When it comes to food, diet, and nutrition, there's always a large amount of misinformation being spread, especially on the internet. That can make it incredibly difficult to sort out exactly what's true and what isn't, and when you're trying to improve the quality of your diet, the accuracy of your information is vital. So what's the truth about grass-fed beef? Is it really healthier than grain-fed meat?
Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Beef
The debate over saturated and unsaturated fat has always been a hotly-contested one. Since the 1970s, researchers have collected an ever-increasing body of scientific evidence that suggests saturated fat is strongly linked to heart disease and other cardiovascular problems, while some kinds of unsaturated fat may confer a protective effect on the cardiovascular system. What we know about nutrition is always changing and being added to, however, and now it's believed that saturated fat, while definitely less healthy than unsaturated fat, isn't quite as bad as was once thought.
What does that mean in terms of grass-fed versus grain-fed beef? A study from the CSU College of Agriculture indicates that grass-fed beef has a healthier fat profile than the grain-fed variety. A fat profile is the combination of different types of fat contained within the meat. In grass-fed beef, there's more healthy kinds of fat and less unhealthy kinds than there are in grain-fed beef. So, while grass-fed does contain saturated fat, it contains much less than grain-fed beef, and overall the fat profile of grass-fed beef is better for you.
It's not just the fat content of grass-fed beef that's healthier: grass-fed beef contains higher levels of antioxidants and vitamins A and E, and has less cholesterol than grain-fed beef.
Is all Grass-Fed Beef Organic?
One thing it's important to be aware of is that grass-fed beef isn't necessarily organic: the two are completely different things, and just like organic meat isn't always grass-fed, the reverse is also true. So when you're purchasing grass-fed beef and you also want your meat to be organic, it's important to be aware of this, and make sure you're buying what you think you are.
As well as this, just because a label says grass-fed, doesn't necessarily mean the animal was raised on grass for its entire life. Some grass-fed animals are raised on grain in standard feedlots for the better part of their lives, and then are switched to grass for a month or two before slaughter. So the grass-fed label is technically accurate, but the meat doesn't have the same health benefits as meat from animals that were 100% grass-fed.
So to get the best from your grass-fed beef, choose meat with a label that explicitly states that:
The meat is from an animal that was 100% grass-fed after weaning
The meat is from an animal that was raised organically. That means no pesticides or chemical fertilizers, no GMOs, no antibiotics, and no hormones.
Grass-Fed Meat Isn't Just Better for Your Health
The evidence is clear: grass-fed beef is definitely healthier, especially when it's also organic and raised without the use of antibiotics and hormones. It's not just healthier, though: it's also a more humane way of raising the animals, simply because the grass-fed organic life is much more natural, healthier, and more enjoyable, than life in an over-crowded and unsanitary feedlot. Grass-fed organic meat is also much healthier for the environment, because this style of farming avoids using harmful chemicals and doesn't contribute to antibiotic resistance problems. Knowing all of this, you can definitely feel good about eating grass-fed meat.