While attending a conference in Switzerland, I was surprised at the appearance of cows. Cows in Switzerland are pretty – a beautiful burgundy color, lean and frequently seen grazing on grass. This story may sound strange, but after looking at overweight cows in America, I was surprised at what I observed. In addition, the meat and dairy products tasted very different, and I found myself able to eat more than I regularly eat in America without gaining any weight. Since I was sitting at a conference, I knew this change had nothing to do with my activity level!
This observation sparked my interest in the difference in what animals are fed, and how that affects us. When animals are fed grass and allowed to graze out in pasture, they will be leaner, happier and produce products that are higher in omega 3 fatty acids. When they are fed corn or grains, they will produce products that are higher in omega 6 fatty acids.
Omega 3 fats are important since they have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body which assists with lowering a host of medical issues (to be discussed on a future blog). Omega 6 fatty acids have a pro-inflammatory effect in the body which can create more health issues.
Grass-fed meat tastes different but is far healthier than corn-fed meat, though more expensive. In addition, grass-fed meat also contains higher levels of CLA’s (conjugated linoleic acids) which have been linked to lowering inflammation, diabetes, cancer, and increasing immunity.
Most of the beef in this country is from corn/grain-fed animals. Corn/grain-fed beef comes from an animal fed a combination of grass and grains along with vitamin and mineral supplements. Grass-fed or grass finished meat comes from animals that eat only a diet of grass and remain on a pasture their entire lives. Most grass-fed beef is imported from Australia and New Zealand where grass is in greater abundance and grows year round. However, more grass-fed meat is becoming available in the U.S. due to demand and the health benefits it provides.
Grass-fed meat is not synonymous with organic meat. Certified organic meat is free of pesticides, hormones or antibiotic residues and assures you that the cattle were raised in a more humane manner.
When shopping for grass-fed meat you may encounter difficulties. Sometimes the taste seems “off” and varies from company to company. Try different companies until you find one that suits your preference. So go ahead and enjoy a piece of grass-fed meat for dinner, and you’ll be eating for your health.