The Dangers of Eating Store Bought and Commercial Beef
As more and more Americans realize the importance of eliminating or reducing grains in their diets, beef is likely to become an increasingly popular substitution. However, since nearly all cattle are grain-fed before slaughter, if you eat most traditionally raised beef it will typically worsen your omega-6: omega-3 ratio.
According to a study published in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, livestock that are fed on grain have more omega-6 fat, which may promote heart disease, and less omega-3 fat, which is beneficial for cardiac health, than both wild animals and grass-fed livestock.
It is therefore much to your advantage to eat grass-fed beef, but you must also be careful as many stores will advertise beef as grass-fed when it really isn’t. They do this as ALL cattle are grass-fed, but the key is what they are fed in the months prior to being processed. You will need to call the person who actually raised the cows, NOT the store manager, to find out the truth.
The least expensive way to obtain authentic grass-fed beef would be to find a farmer who is growing the beef who you can trust and buy a half a side of beef from him. This way you save the shipping and also receive a reduced rate on the meat. Alternatively, you can order authentic grass-fed beef from our site.
An inexpensive, yet effective, way to determine if the beef is really from a grass-fed animal is to purchase the ground beef. Slowly cook the beef till done and drain and collect all the fat. Grass-fed beef is very high in omega-3 fats and will be relatively thin compared to traditionally prepared ground beef. It will also be a liquid at room temperature as it has very few saturated fats, which are mostly solid at room temperature.
Most traditionally raised beef calves go from 80 pounds to 1,200 pounds in a period of about 14 months. This is no natural feat. Along with enormous quantities of grain (usually corn) and protein supplements, calves are fed or implanted with various drugs and hormones to, as the beef industry says, “promote efficient growth.”
Any combination of the natural hormones estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone, and the synthetic hormones zeranol and trenbolone acetate may be given to cattle. Another hormone, melengesterol acetate, may also be added to feed to “improve weight gain and feed efficiency.”
Measurable amounts of hormones in traditionally raised beef are transferred to humans, and some scientists believe that human consumption of estrogen from hormone-fed beef can result in cancer, premature puberty and falling sperm counts.
About nine million pounds of antibiotic feed additives are used annually in the cattle-raising process. Many people don’t realize that the largest use of antibiotics in the United States is to feed to animals, often so that they will gain more weight, but also to prevent disease outbreaks that could easily fester since the animals are raised in such crowded conditions.
This routine antibiotic use is contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance in humans. Animals raised in natural environments, not the traditional “factory farms,” rarely require antibiotics. You may be able to find antibiotic-free beef in your local health food store, but be sure to be certain that it is grass-fed as well.
Along with antibiotics, traditionally raised cattle are given various vaccines and other drugs. The following is just one recommended course of care for a whole herd of cattle as shown on Pfizer.com:
- CattleMaster 4+VL5: a 4-way viral plus 5-way leptospirosis vaccine and vibriosis protection
- UltraChoice 8: a vaccine to prevent clostridial diseases
- Dectomax Pour-On or Dectomax Injectable: drugs to prevent and treat internal and external parasites
- ScourGuard 3®(K)/C: a vaccine to prevent calf scours
Some commercial beef is irradiated, which means it has been treated with gamma rays produced by the radioactive material, cobalt 60, or electricity to kill bacteria. The effects of long-term consumption of irradiated food products remain to be seen.
This issue is virtually the same issue as with milk. Once milk is pasteurized to “protect” us, it is seriously damaged and actually causes more harm than good for most who drink it. However, if milk is consumed in its real raw form, then it is typically an amazing health-producing food for most who consume it.
If you value your long-term health, I strongly encourage you to avoid irradiated meat. All meats will not be irradiated, so your best bet is to purchase non-irradiated meat.
Alongside the dangers that traditionally raised beef pose to your health are the dangers they pose to your environment. Substantial areas of forests, particularly the rain forests of Central America and the Amazon, are being cleared to make way for cattle. And in the United States, cattle production is a major source of environmental pollution.
Among the most severe problems are water pollution from the nearly 1 billion tons of organic waste produced by cattle each year and the enormous amounts of petro-chemical fertilizers used to produce feed crops, and air pollution–waste and waste treatment methods of grain-fed cattle are responsible for producing a significant portion of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide (the three major gases that are largely responsible for global warming), along with other harmful gasses.
Summary of Important Health Benefits of Grass-fed Meats, Eggs and Dairy
Lower in Fat and Calories. There are a number of nutritional differences between the meat of pasture-raised and feedlot-raised animals. To begin with, meat from grass-fed cattle, sheep, and bison is lower in total fat. If the meat is very lean, it can have one third as much fat as a similar cut from a grain-fed animal. In fact, as you can see by the graph below, grass-fed beef can have the same amount of fat as skinless chicken breast, wild deer, or elk. Research shows that lean beef actually lowers your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
Data from J. Animal Sci 80(5):1202-11.
Because meat from grass-fed animals is lower in fat than meat from grain-fed animals, it is also lower in calories. (Fat has 9 calories per gram, compared with only 4 calories for protein and carbohydrates. The greater the fat content, the greater the number of calories.) As an example, a 6-ounce steak from a grass-finished steer can have 100 fewer calories than a 6-ounce steak from a grain-fed steer. If you eat a typical amount of beef (66.5 pounds a year), switching to lean Grass-fed beef will save you 17,733 calories a year—without requiring any willpower or change in your eating habits. If everything else in your diet remains constant, you’ll lose about six pounds a year. If all Americans switched to Grass-fed meat, our national epidemic of obesity might diminish.
In the past few years, producers of grass-fed beef have been looking for ways to increase the amount of marbling in the meat so that consumers will have a more familiar product. But even these fatter cuts of grass-fed beef are lower in fat and calories than beef from grain-fed cattle.
Meat from grass-fed animals has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain- fed animals. Omega-3s are called “good fats” because they play a vital role in every cell and system in your body.
For example, of all the fats, they are the most heart-friendly. People who have ample amounts of omega-3s in their diet are less likely to have high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat.
Remarkably, they are 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack. Omega-3s are essential for your brain as well. People with a diet rich in omega-3s are less likely to suffer from depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder (hyperactivity), or Alzheimer’s disease.
Another benefit of omega-3s is that they may reduce your risk of cancer. In animal studies, these essential fats have slowed the growth of a wide array of cancers and also kept them from spreading. Although the human research is in its infancy, researchers have shown that omega-3s can slow or even reverse the extreme weight loss that accompanies advanced cancer and also hasten recovery from surgery.[6,7]
Omega-3s are most abundant in seafood and certain nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds and walnuts, but they are also found in animals raised on pasture. The reason is simple. Omega-3s are formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves and algae. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass are omega-3s. When cattle are taken off omega-3 rich grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on omega-3 poor grain, they begin losing their store of this beneficial fat. Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, its supply of omega-3s is diminished. The graph below illustrates this steady decline.
Data from: J Animal Sci (1993) 71(8):2079-88.
When chickens are housed indoors and deprived of greens, their meat and eggs also become artificially low in omega-3s. Eggs from pastured hens can contain as much as 10 times more omega-3s than eggs from factory hens.
It has been estimated that only 40 percent of Americans consume an adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids. Twenty percent have blood levels so low that they cannot be detected. Switching to the meat, milk, and dairy products of grass-fed animals is one way to restore this vital nutrient to your diet.
The CLA Bonus
Meat and dairy products from grass-fed ruminants are the richest known source of another type of good fat called “conjugated linoleic acid” or CLA.
When ruminants are raised on fresh pasture alone, their products contain from three to five times more CLA than products from animals fed conventional diets. (A steak from the most marbled grass-fed animals will have the most CLA ,as much of the CLA is stored in fat cells.)
CLA may be one of our most potent defenses against cancer. In laboratory animals, a very small percentage of CLA—a mere 0.1 percent of total calories—greatly reduced tumor growth.  There is new evidence that CLA may also reduce cancer risk in humans. In a Finnish study, women who had the highest levels of CLA in their diet had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest levels. Switching from grain-fed to Grass-fed meat and dairy products places women in this lowest risk category.
 Researcher Tilak Dhiman from Utah State University estimates that you may be able to lower your risk of cancer simply by eating the following Grass-fed products each day: one glass of whole milk, one ounce of cheese, and one serving of meat. You would have to eat five times that amount of grain-fed meat and dairy products to get the same level of protection.
In addition to being higher in omega-3s and CLA, meat from Grass-fed animals is also higher in vitamin E. The graph below shows vitamin E levels in meat from: 1) feedlot cattle, 2) feedlot cattle given high doses of synthetic vitamin E (1,000 IU per day), and 3) cattle raised on fresh pasture with no added supplements. The meat from the pastured cattle is four times higher in vitamin E than the meat from the feedlot cattle and, interestingly, almost twice as high as the meat from the feedlot cattle given vitamin E supplements. [14#] In humans, vitamin E is linked with a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. This potent antioxidant may also have anti-aging properties. Most Americans are deficient in vitamin E.
Data from: Smith, G.C. “Dietary supplementation of vitamin E to cattle to improve shelf life and case life of beef for domestic and international markets.” Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1171
Inhumane Treatment of Cattle
Traditionally raised cattle are treated as commodities and are deprived of some of the most basic requirements of life–fresh air, space and normal social interaction.
Message from Coach Chris:
Buying from a source that raises cattle free of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs is important to your health. The local farm I have chosen does not use hormones or antibiotics and allow their cattle to roam on pastured land free of any pollutants and chemicals. They also treat all of their animals humanely.
Grass Farming Benefits the Environment
When properly managed, raising animals on pasture instead of factory farms is a net benefit to the environment. To begin with, a diet of grazed grass requires much less fossil fuel than a feedlot diet of dried corn and soy. On pasture, grazing animals do their own fertilizing and harvesting. The ground is covered with greens all year round, so it does an excellent job of harvesting solar energy and holding on to top soil and moisture. As you will read in the bulletins below, grazed pasture removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere more effectively than any land use, including forestland and ungrazed prairie, helping to slow global warming.
It’s a different story in a confinement operation. Here, the animals are crowded into sheds or kept outdoors on barren land and all their feed is shipped to them from distant fields. On those fields, the crops are treated with fossil-fuel based fertilizers, sprayed with pesticides, and planted, tilled, and harvested with heavy equipment. Each of these operations requires non-renewable fuel. Then the feed is shipped to feed manufacturers where it is dried, flaked or pelleted, and mixed with other ingredients and then, finally, shipped to the waiting animals, using yet more fossil fuel.
There is also a day-for-night difference in “manure management” on the two systems. On well-managed pasture-based farms, the animals spread their manure evenly over the soil where it becomes a natural source of organic fertilizer. The manure improves the quality of the grass, which increases the rate of gain of the animals. It’s a closed, sustainable system.
On factory farms, the excrement builds up in the feedlots and sheds where it fouls the air and releases ammonia and other gasses to the eco-system. The fumes stress and sicken the animals and farm workers, and they lower the quality of life of people in nearby homes. To get rid of the waste, it is shipped to nearby fields where it overloads the land with nutrients. The excess nitrogen and phosphorous pollute the soil and ground water and drain off into streams, rivers, and estuaries where it can create “dead zones” that threaten the fish population.