The Scoop on Grass-fed Meats

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The demand for grass-fed meats has grown exponentially within the last two decades. That’s because many diets like the paleo diet and more recently the Carnivore diet staunchly promote eating animal products as a major source of food. 

For review, a paleo diet (also known as a paleolithic diet or the caveman diet) consist of eating, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and roots and avoids eating dairy, legumes, alcohol, processed oils, grains (not even whole grains), and alcohol. This eating approach attempts to mimic the way humans ate thousands of years ago.

The carnivore diet is relatively new and consists of only eating animal products. And that’s it. I am not kidding. On this diet, you consume mainly meat, fish, eggs, water, salt, and dairy.

The premises of both diets is that some food, mainly grains (but several other foods as well depending on what diet you look at) causes all sorts of inflammatory health problems that include gastrointestinal issues and autoimmune disease. (I don’t have a reliable resource for this statement right now)

This blog post is not about rating diets, but more about consuming grass-fed meats and if the extra cost worth it.

Is grass-fed meats a good thing to eat? 

Or, the better question is, is grass-fed meat really grass fed?

Here we go…

Are grass-fed meats better for you?

There’s no question that byproducts of cows eating grass and hay is higher in nutritional content: It is higher in good fats like omega-3 and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), has more nutrients like vitamin A and E than meats from cows that eat corn or soy. (Daley et al. 2010)

Large studies, however, generally show higher death rates in those with high intakes of both red and processed meat than in those with low meat intakes.

The kicker is that, the source of meats and how the animals lived and what they were fed is never taken into account when performing such human studies.

But the source of meats and how the animals lived and what they  were fed is never into account when performing these studies.

In fact, there is no human data to prove or disprove that eating grass-fed meats prolongs life ors shortens it. So while, yes grass-fed meats are higher in nutritional value, we don’t know for sure if eating it helps us live longer and better. 

But that’s not the only dilemma. The bigger issue is that the word “grass-fed” is not well defined and farms that produce “grass-fed” meats are not regulated. 

Should we trust “Grass-fed” labels?

I have to admit, until researching for this article, I freely bought “grass-fed” labeled meats without thinking twice. 

This is what I’ve recently learned.

  • On January 2016, The American Marketing Service (AMS), a segment of the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) dropped any standard definition of the term “grass-fed.” The AMS claimed that it doesn’t have the authority to define and determine whether specific grass-fed claims that companies make on their packaging are “truthful and not misleading.”
  • In short, while the USDA still evaluates and approves grass-fed claims, the government no longer has an official definition of the term “grass-fed,” which means the phrase is now more open to interpretation.
  • The bottom line is that if you want to be certain your meat is 100% grass-fed the onus is on the farmer. Of course, you may not know the farm where your meats come from if you buy it from a store – that makes it trickier to trust the source.
  • The AGA label must come from animals fed a diet of 100% forage, raised on pasture, and never treated with hormones or antibiotics.

Here’s what you need to know if you eat red meat:

  • Processed meats like cold cuts, sausages, and hot dogs are more of a culprit, studies show, not red meat in and by itself. Processed meats are more of a problem in prostate cancer than meats in general.
  • If you can find 100% grass-fed and grass finished red meat and are willing to pay for it, that’s better (some companies have grass-fed meats but “finish” with feeding grains). Grass-fed meats cost about $2 to $3 more a pound than conventionally raised meats because it takes about two to three years to make it grow enough for sale. The name of the game in the meat industry fattens cows up as soon as possible to sell for as much as possible. For comparison, corn and grains feed can make a grow up to 1200 pounds after it is born within 18 months. Corn and grain products also make you and I grow fast too, just saying.
  • It’s not absolutely essential to eat meats, including the grass-fed version. The benefit of eating meats is mostly from what you are not eating as a result of animal consumption (fewer grains, gluten, flour, etc). The main animal form of food for health benefits should be Wild caught fish.
  • If your budget only allows for one high-quality animal source over another, choose fish from a high-quality source. Fish consumption has shown to reduce the risk of death from prostate cancer by 63%. Like all animal products, quality matters. Wild caught salmon (colored fish and slow cooking are better than white fish and the use of high heat) is the best form of fish from my research for protection from prostate cancer mortality.

Related Posts:

What is Organic, and are Organic Foods Worth it?

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by Dr. Geo

5 comments… add one
  • Joseph kolsby 01/08/2019, 9:12 AM

    Thank you for this very informative blog. But what is the difference between meat labeled “organic, and those labeled “grass fed”? They are two separate labels, never on on the same package!

    Reply
    • Dr. Geo 01/08/2019, 9:54 AM

      Organic meats are hormone free and antibiotic free. Their feed is organic but it is grains and corn, not grass. Read this post on organic for clarity when you have a chance. Thanks for the question.

      Reply
  • David 01/08/2019, 9:45 AM

    What kind of cow wouldn’t thrive on a diet of GMO corn? 🙂

    Reply
  • John Perini 01/08/2019, 12:23 PM

    My family raises grass fed grass finished Beef in NJ and my advice would be to meet your farmer and see the operation if possible. Ask about the care and nurturing of the soil and the variety/quality of pasture plants. Have the farmer tell you about the care in selecting the genetic profile of the herd. The farmer can explain the pasture rotation and husbandry practices. All of this before he makes any attempt to get the product to you. For the best operations a $ 2- 3 premium barely covers the costs of such a total commitment. Being able to know that your farmer’s commitment to your health matches your own is helpful when staying the course gets difficult.

    Reply

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