When trying to eat a healthy diet, many people focus on the saying: “You are what you eat.”
But what’s just as important to keep in mind is that “you are what you eat eats.”
Food writer Michael Pollan made that point many years ago. He continues to promote that idea to this day. That’s because whatever diet is fed to the fish or meat that you eat has a direct impact on your health.
An example of that is the grass-fed, pasture-finished beef we raise here at Acabonac Farms. Thanks to how they are raised and what we feed them, our cattle produce beef that is more nutrient-dense and packed with vitamins when compared to grain-fed beef.
Here are some differences between grain-fed and grass-fed beef.
In a grain-fed operation, farmers feed cattle feed made from corn, soy and silage. While they may spend a short time in a grass pasture, most of their lives are spent in holding pens in a feedlot. They have limited ability to walk or move around.
Studies from Cornell University and others have shown grain-based diets promote growth of E. coli that can survive the acidity of the human stomach and cause intestinal illness. A study by Consumer Reporters found that “conventionally raised beef” is twice as likely to contain superbugs than the beef that comes from sustainable farms like ours.
In a grass-fed operation, cattle freely roam on pastures, eating grass and other natural foliage.
They spend their entire lives on a pasture, never spending even one day in a feedlot. This is how nature meant cattle to live.
In a grain-fed operation, farmers give cattle growth-promoting hormones and antibiotics. They need antibiotics to combat illness brought on by being confined in close quarters and eating food that their digestive systems are not designed to handle.
The presence of antibiotics in grain-fed beef is a great example why it’s important to know “what you eat eats.”
In a true grass-fed operation like ours, farmers never give cattle steroids or antibiotics.
You must be aware that labels can be misleading.
The USDA allows industrial cattle operations to slap a “grass-fed” sticker on beef if they graze on an open pasture for even a short time. True grass-fed beef means cattle are fed 100% grass and spend their entire lives on a pasture.
That’s why you will see us sometimes refer to our beef as “100% grass-fed, pasture-finished.”
But isn’t grain-fed beef sometimes labeled organic?
Yes. The organic label can be a slippery one. Grain-fed beef can get labeled organic if cattle are fed organic corn or organic soy - but that doesn’t change the fact they are eating food they were not naturally designed to eat and raised in feedlots.
Cattle are meant to eat grass - period.
Nature designed cows perfectly for eating grass. It leads to beef that is far healthier than beef from industrial cattle operations. Some of those advantages include:
• Grass-fed beef contains up to two times the levels of the fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) when compared to grain-fed beef. CLA can reduce the risks of obesity and diabetes. CLA also can increase insulin sensitivity, which promotes better blood sugar levels. Studies with lab animals have also shown that some types of CLA may also fight cancer.
• Grass-fed beef boosts your immune system because it carries high levels of Vitamin A and heme iron.
• Other vitamins in grass-fed beef support healthy blood cells and nerves (B-12) and good heart health and strong bones (K2)
• Grass-fed beef also is healthier for your heart than grain-fed beef because it contains less unhealthy fat and more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains Vitamin E, which acts as a heart disease-fighting antioxidant.
But those aren’t the only benefits of grass-fed beef. Local farms also support a sustainable environment.
Grass-fed beef farms use sustainable practices such as rotational grazing that allows carbon dioxide to get sequestered in the soil, leading to fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It also promotes a diverse ecosystem and allows the land to naturally regenerate.
You really are “what you eat eats.” Keep that in mind as you shop for beef for your home. At Acabonac Farms, we produce healthy beef while practicing good stewardship of the land. See our website to learn how to get our delicious products delivered directly to your door. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.