Should you spend the extra money to buy and eat grass-fed beef, pasture raised poultry and eggs?
I think so. The health benefits certainly justify the cost for me. Let’s look at what grass-fed beef means and why you want to consider spending the extra now, so you won’t be spending on health issues later.
First, let’s explore what beef is.
The term “beef” is generally used to describe the flesh obtained from a family of animals known as Bovidae. Although “cow” is most commonly used to describe this family, “cow beef” is just one of the many types of beef, alongside:
- Heifer beef (flesh from a mature female which had never calved)
- Steer beef (flesh from a castrated, mature male)
- Bull beef (flesh from an uncastrated, mature male)
- Stag Beef (flesh from a mature male which had been castrated after reproduction)
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Benefits of Grass-Fed Beef
- Contains twice the level of lutein and beta-carotene as compared to grain-fed beef
- Decrease in cholesterol levels from about 39% to 22%
- Higher Vitamin E content, as much as, three times compared to non-grass-fed cows
Other Health Benefits
- Provides up to 3.5 gm of omega-3 fatty acids for every 4-ounce serving, or the equivalent of 100% of the daily requirement for omega-3
- Provides two to three times the amount of CLA – about 500 to 800 mg for every 4-ounce serving. CLA is a rare fatty acid that is made from linoleic acid
- On top of CLA, grass-fed beef also provides higher amounts of vaccenic acid, another type of fatty acid that is converted into CLA by the normal flora in the digestive tract
Things to Remember
If you want to ensure that you are getting genuine grass-fed beef that complies with the standards of the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, look for the USDA shield on product labels. Here’s a rundown of organic labels to consider.
For over 8,000 years, cheese making has been practiced by different cultures throughout the world, originally as a method to preserve the nutrients of fresh milk while extending its life. However, in many cultures, the milk used to create cheese is not necessarily cow’s milk, but milk from other animals including goats, sheep, buffalo, bison, yaks, camels, horses, and even reindeer.
In the US, however, commercially available cheeses are often made from cow’s milk, and can be marketed as either fresh cheeses (not fermented) or ripened cheeses (fermented).
- One ounce of grass-fed cheese supplies at least 30 mg of CLA, a type of fat that helps support the immune and inflammatory systems, improve blood sugar regulation, improve bone mass, reduce body fat, and lower risk for heart disease.
- Grass-fed cheese has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids – at least 100 mg per ounce. It also improves the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio to about 4:1, as compared to 7:1 or higher in an average adult. Too much of omega-6 increases the risk for cancer, inflammatory diseases, obesity, and diabetes.
Other Health Benefits
- Moderate intake of cheese, particularly grass-fed cheese can help in regulating blood sugar levels. This is mainly attributed to the presence of calcium, and the Vitamins K and D. Vitamin deficiency and calcium deficiency are some of the known culprits for elevated blood sugar.
- Cheese that is inoculated with friendly bacteria or the so-called “probiotic cheese” is known to help keep the digestive tract healthy.
Things to Remember
Even if you’re eating grass-fed cheese, it is advisable to eat cheese that comes from whole milk and to keep your consumption at 1 or 2 ounces or less per day.
Whole milk is categorized as a whole, natural food, and provides the highest amounts of key nutrients that cannot be obtained from processed forms, such as, pasteurized milk.
Grass-Fed Cow’s Milk
Mammals, including cows, can produce milk through the process known as lactation. However, it is interesting to note that not all cows are bred to become dairy cows, and only special types of breeds such as Holsteins and Jerseys are bred for the purpose of milk production.
Female cows tend to give birth to their first calf and start lactating at around 2 years of age. Female dairy cows can produce milk 80% of the year, lasting for 6 to 10 years, depending on the steps taken to initiate the lactating cycle.
- Milk is an excellent source of Vitamins B2, D, and B12, as well as, minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, and iodine. The benefits are much more pronounced when the milk consumed is from grass-fed rather than grain-fed cows.
- Recent studies suggest that an 8-ounce serving of grass-fed cow’s milk can provide at least 75 mg of CLA.
- 100% grass-fed, whole cow’s milk can provide antioxidants, such as biochanin A, formononetin, and prunetin.
- There’s a 50% increase in Vitamin E levels in grass-fed cow’s milk than grain-fed cow’s milk.
- 4 times higher the level of beta-carotene as compared to grain-raised cows.
Other Health Benefits
- While the omega-3 content of grass-fed cow’s milk can vary depending on the crops available and the cow’s breed and age, what is notable is the low ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Omega-6 is known to interfere with the metabolism of omega-3, so keeping the ratio low will be most beneficial for omega-3 intake.
- While 8 ounces of grass-fed cow’s milk contains about 8g of total fat, about 25% of this consists of monounsaturated fats or “good fats.” Although about 56% is made up of saturated fats, the composition of the saturated fats present in grass-fed cow’s milk is actually more beneficial and are more easily metabolized than those found in non-grass-fed cow’s milk.
- When consumed at about 2 to 4 cups each day, grass-fed cow’s milk can help decrease the risk for gout in both men and women.
- Regular intake of milk can decrease the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.
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Turkeys are large birds that belong to the family Phasianidae and are native to North and South America. Turkeys can reach about 30 to 35 lbs in weight, can run at 20 to 25 mph, and can fly short distances with speeds of approximately 50 to 55 mph.
Although most often highlighted as a high-protein food, turkey is host to a broad range of other nutrients due to its diverse diet that consists of grasses, berries, seeds, and insects.
Because they are allowed to roam around most of their lives, pasture-raised turkeys gain access to their natural food and thus are more nutritious than caged turkeys.
- According to recent studies, pasture-raised turkeys were found to have increased levels of omega-3 and a lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratio as compared to conventionally raised turkeys.
- While omega-3 supplements may have shown the ability to increase the omega-3 content and lower the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of turkey meat, pasture-feeding turkeys is still more effective in improving the overall health and fat quality of the animals.
- For every 4-ounce serving of turkey meat, about 10 to 60 mg. of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is present within the omega-3 fatty acids, a component that is essential in supporting healthy nerve function. The amount of DHA present can become higher in turkeys that have consumed a natural diet.
- Turkey is known for its protein richness, providing about 30 to 35 gm. of protein for every 4-ounce serving of skinned, baked turkey breast. 4 ounces of a turkey leg provides about 31 to 32 gm. of protein, while a turkey thigh provides about 21 gm. of protein for a 4-ounce serving.
- The protein found in turkey is known to help regulate meal digestion, insulin metabolism, and as a result, helps keep blood sugar levels within the normal range.
Other Health Benefits
- Turkey meat is known to contain all the important B Vitamins – B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Panthothenic Acid), B6 (Pyridoxine), B12 (Cobalamin), Choline, Biotin, and Folate.
- Turkey is a rich source of selenium, providing over 60% of the Dietary Reference Intake in every 4-ounce serving.
- Turkey is also an excellent source of iron, zinc, phosphorous, copper, potassium, and magnesium.
- A healthy, balanced diet consisting of about 1 to 4 ounces of skinned, turkey meat each day has been shown to reduce the risk of acquiring pancreatic cancer. However, studies do not show any evidence of decreasing cancer risk when turkey skin is eaten alongside red meat.
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Belonging to the bird class Aves, chickens are the most commonly consumed breed among commercially available birds. “Poultry” is a general term used to refer to domesticated chickens, while chickens raised for food are commonly referred to as “broilers” or “roasters.”
Unless slaughtered for food, chickens have an average lifespan of about five to ten years. Broilers and roasters are left to breed and grow rapidly until they weigh about four to five pounds when they are slaughtered in as little as five weeks (12 to 20 weeks for others).
- Chicken is known for its protein richness, but unknown to many, it is an excellent source of other nutrients as well. For a pasture-raised chicken, about 35 gm or 70% of the Daily Value of protein is present in a 4-ounce serving of chicken breast.
- Not only is the protein in chicken meat abundant, but, it is quality protein rich in amino acids, such as, methionine, cysteine, valine, leucine, and isoleucine.
- A research study showed that eating skinless chicken for about five days per week can help lower both bad cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. Additionally, participants who ate a combination of chicken and fish have shown more favorable triglyceride compositions in the blood as compared to those who have had a diet of lean beef and lean mutton.
- There were also higher levels of Anti-inflammatory omega-3 and lower levels of pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid for those on the chicken-fish diet.
Other Health Benefits
- Like turkey, chicken meat contains all of B Vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, choline, biotin, and folate.
- Chicken provides about 98% of the Dietary Reference Intake of Vitamin B3 per 4-ounce serving of chicken breast, about 40% of the DRI for Vitamin B6, and about 20% of the DRI for choline.
- Chicken meat is rich in the mineral selenium, providing about 57% of the DRI for a 4-ounce serving alone. Chicken also supplies iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorous, and zinc.
- Increase in chicken intake and reduction in red meat intake has shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
Things To Remember
- Whether pasture-raised or conventionally-raised, raw chicken meat may become contaminated with Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter bacteria, which is why it is very important to cook your meat properly. However, the incidence of bacteria becoming antibiotic-resistant is higher in grain-fed and conventionally raised poultry.
- The way you cook and eat chicken meat may also affect its nutritional value. For instance, chicken meat is healthier when baked or broiled than when fried. While the calorie content is within the same range, cholesterol and fat contents vary largely in certain cuts. Generally speaking, skinless chicken breast is best, whether the chicken is pasture-raised or not.
- When shopping around for pasture-raised chicken meat, it’s also wise to look past the labels, but, rather look for genuinely pasture-raised chicken by asking the grocer about the actual conditions in which these chickens were raised.
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Eggs are regarded as an excellent source of protein, and in fact, used as a reference standard in evaluating the protein content in other foods. The protein in an egg is known as “HBV” or High Biological Value protein, scoring 100% on the HBV chart.
- Eating one to six eggs per week has been shown to increase the number of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) molecules or the so-called “good” cholesterol. Not only that, but egg intake can also improve the function of these molecules. While there is no evidence showing that a diet consisting of one to six eggs per week can increase the risk for heart disease, too much eggs in the diet can increase cardiovascular risk because of the high cholesterol content, so it is important to eat in them in moderation.
- Eggs that come from pasture-raised hens have been shown to have a significantly higher amount of the antioxidant vitamin E than those who are raised in cages. One study showed that pastured hens that feed on grass and legumes had a 200% higher content of vitamin E than caged hen’s eggs. In addition, those hens that ate more grasses than legumes had an additional increase of 25% more vitamin E in their eggs.
- While all egg yolks contain omega-3 fatty acids, the amount varies largely depending on what the chicken eats. Recent studies have shown an increase in omega-3 contents by adding oil supplements to the hen’s feeds, but unknown too many; the omega-3 levels can be increased naturally through pasture feeding.
- Eggs contain all of the B Vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, biotin, folate, and choline, with choline being the most notable. The recommended amounts of choline for adult men and women are 550 mg and 425 mg, respectively. One egg can supply over 100 mg of choline for far less the calories as compared to other choline-rich sources, at only 75 to 80 calories per egg.
- Some studies have shown that eating eggs along with fruits, vegetables, and legumes, can decrease the risk of breast cancer. However, there are contradicting studies that show an increased risk for colorectal cancer due to egg intake. Despite all of the confusion, you can count on pasture-raised eggs to provide you with essential nutrients, but with less risk as compared to conventionally raised hen eggs.
- Eggs are not only rich in minerals, but they are rich in minerals that are difficult to acquire from other foods, such as, selenium and iodine. This rich combination of nutrients can be attributed to the fact that birds are omnivore creatures.
- Pasture-raised eggs also contain about three to six times more of Vitamin D, which helps build strong bones, improve mood, lower blood pressure, and improve the immune system. The reason is that pasture-raised poultry typically receive more sunlight.
- Interestingly enough, egg nutrients are evenly distributed between the white and the yolk, which is why consumption of whole eggs is highly recommended. The white is composed of 87% water and 13% protein, whereas the yolk is composed of 50% water, 33% fat, and 17% protein.
Things To Remember
- To avoid potential problems with cholesterol and heart disease, it is important to eat eggs in moderation, and alongside a well-balanced diet, whether the egg you’re eating is pasture-raised or not.
- In relation to cardiovascular problems and cholesterol, people with type 2 diabetes should also consult with their primary provider before including eggs in their diet, as they are more susceptible to problems with regards to cholesterol transport in the blood.
- Eggs do not contain fiber, and fiber is known to reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as stroke, cancer, and diabetes. It is important that egg intake is accompanied by a diet rich in fiber.
- It is important to look at eggs in the context of your overall diet. If you have a diet already high in fiber and are looking to add more protein, eggs can be a wise decision. Just make sure to watch out for other health conditions that you might already be suffering from.
Overall, if you’re eating any of these foods on a regular basis, it is important to note just how much nutrients you may be lacking by consuming grain-fed beef, eggs and poultry.
In fact, not only are grain-fed foods lacking in nutrients, they can be harmful because of the high amount of antibiotics and hormones added to the diet of these foods to stave off disease and shorten the time in which they grow and are ready to be sold.
If you can afford it, always look for grass-fed beef and pasture-raised eggs and poultry to boost your overall health and nutrition.