Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Health Benefits of Grass Fed Meat

Grassfed is Best!

You can eat meat and be healthy!  In fact, you can eat meat and get more healthy than you are now.  I rarely say this seriously, but I will now... Trust me, I'm a doctor.  If the answer is not obvious from the title of this post, then let me be more specific.  The key to this "miracle" is in the pasture.  The key is eating grassfed meat.

Free-range or Pastured Chickens

"Grassfed" is a word used to convey the idea that an animal is fed primarily or solely from pasture (typically a mix of species, primarily grass-type plants).  Pretty simple in concept; however that is not what most of modern agriculture does.  "Grassfed Animal Products" refer mainly to meat, milk, cheese, and eggs.  Obviously, a lot of other animal products can be produced from animals on a grassfed diet, but these are the ones that are most researched.

Grass is best for most of our domesticated animals.  Think about it.  What do wild bison eat?  Grass!  Do wild sheep raise corn, wheat, and soybeans and then dine only on this?  No!  Then why do we feed our domestic animals these things?  Effecient production.  That is it.  Modern agriculture has deemed it appropriate to break with thousands of years of natural animal-food cycles and force animals to eat what they are not designed to eat in order to maximize growth and production.


 Besides the negative effects that modern feedlots have on animals' health (which is outlined extremely well in the book, An Omnivore's Dilema, which I wrote about in this post), there are real health consequences in humans that eat animals that were raised this way. 

Let me boldly say that I am against vegetarianism.  There are a number of reasons for this that I hope to outline in a future post, but suffice it to say that humans eat meat.  "Westernized" humans eat a lot of meat.  While there is a whole bunch of medical information out there to say we should cut back on our meat consumption for health reasons, almost all of that information considers only meat produced using the modern agricultural method.

I will provide some basic facts about grassfed meat.  I will provide some additional sources for more information at the end of this post.  But the information I am about to provide is very legitimate.  I tell my patients this, because I feel that the research done on this is solid.
  • Grassfed meat is significantly lower in fat than grain-fed meat.
  • Grassfed meat can lower LDL (low density lipoprotein... bad cholesterol).
  • Grassfed meat has significantly less calories than grain-fed meat - about 15 calories per ounce (that is about 100 less calories for a 6 oz portion of steak).
  • Grassfed meat has 2-6 times the Omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meat (which is good for your heart and brain as well as improving your odds against cancer).
  • Pastured chickens can produce eggs that have up to 20 times the Omega-3 fatty acid as commercial eggs.
  • Grassfed meat and milk can contain up to 5 times the amount of Conjegated Linoleic Acid (CLA) as grain-fed meat and milk (the preliminary research on CLA looks very promising on cancer prevention).
  • Grassfed meat has up to 4 times the vitamin E than grain-fed meat (vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant... which is good for heart, brain, and cancer).
  • Finally, Grassfed meat tastes really good!  Because it has less fat, you need to cook it a bit different.  I hope to give some more tips on cooking grassfed meat in the future.
 For those that are more visually minded, here are a few charts that compare grassfed to grain-fed meat:

Comparisons of Fat Content in commercial meats.

The same information from the previous chart in a different format.

Comparing Fat Content of commercial to wild meats

Look how fast the healthy Omega-3's disappear after coming off a grass diet!

Vitamin E content in commercial meats.

 Here are some links to a couple of articles on Grassfed meat:
Women's Health article on Grassfed Meat
 
Take a look at http://www.eatwild.com/ for locating sources of Grassfed meat - this is a fantastic resource!

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