For most of human history people ate food that was grown or raised in the way nature intended; off the surrounding land. Goats, sheep, bison and cattle spent their entire lives grazing on native plants and grasses. These animals grew to maturity slowly over time at their natural rate. These herds, known as ruminants, are designed to eat the native grasses, plants and shrubs that grow locally.
The people who raised the herds also knew that they needed to nurture the soil, care for the water and plants in the pastures to ensure they maintained a living balance of the high-quality grasses and legumes essential for healthy animal growth. Free to roam these lush, green pastures, the animals were healthy and their resulting meat was lean, nutritious and rich in flavor. Quite different than what we have today.
Fats. A bad rap? You decide!
Fats have gotten a really bad reputation. But, somewhat rightfully so.
After WWII, big business found its way into our country’s family owned and operated farms. Unfortunately, many of the good practices farmer’s had been following began shifting as a result. By the 1960s small farms were replaced by larger farms and commercial feedlots thanks to new strategies for confining cattle and feeding them high-starch grain diets. The largest of these commercial operations learned to efficiently crank out in excess of 100,000 head of cattle a year. Vast surpluses of corn, milo, wheat and soybean meal—produced in mass quantities thanks to petroleum-based fertilizers and subsidized by the government—further fueled the expansion of the cattle-feeding industry.
The fact is, whether it’s a plant or an animal eating the plant, or an animal eating another animal (which is us) the nutrition [or lack thereof] determines what each gets along the food chain. Sadly what’s happened to supermarket meats, and even organically raised meats, is the animals have an unbalanced unnatural diet, most never even get to eat a blade of grass during their lifetime. If the nutrition isn’t present from their food source, or in ours, we’re not going to be getting it either! This has caused meats to contain far more of the properties that are very unhealthy for us.
Now animals, many of which have never seen a blade of grass after weaning, are fattened on unnatural diets, with added hormones and antibiotics and churned out for slaughter in little more than a year. This efficient industrial process guarantees that there will always be plenty of meat at your local supermarket—and that it will consistently be inexpensive.
But we are paying in other ways; heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, diabetes, and cancer.
What’s Missing from the Cattle’s Diet and Our Own?
Fatty acids for one. Fatty acids are essential for human growth and development, and are most often associated with cold-water fish and certain fruits and vegetables, but they also occur in abundance in grass-raised animals, like we see at U.S. Wellness Meats.
Red meats are only unhealthy to humans when the animals are raised in modern ways, feed lots. When we hear that red meat is bad for us and we have to limit our intake those warnings are quite true.
However, when animals are allowed to graze and live a life foraging for food outdoors their meat is vastly different than what is found in supermarkets. But we’d never know that based on what’s in the media!
Grass-raised animal meat is a rich source of healthy fatty acids because the animals spend their lives eating the green forage plants that are naturally rich in omega-3s themselves. Just by eating their natural diet, cattle absorb these valuable fats and then pass the nutrition on to you. The result is beef that has nearly 60% more omega-3s than beef from cows that have been raised on a low-omega-3 grain diet.
Grass-raised Animals Contain Less Bad-Fat
Because grass-raised cattle are raised and finished in their natural environment, eating their natural diet, their four-chain stomach operates at a healthy level of pH 7.
In contrast, grain-fed cattle have a very high stomach acidity of pH 4, brought on by their unnatural, high-starch diets. This would also explain why when we eat this meat ‘our’ body acidity rises too.
Thanks to their healthy diet, forage-raised cattle have high amounts of healthy fats, like omega-3s and CLA, and minimal amounts of the unhealthy omega-6 fats that have come to be associated with beef. Already, this is sounding very different than what we’ve been hearing over the years when it comes to any kind of red meat, unless we keep in mind that those warnings only pertain to cattle raised in feedlots.
As Americans have grown accustomed to grain-fed (conventional) beef as the norm, they have come to associate the fattiness of grain-fed animals with tender and tasty meat, but is that really accurate?
Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture we see that because fats occur in a proper ratio in grass-fed cattle they both lower in overall fat and more flavorful.
Re-Learning How To Cook Real Meat
The real difference is that you’ll need to get used to cooking your meat at lower temperatures and for a slightly longer period of time.
Where grain-fed beef cooking is all about using high heat to break down fat, grass-fed beef cooking depends on lower temperatures to gently coax the flavor out of the meat.
Curt and I have actually found that cooking at lower temperatures for a longer period of time is actually far more enjoyable and a lot less work than one might imagine. When I speak of lower temperatures I mean not using a heat any higher than 325*F in the oven or on the grill.
I think cooking hotter and faster may have become something desirable because in recent years our days are too packed with works, kids, and assorted other tasks. I’ve never owned or used a microwave until recently while staying in a hotel when we moved; I’ve found that they take the same length of time as it would if the food were cooked on a stovetop or oven, another downside too is our food being exposed to microwaves. Thankfully, I’ve stopped subscribing to the marketing of everything has to make our lives easier–something I no longer believe is true.
Meat Can Lower Your Risk of Cancer, Clogged Arteries and More!
Recent studies have shown that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) can have a powerful effect on our health.
In separate studies, scientists have shown that CLA can lower an individual’s risk for cancer and arteriosclerosis (clogged arteries), as well as reduce body fat and delay the onset of diabetes.
For Americans, beef and dairy fat are the best sources of CLA. Research has shown that when animals are fed an all-grass diet it can significantly increase the level of CLA found in beef and dairy. Because green plants are rich in the linoleic acid necessary to produce to CLA, grass-fed animals typically produce two to four times the CLA of their grain-fed counterparts.
CLA has become so valued for its health benefits that many health food stores sell CLA supplements, but naturally-occurring CLA is metabolized more effectively and used better by the body than these synthetic supplements, which are prone to oxidation during shelf-life.
Vitamin A in Grass-raised Meats
Vitamin A is essential to proper nutrition, a key to healthy vision and bone growth as well as an essential antioxidant. Our most common source of Vitamin A is the beta-carotene that occurs naturally in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables and is converted into Vitamin A by our bodies. But forage-fed beef is an additional source of the vital nutrient. Cattle that are raised on grass consume significantly larger amounts of beta-carotene than do those raised on grain, and the result is meat that is a valuable source of Vitamin A, a fact that supermarket meat cannot hold a candle to
Another essential antioxidant that is linked to a reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, Vitamin E also occurs in larger amounts in US Wellness Meats grass-fed beef than in grain-fed beef.
Other Facts on US Wellness Meats
This is what really sold us on US Wellness Meats…
“We feed our families with the same U.S. Wellness Meats we sell on our site, so you can be sure that we are absolutely committed to the highest standards of quality and safety.
We never use pesticides or herbicides on the pastures where our cattle graze.
We don’t use additives or preservatives of any kind.
We never give growth hormones or feed-grade antibiotics to our animals. When essential, we might nurse an individual animal through a calf illness with antibiotics, but we treat this as something we don’t employ lightly. In those rare cases in which we do use antibiotics, our animals must go through an extended withdrawal time that is twice the industry standard. Older animals that require antibiotics are simply removed from the U.S. Wellness Meats program.
We graze our animals on a careful rotating schedule so that they are always eating the freshest, lushest forage plants. This is also good for the land, since it ensures all forage plants 30 days of rest between grazings.
We ensure that our animals always drink only clean, pure water.
We are dedicated to humane, free-range, stress-free animals.”
These statements are precisely why new terminology is surfacing that defines a very clear difference between food that is simply raised “organically” and food that is raised “beyond organic.” Learn more: Organic Certification: is it all it’s cracked up to be?
Enjoy Some of Our Favorite Grass-raised Meat Recipes