You might have noticed a change over the recent years when you peek into the meat coolers in supermarkets in Dubai. More and more packs of beef have a description: Grass-fed or grain-fed. Have you ever wondered what that actually means and what the nutritional difference is to you?
You are what you eat. An old saying that still holds true. Did you ever consider that the same goes for the food that we eat? The nutrients we get from grass-fed beef are different than the nutrients we get from grain-fed.
Cattle (like sheep, deer and other grazing animals) are ruminants with the ability to convert grasses, into flesh that we, humans, can digest. Cattle can live off grasses because they have a rumen, a 45 or so gallon fermentation tank in the cattle convert cellulose into protein and fats – delicious meat.
Meat from cattle feeding on grass has a high degree of the healthy omega-3 fats in it. It also has less of the unhealthy saturated fat that is shown to be harmful to humans. Saturated fats are shown to increase the dangerous LDL cholesterol and are related to cardiovascular diseases.
Grain-fed cattle spend their last half-or-so of their lives being fattened or ‘finished’ in feedlots feeding on some types of grains, most often corn or soy. This kind of feed is nothing near natural to these types of animals who, as described above are ruminants not created to feed on grain. The consequence for the animal is that their whole gastrointestinal system changes. And it changes the nutritional composition of the meat that ends up on our plates.
Grain-fed beef has more of the saturated fats that are harmful to people’s health. Also, the meat has almost none of the helpful omega-3 fat that you would get from grass-fed beef.
So from a nutritional point of view – the grass-fed beef is better for you from a nutritional point of view, compared to grass-fed beef.
The environment in the stomach of grass-fed cattle is different to when they feed on grass. Instead of having a stomach that is close to neutral in acidity, the stomach fluids will change into being more like the one we humans have – more acidic. One of the consequences of this is that the grain-fed animal is more prone to being infected by types of bacteria and fungi that you would not see in grass-fed cattle.
The most common thing for farmers to do about this problem is to include types of medication – here included antibiotic – into the feed. Residues of the medication may end up in the beef on our plates!
So all in all, grain-fed beef has a tendency to have more of the dangerous saturated fat, less of the good omega-3 fat and medical residues, including antibiotic.
Does organic always mean grass-fed and does grass-fed always mean free-range?
No! Please don’t be fooled.
Grass-fed pastured animals sometimes live of feed that is grown using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. And it’s not all grass-fed animals that are allowed out of the feedlot reality and out where they have room to move around the land.
Don’t assume when you buy your beef! You need to read the label and buy your meat from a trusted source. Ask questions if nothing is specified - don't just assume. Unless the meat label specifically says it is both grass-fed, free-range and organic, it isn’t.
Do you want to learn more about the environmental and animal rights consequences of raising cattle in feedlots – please read here.
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Your body rely on you to get vital nutrients from the food you eat. Your body takes care of millions of biological processes every day. Each process depends on certain components and building blocks - which you can only get from fresh, nutritious food, prepared in the right way.
Processed and industrialised prepared food does not give your body what it needs. It is not real food - it cannot give your body fuel to the millions of vital processes to function optimally. Poor quality food does not feed your body well - it only fills your stomach!