Eat Less, Better Meat

Lots of meat news these days, mostly bad. It's enough to drive a fellow vegan. But sift through the pink slime hysteria and the scary health reports and there's a silver (or should we say grass-green?) lining that will hearten those of us who love eating beef.

Here's a great article on pink slime. The take-away is there's a really easy way to ensure that you never come into contact with pink slime or any other byproducts of the feedlot industrial beef complex (many of which, like pink slime, are not required to be identified on labels by the USDA): eat only grass-fed, pasture-raised beef.

I think our basic human freedom to choose what we eat is denied when industry is not required to disclose the presence of ingredients that nobody would want to eat, but the government does not see it that way.

But what about that Harvard study you've surely heard about, the one that determined reducing red meat consumption is the cornerstone of a healthier and longer life? Hard to argue with those Harvard boys, except that it's worth pointing out that the study was of Americans and that the vast majority of beef consumed in the States is feedlot-produced beef that is high in fat and cholesterol and low in the health-fostering compounds that are plentiful in grass-fed, pasture-raised beef. It's as if a study determined that potatoes were bad for you, but the subjects in the study were only eating the potatoes in the form of McDonalds french fries and Pringles.

Lots of people have pointed this out. Given the obesity epidemic in the US, it's safe to say that Americans should probably eat less of everything, especially beef produced in unhealthy conditions that require antibiotics to prevent the cattle from keeling over into their own waste. But what if everyone ate less, better red meat, which is to say pasture-raised, grass-fed beef?

Omega 3 fatty acids are formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves and algae. While seaweeds and algae are the source of omega 3 fatty acids present in fish, grass is the source of omega 3 fatty acids present in grass fed meats. When cattle are taken off omega 3 fatty acid rich grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on omega 3 fatty acid deficient grain, they begin losing their store of this beneficial fat. Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, the amount of omega 3 fatty acids in its meat is diminished.

What would be truly edifying would be if the egg-heads at Harvard did a study that compared the health of consumers who eat commodity (feedlot-produced) beef vs. grass-fed beef. Check out this article for a great critique of the Harvard Study and a thorough explanation of the benefits of grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef.

In fact, eating moderate amounts of grass-fed beef for even four weeks will give you healthier levels of essential fats, according to a 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Healthy volunteers who ate grass-fed meat increased their blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and decreased their level of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.

This can all become very theoretical and confusing, but we here at Estancia have come up with a simple and effective test that will allow anyone to determine if eating grass-fed beef is right for them. You can take it at home. Next Wednesday (or any day really), buy some USDA prime beef from your local supermarket, cook it up and eat it with a nice salad. Write down how it tastes and how it makes you feel after you're done. "Heavy," "torpid," "like a python digesting a baby goat," and "buttery" will figure prominently in your description.

The following Wednesday do the same but with Estancia's grass-fed, pasture-raised beef. Wow! The taste is so clean and beefy, right? You feel light and energized. "Harvard Shmarvard," you'll shout. "I can have my beef and be healthy!"

If you listen to your gut, you'll only eat grass-fed beef. And when you switch to Estancia, you'll be happy to discover that you have less of a gut to listen to.