Grass-fed Beef vs. Conventional. What’s the dif?

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I’m going to start off by saying this. We should all eat less meat. Yep, there it is. Not only do our bodies function better on a primarily plant based diet but what we are doing to our environment with these massive animal prisons, oops I mean feedlots, is destroying our planet. That being said, I love meat (as you can tell from the photo of me above) but in order to be able to enjoy it fully I have some stipulations.

Let me first start by describing the way a pastured, grass-fed cow lives. They roam as they wish on sunny, grassy pastures eating the food their stomachs were meant to digest, which is grass not corn and soy. They are given no antibiotics, and no growth-promoting hormones.

Conventional cows live in CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). They  stand in their own manure wedged in pens with all of the other sick cows.  They are fed a gruel of corn, soy,  grain, cotton byproducts and whatever other garbage is lying around (I’ve heard peanut shells, old candy and citrus pulp). Their stomachs cannot digest grain properly which is one of the reasons they are all sick and on antibiotics. They are given growth-promoting hormones so that they can hurry up and grow to slaughter size so we can ship them out by the masses to kill them for hamburger meat. I won’t even go into what happens at the slaughterhouses, that’s a whole other story in itself.

This is why this is F-ed up. Conventional cows that eat nutrient deficient food and  are given antibiotics and hormones leave us nutrient deficient, cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria in our guts and screw with our hormones by eating it. Because, simply put, you are what you eat. In conventional cows omega-3 fatty acids basically do not exist, which is a problem because the omega-6 fatty acids still do. This makes an already inflammatory food much more inflammatory because the omega-6s aren’t being balanced out with the omega-3s. Their milk is tarnished so we have to pasteurize it, which kills all the bad bacteria but also kills all of the good bacteria along with it, and again there’s no omega-3s and a lot less calcium. Not to mention you are giving your money to greedy, deceitful corporations which only feeds the health and environmental problems we have. Their flashy brand names have nothing to do with the breed of cow you are eating and their practices put small farmers out of business and bankrupt their families. Their USDA organic stickers speak of nothing to do with how the cows were raised, where they were raised or how humanely they were treated and slaughtered only that they ate organic feed and did not receive medications. Better than nothing you say? Sure, but I’m not hot on lining the pockets of hypocrite corporations that primarily produce conventional meat or processed junk food.

Why I eat pastured, grass-fed beef. It is more nutritious, the cows live better lives and they don’t receive antibiotics or hormones. Their fat is high in omega-3s which balance out the inflammation caused from the omega-6s, they are high in stearic acid (a saturated fat that does not create bad cholesterol), vitamins and minerals. They also have more collagen and lower amounts of saturated fat. They graze from pasture to pasture sinking more carbon into the soil, on natural feeding patterns which gives time for grass to re-grow. Small farms usually do not travel far to sell their meats using a lot less fossil fuels.

Where to find it. I’ll stop soapboxing now to talk about where you can get this sustainably raised, more nutritious beef. If you are local to the bay area I have some suggestions below. If you are not my suggestion to you is that you hop on the internet and start searching for local farms near you that raise pastured, grass-fed beef (and all other pastured animals for that matter). Ask around, go to your farmers market, meet the farmers. They are out there trust me it just takes a little digging, traveling and a little extra money sometimes. But again, if you are eating less meat, as we all should, you will be saving your time and money to treat yourself to the good stuff. After all you only need about 6 oz. of protein a day and there are plenty of other places to get that other than meat.

Butcher shops that rock in the bay area:

Marina Meats

Olivier’s Butchery

Avedano’s

Fatted Calf

Golden Gate Meat Co.

Farms that do it right in bay area:

Magruder Ranch

Mountain Ranch

Stemple Creek Ranch

Marin Sun Farms

Prather Ranch

Belcampo

Devil’s Gulch (does not raise cattle but is definitely still worth mentioning for all of it’s other animals raised – pigs, rabbits, lamb)

Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and certified health coach whose writing centers around holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made food.