically in feed lots where cattle are fed grain and other byproduct feedstuff.
On top of the benefits of extra, naturally-occurring CLA, grass-fed and pastured meats also contain a much more natural balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids.

The balance of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids in our diet may seem small, but it is turning out to be very important.  We need a balance of 1:1(meaning 1 omega 6 to 1 omega 3) or 2:1  to be healthy.  What our modern day diet is providing is a 10:1, even up to a 25:1 ratio of the important fats.  So where are the big imbalances coming from, and what problems do they cause?  I will wait till another post to go into full details, as it would take some time, but problems that are killing 49% of both men and women last year are equally heart disease and cancer.  An imbalance in the omega 6 and omega 3 ratios can lead to inflammation, heart disease, cancer, and many other health problems.  (source Nourishing Traditions book)

So what does beef have to do with this?  The grass-fed beef generally has a ratio of 1.5:1, which is very healthy.  The cattle lot beef, which are mostly fed corn and soy, tends to have a ratio of about 6:1. 

Before I completely leave the subject... a major source of imbalanced omegas in our diets is vegetable oils, including margarine.  I recommend using organic, grass-fed butter, extra virgin olive oil, or organic cold pressed coconut oil whenever butter or oil are needed.  They often taste better too!  My kids beg me to make corn bread using coconut oil instead of vegetable oil.

Now that you have a general idea of what you are getting with the grass-fed burger let's go back to that feed lot one.

The crowded conditions that feed lot cattle are raised in frequently leads to sickness.  As a result of this they are given antibiotics to kill the infections.  It is becoming more common for antibiotics to be regularly included in their food supply.  This over dose of antibiotics can be passed along in the meat, and can create a resistance to antibiotics in both cattle and humans.  Ever had your child get an ear infection and you had to keep trying different antibiotics to get rid of it?  I've known a lot of people that that's happened to.

"Typical livestock feed today contains a variety of plant matter, animal matter, vitamins, minerals and chemicals. Plant matter includes alfalfa, barley, beets, carrots, different grasses and hays, molasses, oats, peanuts, potatoes and sorghum. Municipal garbage and restaurant food waste is also sometimes added. Chemicals and minerals, like hormones, ammonium sulfate, deflourinated phosphate, dicalcium phosphate and ground limestone may also be present."  (source)
Once the meat has begun processing the cheaper parts of it go through a process we now know of as "Pink Slime".  This is where the meat has an ammonia infused additive added to it to kill any bacteria, which sounds practical, except for the part about eating ammonia.

Then the beef may be irradiated
Benzene, for example, is a known carcinogen (cancer causing). In one experiment, seven times more benzene was found in cooked, irradiated beef than in cooked, non-irradiated beef. In addition, irradiation destroys essential vitamins, including vitamin A, thiamine, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, C, E, and K; amino acid and essential polyunsaturated fatty acid content may also be affected. A 20 to 80 percent loss of any of these is not uncommon.  (source)
Oh how it seems to go on and on... Arsenic to fatten that chicken or pig your eating anyone?

Organic meat and produce is protected by the USDA from being irradiated, as well as a large number of other concerns.  The general standards for USDA Certified Organic meat can be found and here, and on my blog concerning organic foods here.

Then to top off your feed lot burger they add a bit of red food coloring to keep it looking pretty till you can purchase it.  Some people are fine with that, while others react with symptoms of skin rashes, allergies, or hyperactivity from it.

So now that  you've taken a look, do your 2 burgers still look the same to you?

If you are interested in buying grass-fed beef here are some of the places that sell it:

  • Target (Thousand Hills-my favorite quality of beef) $6.49/lb
  • Trader Joe's (Organic and grass-fed) $6/lb
  • (about $7.50/lb) They will deliver via express mail to your home.
  • Local pick-up of meat, cheese, eggs, fruits and vegetables straight from the farmers themselves.
  • For local farms that sell cows in shares, or just for more info on grass-fed animals in your area, check out

I hope this sheds some light on what's behind a food choice, that on the surface can appear to be no choice at all, but underneath can have a very big impact on our health.

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