Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Scary Truth About Your Beef

Have you ever heard the saying "you are what you eat?" Until recently, I have only thought about this saying in relation to the things I wanted to eat but knew I would regret later- cinnamon rolls, pizza, pasta...yum. But what about the food that is being fed to the animals we eat? I guess the saying applies to them too, which means they are what they eat. Have you ever stopped to think about what is actually in that juicy steak you are about to eat? Or what was fed to the cow that gave you that delicious burger you had the other day? When you think about it, it is important to know because inevitably, what goes into their body, goes into yours.

Though most people are unaware, conventional farming uses many methods for raising animals that result in less than optimal meat. There are many disturbing things that I bet you don't know about how the meat you eat is being raised.

Conventional farmers frequently feed their livestock antibiotics and hormones, which consequently can be passed on to the consumer.

  • 70% of all antibiotics used in the United States go to livestock and poultry. These antibiotics help the animal fight the diseases that can be contracted in overpopulated feed lots. This also poses a problem because when antibiotics are overused, bacteria can become resistant to them.
  • The use of hormones in livestock is also present. The unnecessary purpose of hormones is to speed up the growth of the cow and stimulate milk growth to allow farmers to produce more.
Conventional farmers feed the animals diets that are created to lower costs and boost their productivity.

  • The main source of food for most live stock is genetically modified grain (corn) and soy. These two ingredients are readily available to farmers at very low costs. By feeding corn, the animals are made as fat as possible in very little time. Pesticides and fertilizers are also commonly found on the grain that is fed to livestock
  • Another way farmers keep costs low is by adding "by-product feed stuff." This usually refers to the waste products that come out of the manufacturing of human food. Some items commonly used in cattle diets are: candy, stale pastry waste, chicken feathers, potato waste, and city garbage.
Grain diets create an unhealthy acidity in the animals body.

  • There are many forms of E. Coli that are acid resistant. An animal with an acidic stomach has the ability to breed this bacteria which can then be passed down to the meat you eat.
  • By feeding the livestock a diet of grain, the acidity is slowly killing the animal. To counter- act this, more antibiotics are pumped into the animal which can then be passed down to the meat.
  • This high grain diet results in meat and dairy with high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids. Though Omega-6 is an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, animals fed in feedlots have up to 10 times more than animals raised on a natural grass diet. This overabundance of Omega-6 fatty acid can increase the risk of obesity, cancer, inflammatory disease and diabetes in most Americans.

Reading all of that makes that big steak or burger look a lot less appealing doesn't it? Well don't worry, there is an answer. First of all when choosing meat, it is important to make sure your meat is USDA Certified Organic. This means that the animals are fed organic feed and given no hormones or antibiotics. Also, it is VERY important to look for Grass-Fed meat. Grass-fed meat has so many advantages over grain-fed it is going to make you mad you didn't switch a long time ago. Here are the facts on Grass-Fed beef:

Grass-fed is the most natural diet for livestock.

  • If you think about it logically, cows are herbivores that were born with digestive systems created to take plants, legumes and grasses and convert them into proteins.
  • By feeding them something their bodies are made to eat, they are synthesizing all of the nutrients properly and as a result the meat we eat is more nutrient rich.
Grass-fed meat is lower in fat than grain-fed meat.

  • Grass-fed meat can have as much as 1/3 less saturated fat than a comparable cut of grain-fed meat. A lower level of saturated fats is very beneficial to our health because saturated fats are frequently linked to heart disease and other medical conditions.
  • Because grass-fed meat is lower in fat, it is also lower in calories. The difference between a 6-ounce steak from a grain-fed cow and a 6-ounce steak from a grass-fed cow is around 100 calories. Think about how many calories you could save every year by making the simple switch to grass-fed!
Grass-fed cattle have more nutrients that are essential to our bodies.

  • A grass-fed diet and healthy lifestyle allows grass-fed meat to be higher in Vitamin-E, Vitamin-A, beta-carotene, and Vitamin-C.
  • There is also a higher level of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our hearts, brains and over-all well being. It is estimated that only 40% of Americans get an adequate amount of these essential fatty acids.
  • The ratio of Omega-6 fatty acids to Omega-3s is also much healthier in grass-fed cattle.
  • Grass-fed meat is also higher in another good fat for our bodies, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). In addition to having many antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, CLA has also been attributed to reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease, fighting inflammation, and helping with weight management. The CLA content in grass-fed meat is as much as 5 times higher than that of grain-fed.
We have just started carrying grass-fed beef at Basic Foods, and we are very excited about it! I recommend giving it a try because as you can see it is definitely worth it. Here are a couple of tips to make your grass-fed beef even better:
  • Before you start cooking, let the meat sit at room temperature. The meat cooks better when isn't right out of the fridge.
  • Grass-fed beef is a leaner cut which means it usually requires a little less cooking time, so make sure you watch it closely the first time you cook it.
  • If cooking meat with other things, use a slightly lower temperature. Aim for around 25 degrees lower than you would normally use.
  • When cooking any kind of meat, remember to use tongs to flip or turn it. When you use a fork or knife, you can accidentally puncture the meat which causes the flavorful juices to escape.
  • After your meat is cooked, let the meat sit for a few minutes before your slice it. This will allow the juice to settle and redistribute within the meat.
I hope you are as excited about grass-fed meat as I am! If you want even more information check out this TIME article about the Grass-Fed Revolution and this website that talks about all the grass-fed info and facts you could ever ask for. Let me know if you decide to make the switch, I would love to hear your feedback.

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