Grass-fed beef has become quite popular in recent years, as there is a perception that it is healthier. But is it actually better for you?
Here’s some information from our butcher shop in Williamsport, PA about grass-fed beef and the kinds of benefits it has.
What does the term “grass-fed” mean with regard to beef?
The term “grass-fed” can be a little misleading, because all beef cattle in the United States at least get their start by primarily eating grasses. When you hear the term “grass-fed,” this means the cow was fed grass its entire life, rather than just at the beginning of its life. Under USDA rules, to qualify as “grass-fed,” an animal must exclusively eat grass and forage after it’s been weaned and have constant access to pastures during the growing season.
How healthy is grass-fed beef exactly?
Grass-fed beef does tend to have some higher concentrations of important nutrients than other types of beef, including antioxidants, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), some types of vitamins and omega-3 fats frequently found in fish. It also contains less fat overall.
The omega-3 fats are the center of most of the claims surrounding the health benefits of grass-fed beefs. Their levels are approximately 50 percent higher in grass-fed beef than regular beef, though this doesn’t pose a significant advantage because of the extremely low levels at which they occur in standard beef. You can generally expect a 100-gram serving (about four ounces) of grass-fed top sirloin to contain about 65 milligrams of omega-3 fats (40 in loin, 37 in ribeye). While this is at least 22 milligrams more than you’d find in regular beef, it still comes in far below the levels of omega-3 fats found in fish like haddock and tilapia, and especially in certain types of salmon.
The general takeaway is that grass-fed beef is better for you, but it’s a negligible amount better than standard beef, so it isn’t exactly a “health food,” so to speak.
Other types of grass-fed beef benefits
There are some circumstances, though, in which being grass-fed is better for the cattle. Cows are fine eating grain so long as they get plenty of roughage to go with it. Irresponsible cattle ranchers tend to push too much grain on their cows because it makes them grow faster, but cows’ digestive systems are meant for grass. This means it can be better for the cows themselves to have a diet that’s richer in grass rather than being fattened up on primarily grain.
As for the environmental benefits, well-managed grazing can help offset some of the methane associated with cattle ranching, which can cut down on the amount of carbon dioxide that gets released into the atmosphere. If you want to make some lifestyle changes to help curb the effects of climate change but aren’t ready to completely cut beef out of your diet, switching to grass-fed beef can at least help mitigate some of those effects.
For more information about grass-fed beef and its benefits, contact Tony’s Delicatessen & Fresh Meats or visit our butcher shop in Williamsport, PA today.
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