Nutrient Density

 

Why I Stubbornly Insist on Certified Organic Grass Fed Beef

These local Ontario cows are 100% grass fed year round. How do I know? I worked on the farm that raises them with such love, and attention. I would amble through the pasture to find the herd, having passed fenced off areas designed to better manage the pasture, and rotate the grazing of the cattle. It’s a good feeling to know where your meat comes from; in fact I’d go so far as to say it’s essential.

There was a time when I bought my beef, and all other meats, from the supermarket. It was dressed in polystyrene and plastic wrap. I did price comparisons and bought what was the largest pack for the smallest amount of money. I certainly didn’t think about anything beyond that. These days I insist on nothing less than certified organic 100% grass fed beef, and here is why you should too.

Cows are ruminants

This means that just like goats, sheep, and deer (and others such as giraffe, koala and yak), they have stomachs with four compartments. They are designed to eat plant matter that will ultimately go through bacterial action, fermentation, and the regurgitation and re-chewing of what is called cud. They have the ability to extract the nutrition from grasses in a way that we can’t. In fact, to quote Sally Fallon Morell of the Weston A. Price Foundation, cows are nutrition “step-up-transformers”.

Unfortunately the norm is for cattle to be sent to industrialized feedlots, to be fattened by feeding them grains, corn (high GMO risk), and soy (high GMO risk). Appetizing sounding ingredients like chicken feathers, stale bread, pasta, candy, supplements, and medications such as preventative antibiotics might also be added to their feed. It’s so bizarre sounding, you just can’t make this stuff up. Grain fed cows often suffer from acidosis, liver abscesses, bloat, feedlot polio, dust pneumonia, and extreme stress. Why? They are not designed to eat the food the industrialized meat system is feeding them, nor are the designed to live in the kind of environment provided to them.

Here some of the many reasons I am a beef purist:

Hormone, and antibiotic free

Avoiding low-grade, chronic antibiotic use in animal products is a huge leap in maintaining your gut health, as antibiotics unceremoniously kill you friendly gut bacteria. If a cow within the organic system requires antibiotics, it is no longer considered organic. In a similar way, growth hormones cannot be given to organic cattle. In Canada there are three “natural” hormones added to industrialized meat to make it grow bigger, faster – progesterone, testosterone and estradiol-17ß; and three synthetic – trenbolone acetate (TBA), zeranol and melengestrol acetate (MGA).

Sustainable farming practices

Pastured animals give back to the land on which they feed, providing a rotational, sustainable farming system that regenerates the soil for generations to come.

Healthy, happy animals

Grass fed cattle lead instinctual, happy lives, free of diseases faced by their grain fed counterparts. This extends to you too, as your risk of contracting food borne illnesses such as E.Coli, is significantly lower when consuming grass fed beef over grain fed.

Support local farmers

Buying locally from small butchers, or farm-direct helps build a demand, and a local economy around quality food. Meat from hundreds, or even thousands of miles away that you find in the supermarket is lining someone else’s pockets.

Conjugated linoleic acid

The levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) can be 2-3 times higher in grass fed cows, than those consuming grains. What’s so special about this fat? CLA has been shown to inhibit the development of cancer, prevents atherosclerosis and diabetes, and aids in weight management.

Rich in antioxidants

Grass fed beef contains more precursors to cancer fighting antioxidants such as glutathione, and superoxide dismutase, than their grain fed cousins.

Beta-carotene

Grass fed beef contains six to seven times the amount of beta-carotene than its grain fed contemporaries. As a  precursor to vitamin A, it enhances the immune system, promotes eye, lung and bone health, reproduction, cell division and differentiation. Beef is also an excellent source of vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, and heme iron (the most absorbable form), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B2 (riboflavin).

Omega 3 essential fatty acids

In studies grass fed beef consistently shows higher levels of alpha linolenic acid (omega 3), and as a result provides a more favourable ratio of omega 6 to omega 3. What the heck does all this mean? Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory essential fats. They reduce blood clotting, blood pressure, allergy response, & water and sodium retention by the kidneys, while also increasing immunity. Omega 3s reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, diabetes, and modulate gene expression. Omega 6 on the other hand, if consumed in too high amounts can do quite the opposite. Grass fed beef can have as good as 4:1 (omega 6:3 ratio), compared to grain fed at 12:1. That adds up to a big difference when it comes to your health.

Grass fed, year round

Ask for 100% certified organic grass fed beef. It should be grass fed year round (with hay, haylage and/or silage in the winter in colder climates such as here in Canada) for its whole lifetime. It should not be grain finished which is considered a money grab to boost weight prior to slaughter. Often a butcher might say, “this is what the consumer wants flavour wise” when it comes to the highly marbled grain fed beef, and unfortunately most consumers simply don’t know what they are eating.

Where do you find grass fed beef? I have my personal sources that I trust, and I found them by visiting butchers, farmers markets and farms around Toronto. I asked a lot of questions, and did not compromise. Often this meant walking away empty handed. At first I was made to feel difficult for wanting to know every detail about the meat, sometimes I was pressured into a purchase that was below my standards. Know this, a butcher or farmer who is not willing to answer your questions, is not worth doing business with.

One final, yet important point; certified organic beef does not equal grass fed, and grass fed does not equal certified organic.

References

Pasture-Based Farming Enhances Animal Welfare

Drugs and Health Products

Daley, C., Abbott, A., Doyle., P. et al. (2010). A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutrition Journal, 9:10.

Kaur, G., Begg, D., Barr, D., et  al. (2010). Short-term docosapentaenoic acid (22 : 5n-3) supplementation increases tissue docosapentaenoic acid, DHA and EPA concentrations in rats. British Journal of Nutrition, 103, 32–37.

McAfee, A., McSorley, E., Cuskelly, G. et. al ( 2011). Red meat from animals offered a grass diet increases plasma and platelet n-3 PUFA in healthy consumers. British Journal of Nutrition, 105, 80–89.

 

 

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  • Pingback: Sarah Ramsden | Buy Grass Fed Beef Like a Serious Pro()

  • Jay

    I also am stubborn about eating only grass fed beef. I feel so much better when I choose healthy foods. I’m pretty stuck on getting my beef from La Cense Beef. I guess I’m stubborn about that also! Have you heard of them? I’ll bookmark this page just in case I want to try another ranch.Thanks.

  • Danielle Winters

    I recently went on a mission to find grass fed beef locally to me. It was a sad state of affairs really. The only supermarket that has it is a 30 min drive and I did source a business that deals exclusively in grass fed meat only to have them take my order to another market so that when I came to get my order it wasn’t there 🙁 (plus they were SUPER expensive- so double annoyance)
    I 100% see the sense in eating grass fed. I am currently in St Petersburg, FL; but am moving to MD soon so I am hoping I will have better luck up there.

  • Petra

    Hi Sarah,

    I am also from Toronto and was wondering which organic farms or farmers markets you purchase your grass fed meat from.

    • You can get it from many of the farmers markets around the city. I’d start with the one closest to you! Mine is Sorauren and I can get grass fed beef, elk, and pork there.

  • Naturale

    Where can you get such quality beef, pork, chicken and turkey in SW Ontario? We like dealing direct and want to buy half a beef. I’d like some specific farm names as I don’t live in the GTA.

  • Yinng

    Interesting. A salesman for a meat distributor was at the door yesterday. He claims their beef cannot be certified organic because the beef is grain fed in winter and they cannot be sure the grain is GMO etc. free. Yet apparently the chicken is certified organic. Hmmmm,

    • The optimum word here is “salesman”, he was trying to sell you his product. Organic cattle are fed on certified organic feed or the farmers loses his certification. They ALWAYS know where everything comes from and what’s in it. If those cows were 100% grass-fed cattle, they would not given any grain. Personally I wouldn’t buy anything from that person!

      • Yinng

        My thinking is exactly the same as yours and I’m not buying anything from him. If the chicken farmers can feed certified organic so can the beef farmers.

  • Bob

    We recently bought from Cranston’s Free Range farms who supply consumers direct, and only provide grass fed, organic beef and poultry products.