When you're doing your shopping for Father's Day grilling, what kind of beef do you choose? You know that all the foodies choose grass-fed beef, but is it actually better for you? Better tasting? Or just... hip?
Turns out, grass-fed beef is definitely the best choice, and we've got six important reasons why.
Better for the Animals
First of all, cows were designed to eat grass. If you asked a cow, "What do you want more than anything else in the whole world?" the answer would be: to eat grass. But conventional beef cows are fed a mixture of genetically modified corn, soy and other "byproducts" that can include chicken feathers and even municipal garbage. (Sometimes cows are started on pasture when they are young, and moved to a feed lot to fatten them up, or "finish" them on corn.) Cows were not designed to eat grains, and the grains actually make the cows sick. That means that the farmers have to dose the cows with antibiotics constantly.
So, if the corn makes the animals sick, why feed it to them at all? Farmers originally switched from grass to feed because the corn fattened up the cows faster. Not only was the richer food adding fat faster, the cows also weren't moving around as much as animals who are constantly grazing for the next best bit of grass.
It has been shown that animals pastured and eating grass naturally live two to three times longer than animals in feed lots.
Better for the Environment
It all comes down to poo. When cows are confined to a feed lot, they deposit a large amount of manure in a very small space. That manure has to go somewhere, and factory farms usually want to move it the shortest distance possible and end up dumping it very near the farm. That much manure in that small of a space can pollute the soil and the water. Pastured cows naturally move around and spread their manure over a much larger area and lower concentration, so it can be absorbed as fertilizer for more grass.
Because grass-fed beef is leaner overall, it has a much lower fat content. That's great for people watching their saturated fat intake and cholesterol. In fact, a growing body of research suggests that most of the health problems associated with eating red meat may actually only be linked to eating corn-fed beef, not grass-fed beef.
Several recent studies have confirmed that grass-fed beef contains higher levels of the good omega-3 fatty acids and lower levels of the bad omega-6 fatty acids. When we think of omega-3s, we normally think of fish, but the fish get those omega-3s from eating smaller creatures that have been eating algae. It's the same sort of chain with grass-fed cows, who are eating grasses, clover and other plants high in omega-3s.
In addition, studies have found that grass-fed beef contains significantly higher levels of a healthy dietary fat, conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. CLA has only recently been discovered, and is a natural trans-fatty acid that researchers believe could play a role in inhibiting cancer, reducing heart disease and fighting inflammation. That's big news for a little fat! And conventional beef contains almost no CLA at all.
And, while this may be subjective, an important reason for choosing grass-fed beef is that it just tastes better. Consumers and chefs have reported a stronger and more complex beef flavor in grass-fed cuts. Just be aware that, as we said, grass-fed beef tends to contain less fat than identical cuts of conventional beef, so take care to cook your cuts appropriately so that it doesn't dry out and get tough. Pay attention to that, and you'll find that this Father's Day barbeque will be the best ever.