Healthy Beef

What makes grass-fed beef healthier?

Mr. Alexander

Mr. Alexander

Kolohe Bull

Kolohe Bull

Mr. Alexander and Kolohe joined our Sylvan Dale herd in July 2013.

Some breeds of cattle do better than others when it comes to getting fat on grass.

Come meet our new bulls; Mr. Alexander is a registered Red Devon bull, an English breed preferred by many in the grass-fed beef world for flavorful, tender meat.

Kolohe (Koh-LOH-hay), which means “rascal” in Hawaiian, is a registered Lowline Angus bull, the original angus breed before it was selectively modified over the years for maximum weight on feedlot grain.

Both breeds produce smaller offspring than most cattle used in commercial feedlot operations. This means fewer pounds of meat per animal, but more pounds of meat per acre. The reason: these breeds need a lot less forage to mature.

In other words, they are more efficient in converting grass to meat, so you can have more cattle on a given amount of pasture.

Most of our cows are a mixed red angus breed, also known for tenderness. We’re eagerly looking forward to the offspring produced by this combination. Check back in two years to see the result.

Every few months, an outbreak of sickness and death caused by lethal strains of E. Coli  and other “super bugs” makes the headlines.  These bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics.  Why?  One reason, according to scientists, is that unlike grass-fed beef, low levels of antibiotics are being routinely fed to industrially-raised cattle to make them grow faster and protect them from diseases caused by their living conditions.  Thousands of animals are crowded together into massive feedlots for months at a time, where they stand in their own wastes and gorge on grains that upset their normal digestive systems.  The bacteria happily seize the opportunity to multiply and evolve into new strains resistant to the antibiotics.  And they aren’t choosy about their hosts– humans do quite nicely.

Someone must be doing something about this, right?  Think again.  According to David Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA doesn’t even know what antibiotics are being fed to our food animals.  Legislation authorizing the FDA to collect this data can’t get out of a Senate committee.  Too bad.  As Kessler says, the problem is rapidly becoming a matter of life and death.

David Jessup

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Just when you thought mass-produced beef couldn’t get less appetizing (remember the “pink slime” hamburger controversy?), along comes Zilmax, a new growth drug being fed to feedlot cattle across the country.  According to author Christopher Leonard, Zilmax was originally developed to treat asthma in humans.  In feedlot-raised cattle, it produces faster muscle growth…and more profits.  It’s FDA approved, but according to Leonard, it makes steak tougher, less flavorful and less juicy than beef from untreated cattle.  Beef McNuggets anyone?  Read the full article from the San Jose Mercury News, and a longer article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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By David Jessup

The recent furor over “pink slime” – the unappetizing name given by critics to the filler found in most store-bought hamburger – misses an important point:  the real health danger lurks elsewhere.

Pink slime, or “finely textured beef,” as the industry prefers to call it, is made from beef trimmings from slaughterhouses spun in a centrifuge to separate out some of the fat and bathed in ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria.  It makes up over 25% of what you’ve been buying as hamburger in grocery stores and fast-food restaurants.

Ammonium hydroxide raises the Ph level of the meat product from acidic to slightly alkaline, an environment hostile to bacteria such as the E. coli variant that has caused numerous deaths and massive hamburger recalls.

The chemical appears to be harmless – the USDA has pronounced ammonium hydroxide safe, and it’s used in other processed foods.  But no one seems to ask the question, why is the meat so acidic in the first place as to foster bacterial growth?  Read more on “Pink Slime” is the Least of Our Worries…

By David Jessup

What makes grass-fed meat healthier is not the amount of Omega 3 (good fat), but the ratio between Omega 6 (bad fat) and Omega 3.  In a phone interview, Dr. Susan Duckett of Clemson University told me that according to the 1994 Lyon Diet Heart Study, lowering the Omega 6 / Omega 3 fat ratio below 2:1 resulted in a 76 percent decrease in human mortality from heart disease.  Read more on Omega 6/Omega 3 Ratio – What’s that got to do with the health of beef?…

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By David Jessup

While industrial grain-fed beef can increase the risk of heart disease, grass-fed beef does not.  Here are some quotes I found from “You docs” Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz in their Daily Blog:

  •  “Look for the grass-fed beef that’s making its way onto supermarket shelves. It contains up to one-third less saturated fat than grain-fed beef and has some heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, too.”  (May 28, 2009)
  • “Like grass-fed beef, wild game meat tends to have more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids (that’s the good stuff found in fatty fish)” (December 26, 2009).
  • Go for grass-fed.  It has one-third less saturated fat than regular beef and some good-for-you omega-3s.” (June 14, 2010)

David J

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