Natural means nothing.
They want you to think natural means what you would think natural implies. They like to paint a pretty picture but in reality, it’s far from the actual truth. (Hint: so called “free-range” chickens)
So naturally, grass-fed may not imply what you think it means. What picture is painted when you envision meat that is labeled “grass-fed?” To me, I envision the cows eating grass all throughout their life, on open pasture– even right before they get processed into meat. You probably envision that as well right?
Well, just like free-range does not necessarily promise the chickens are living the lives they are supposed to live, grass-fed does not promise that you are getting the highest quality meat you assume you are getting.
Grass-fed is a loose term. If you think about it, at one point, all animals are raised on grass. One important factor we need to take into consideration is the quality of the grass. Unfortunately just because it is labeled grass-fed it does not determine if the cow has been feeding on lush green grass (where all the nutrients and vitamins are). The cow could be feeding on dry, old, moldy grass that is completely devoid of nutrients. No nutrients = unhealthy cow.
I know… you are probably feeling like nothing comes easy when trying to determine if what you are purchasing is at the highest quality. In this day and age, we have to be savvy when navigating through labels, descriptions, ingredients, etc. A term to look for when purchasing meat is grass-finished and pasture-raised.
The term “finished” means that the animal has grown to the point where the growth has slowed so it can put on fat. This happens about 90-160 days before slaughter.
Proper finishing of beef is one of the most important elements in keeping the nutritional quality so prized of grass-fed animals. When done properly, the meat will maintain healthy levels of omega-6 to omega-3 ratios, have high levels of CLA, vitamin E and A, and beta carotene. CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) is an extremely beneficial fatty acid and has been shown to help protect and fight against cancer. Naturally, if the animal is not consuming the highest quality of forage for it to finish then the animal will not grow properly nor will it gain any of the fat that makes it tender and flavorful.
|Hanging out with the cows at Tara Firma Farms|
Many companies who claim their beef is grass-fed may have started their cattle on grass but during the last few months of their lives transport their cows to a feed lot where they consume grains such as corn, soy, and/or corn by products to fatten them up. Often times, the cattle may not even live on pastures and live out their lives on CAFO’s and eat alfalfa or hay (hence, grass-fed). Once they transition to an unnatural diet the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 can sky rocket and the high levels of CLA can drop to dramatically low levels (sometimes to even nothing).
As a side note: Cows are ruminants (aka, grass-eaters), so corn and grain raise acidity levels in their bodies, making them more susceptible to illness, including E. coli and other bacterial infections. When an animal is raised on pasture and fed grass their whole lives, E. coli is dramatically reduced.
The term “pasture-raised” simply means the animal lives it’s complete life grazing on open, green pastures. From birth to death the animal eats what it was meant to and lives a happy, cruel-free life. Often local farmers will not have an organic certification for their meat. Because the term organic is so lax, pasture-raised animals without any organic certification are far beyond superior quality.
When choosing your meat it is ideal to have pasture-raised, grass-finished. So when you can determine the cattle has been raised on pastures it’s whole life and finished on grass, you know you are getting the highest quality meat you can get.
Until next time,
Loriel – Healthy Roots, Happy Soul
This post is part of: Mix it Up Mondays, Make Your Own Mondays, Thank Goodness It’s Monday, Melt in Your Mouth Mondays, Clever Chicks Hop, Natural Living Mondays, Healthy Tuesday Hop, Fat Tuesdays, Tasteful Tuesdays, Traditional Tuesdays, Teach Me Tuesdays,
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