Grass vs Grain Fed Animals

Grass vs Grain Fed Animals


Grass-fed meat has a similar fat profile to wild game

When cattle are free to forage on their natural diet of grass, their meat is almost as lean as wild game. The graph below shows that grass-fed beef has an overall fat content similar to antelope, deer, and elk.

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Better Omega 6/Omega 3 Ratios with Grass fed beef

This graph shows that grain-fed beef has a much higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids than wild game or grass-fed beef. A high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids has been linked with an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergies, depression, obesity, and auto-immune disorders. (Simopoulos and Robinson, The Omega Diet, published by HarperCollins in 1999.)

A ratio of four or lower is considered ideal. The ratio in grain-fed beef is more than 14 to 1. In grass-fed beef, it is approximately two to one.

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(Data for both graphs comes from G.J. Miller, “Lipids in Wild Ruminant Animals and Steers.” J. of Food Quality, 9:331-343, 1986.)

Switching to grass-fed products helps balance the essential fats in your diet

There are two types of fats that are essential for your health—omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The typical western diet is overloaded with omega-6 fatty acids and deficient in omega-3s, upsetting a critical balance. Look at the graph below and you will see that fresh pasture has two times more omega-3 than omega-6 fatty acids. Grain and soy, on the other hand, have far more omega-6s than omega-3s.

Therefore, when you switch to grass-fed products, you are helping to correct the gross imbalance in the western diet. Eating a balanced ratio of essential fatty acids is linked with a lower risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and mental disorders. (To learn more about this essential balance, read The Omega Diet by Simopoulos and Robinson, HarperCollins 1999.)

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( US Dairy Forage Research Center, 1995 Research Summaries.)

Why Grass fed Cheese Is Better

Cheese from grass fed cows is more than four times richer in conjugated linoleic acid—a cancer-fighting, fat-reducing fat—than cheese from standard, grain-fed cows. (Dhiman, T.R., “Conjugated linoleic acid: a food for cancer prevention.” Proceedings from the 2000 Intermountain Nutrition Conference, pages 103-121.)

CLA is a newly discovered good fat called “conjugated linoleic acid” that may be a potent cancer fighter. In animal studies, very small amounts of CLA have blocked all three stages of cancer: 1) initiation, 2) promotion, and 3) metastasis. Most anti-cancer agents block only one of these stages. What’s more, CLA has slowed the growth of an unusually wide variety of tumors, including cancers of the skin, breast, prostate, and colon.

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Why Grass fed Butter Is Better

Because living grass is richer in vitamins E, A, and beta-carotene than stored hay or standard dairy diets, butter from dairy cows grazing on fresh pasture is also richer in these important nutrients. The naturally golden color of grass fed butter is a clear indication of its superior nutritional value. (Searles, SK et al, “Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and Carotene Contents of Alberta Butter.” Journal of Diary Science, 53(2) 150-154.)

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First, our bodies can obviously handle a range of omega-6 to omega-3 ratios—if our body chemistry could only function at a precise ratio, the human race would have died out long ago. What we have learned from research on EFAs is that it is not good to have an extreme imbalance.

The modern diet, in which omega-6 fatty acids predominate at a ratio of 20 to 1—with most of these omega-6 fatty acids rendered rancid by processing—creates serious imbalances on the cellular level; likewise, overdosing on flax oil or fish oil creates an imbalance in which omega-3s predominate, leading to lowered immunity.

Modern research has also indicated that it is not healthy to consume too much of either of the EFAs, even though they may be in the “right” balance, and that the body uses EFAs to best advantage when the diet contains adequate saturated fat.

As far as cancer prevention is concerned, EFAs represent a two-edged sword. Small numbers in the cell membrane do allow oxygen to enter the cell, but if the cell membrane contains too many unsaturated fatty acids, the cell becomes “leaky,” with all sorts of compounds going into and out of the cell when they are not supposed to. EFAs can easily become rancid, meaning that free radicals develop during processing, cooking and exposure to air, causing uncontrolled reactions in the body. And finally, as mentioned earlier, a surfeit of EFAs lowers immunity. For these reasons, EFAs can contribute to cancer, even though they also play a role in preventing cancer.

The upshot is that oil blends with magical EFA ratios are no panacea and claims that these products will definitively prevent cancer represent huckstering, however well disguised.

Small amounts of essential fatty acids are available to us in all whole foods; the body uses these best in the context of a nutrient-dense diet containing adequate amounts of saturated fat. Foods rich in certain fatty acids—such as coconut oil, flax oil, evening primrose oil and cod liver oil—can play a role in the treatment and prevention of disease, but only when used with care along with a diet of real food.

About the Author – Vice-President of the Weston A Price Foundation
Mary G. Enig, PhD is an expert of international renown in the field of lipid biochemistry. She has headed a number of studies on the content and effects of trans fatty acids in America and Israel, and has successfully challenged government assertions that dietary animal fat causes cancer and heart disease. Recent scientific and media attention on the possible adverse health effects of trans fatty acids has brought increased attention to her work. She is a licensed nutritionist, certified by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists, a qualified expert witness, nutrition consultant to individuals, industry and state and federal governments, contributing editor to a number of scientific publications, Fellow of the American College of Nutrition and President of the Maryland Nutritionists Association. She is the author of over 60 technical papers and presentations, as well as a popular lecturer. Dr. Enig is currently working on the exploratory development of an adjunct therapy for AIDS using complete medium chain saturated fatty acids from whole foods. She is Vice-President of the Weston A Price Foundation and Scientific Editor of Wise Traditions as well as the author of Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol, Bethesda Press, May 2000. She is the mother of three healthy children brought up on whole foods including butter, cream, eggs and meat.