Health Check: If You're Going to Eat Meat ...

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This article is featured in the July '07 Feeding Your Family Newsletter
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Health Check: If You're Going to Eat Meat ...

It almost seems like a designer label, like Egyptian cotton, Osetra caviar and now, grass-fed beef. But if "grass-fed" just sounds like another word for expensive, consider some of the reasons more consumers are choosing this alternative to factory farming - and why it may even be better than organic.

  • Less Cruelty to Animals: Factory farming is a terrible way for animals to live. Instead of crammed into factory pens too small to turn around, grass-fed cattle roam the pastures, indulging their herd-animal instincts.

  • Environmentally More Sound: The sheer volume of manure produced by factory farms leads to ground and water pollution. Pasture-raised cattle deposit their manure throughout the fields, creating a natural fertilizer.

  • Feeding Problems: Cows are designed to eat grass. But to cut costs and speed up growth, factory farms feed them cattle grain and soy - cheap crops that are heavily subsidized by the U.S. government. But that's not all they feed them. According to Jo Robinson, author of Pasture Perfect, a book about the benefits of pasture-raised animals, factory farms also feed their cattle by-products of other industries, like municipal garbage, chicken feathers and even candy. (Until 1997, cattle were fed trimmings from slaughtered cattle. Concerns about Mad Cow Disease led to a ban on this practice.)

  • Lower Antibiotics Use: Feeding cows grain leads to painful digestion problems and other illnesses, which in turn leads to a steady dose of chemical additives and low-dose antibiotics. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a shocking 70 percent of antibiotics produced for U.S. consumption are used on healthy livestock. This practice is considered at least in part to blame for the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

  • More Good Fats: Nutritionally, grass-fed beef comes out ahead. Grass contains far more omega-3 fatty acids than grain; omega-3 is a powerful weapon against a variety of human diseases. Grass-fed beef also contains more vitamin E and more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which helps protect against cancer. Grass-fed beef is also lower in fat and calories.

If you're already committed to organic beef, consider taking it up a notch and making the switch to grass-fed beef and dairy. Giving organic grain to cattle still leads to many of the problems cited above. To read more about the benefits of grass-fed beef, and to find our where to get some, check out