There are many health benefits of eating grass-fed beef and pastured poultry vs. eating commercial raised meat. Not all meat is created equal. You get out of meat what you put into it. The average American does not put much thought into the food that is given to the animals before the meat is on their kitchen table. The purpose of this paper is to open up your eyes a bit at a growing problem with the industrial food productions of meat in the United States.
Let’s start with Beef. Cows are natural ruminants, with a diet consisting of grass and legumes that they forage for in pastures. During the 1970s, there was an excess of corn in America. Farmers began to feed this excess to their cows. This has become the standard for the beef that you find in supermarkets today. As a result of eating inferior food, the meat from cows fed grain has also become inferior on a nutritional level. When cattle are fed a diet rich in grass and legumes versus a diet of grains, they are healthier cows, which translates into healthier meat for you and me. Grass-fed beef is lower in fat; thereby lowering their caloric density. In fact, grass-fed beef has about the same amount of fat as skinless chicken breasts. Grass-fed meat has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, beta-carotene, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin. CLA has been proven to reduce tumor growth and lower a person’s risk for breast cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce high blood pressure and risk of having a heart attack. People with a diet rich in omega-3s are less likely suffer from depression, ADHD, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s.
Poultry and eggs have been mass-produced by large companies for decades. Hens are kept in hothouse, usually in the dark, in despicable conditions. Besides the inhumane treatment of these animals, there are also many health benefits of eating pastured poultry and their eggs. When hens are kept inside and deprived on greens, their meat becomes low in omega-3 fatty acid, which passes on to their eggs. Pastured eggs are vastly superior to eggs produced in dark hothouses. They have 1/3 of the cholesterol, ¼ saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A, 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta carotene and 3-6 times more vitamin D. This also applies to the chicken and the poultry that the eggs come from.
Another growing concern of many Americans is the overuse of antibiotics and hormones in the meat that they are eating. In a recent study, 47% of meat and poultry that you can find at your local grocery store is contaminated with a strain of staphylococcus aureus (Staph) that is resistant to antibiotics. It has been found that the source of this staph is from the animals themselves, not from mistreatment of the processed meat. Staph should be killed with proper cooking techniques, but this still presents a danger to consumers through improper handling or cross-contamination. This strain of staph is most likely resistant to antibiotics because cattle are routinely given antibiotics to promote growth, even if they aren’t sick. This is called sub therapeutic. Hormones are also under scrutiny for the safe use in animals. Hormones are given to young animals to make them gain weight rapidly before slaughter or too increase milk production. As much as 80% of U.S. cattle are routinely given hormones. These hormones are temperature stable, and do not break down at high temperatures. That means that even after cooking your meat, you are still ingesting these hormones. Studies so far into the dangers of consuming hormones through food are still in their infancy, but there has been evidence that it can lead to early onset of puberty, growth of breasts in both young boys and girls, and increase the risk for breast cancer.
All-in-all, eating meat from animals that are treated humanely and given the proper nutrition and exercise can greatly improve your health. Choosing meat that is rich in vitamins and minerals lowers your risk of suffering with serious illnesses as you get older. Will you make the change?
Smit, Liesbeth A, Ana Baylin, and Hannia Campos. 2010. Conjugated linoleic acid in adipose tissue and risk of myocardial infarction. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Published ahead of print, May 12, 2010.
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Simopoulos and Robinson, The Omega Diet, HarperCollins, 1999