Thursday, July 1, 2010

Food Myths Debunked: Beef…It’s What’s For Dinner (All Year at My House!)

So, two days ago we put down a deposit on beef. In a few weeks we'll be getting a whole, grass-fed beef from Soggy Feet Enterprises on Sauvie Island. I am so excited about this amazing, grass-fed beef; a friend of mine let me sample some of their "grass burger" at it was really tasty. What makes me so pleased about this is that I'm getting a wonderful, nutritious, grass-fed, hormone-free, local beef! And because we're buying in bulk, it's really affordable (just under $4.25/lb final cost). Beef seems to have a bad reputation because it's high in saturated fat. If you have been reading our blog from the get-go, you would know that this is a misrepresentation (see my post about coconut oil). Beef can actually be a wonderful source of protein, iron, B vitamins, and even healthy fats if it is raised properly.

It is important to point out the distinction between industrially-raised beef and grass-fed beef. Industrial methods are designed to bring animals to market weight quickly and cheaply; this method involves unnatural, fattening diets, antibiotics, growth hormones (steroids), and over-crowding (less space to move means less calories "wasted" on exercise). Corn-fed beef, with its marbling (30% fat by weight) became regarded as superior to grass-fed beef whose fat content is equivalent to a skinless chicken breast. Feeding cattle grain instead of grass increases the acidity in their guts which in turn increases the risk of E. coli infection in people. Grass-fed beef is higher in omega-3 fats, vitamin E, and beta-carotene than grain-fed. Overcrowding in feed lots leads to increased disease in cattle; antibiotics are fed to cattle with the side effect of increased drug resistance in the bacteria (helping to create "super bugs" that are resistant to common antibiotics). Drug-resistant bacteria are becoming a major health crisis. Industrial cattle are implanted with hormones to help fatten them up quickly; these hormones, when consumed by people eating commercially-raised beef, alter the body's natural hormone balance and contribute to breast, prostate, and testicular cancer. Mad Cow Disease (bovine encephalopathy) becomes a problem when commercially-grown cattle, herbavores, are fed animal byproducts. In short, grass-fed beef is better for the cow, better for the environment, and better for us (and it even can be more profitable for the farmer because grass is cheap)!

So, enjoy your grass-fed hamburger! The protein helps build enzymes and strong muscles, the vitamin E and beta-carotene help boost your immune system, and the saturated fats help fight infection, aid digestion, extend the use of omega-3 fats, improve calcium absorption, and build cell walls. And remember, the fat in grass-fed beef is typically 50-55% saturated fat, 40% monounsaturated oleic acid (the same fatty acid in olive oil), and 5-10 percent omega-3 fat (the same healthy fat found in fish). Oleic acid and stearic acid (which is much of the saturated fat in beef) help lower LDL ("bad cholesterol") while maintaining HDL ("good cholesterol") levels. Grass-fed beef is also a good source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which is anti-cancer and builds lean muscle.

I'm really looking forward to having a good supply of grass-fed, local beef at my disposal! I'll be making my fair share of burgers, stews, roasts, steaks and—my favorite—Shepherd's pie! I hope this inspires you to make healthy choices about your diet and bring beef to the table more often.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Dr. Crystal. Your post was very informative and reinforced my want/need to buy natural meats. I've been speaking to a few different sellers of grass fed beef lately. One person says their beef is finished on grain and the other person is grass only. Is your beef grain finished and do you think there is a taste difference? If the cow is raised humanely and without the use of hormones, antibiotics, etc. is grain at the end a bad thing? The farmer I would like to buy from is the all grass farmer but I'm worried about the flavor being so different from the meat we are used to and having a couple hundred pounds meat we don't like hanging around.