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Is organic meat and grass fed beef good for you?

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We’re not going to get into all the different diets, lifestyles and opinions about eating meat. We’re going to start from the place where you are a meat eater. Now, we’re going to talk about the different options you have on the kind of meat you choose to buy and eat – organic, grass fed or factory farmed/conventionally raised.

Do you know how conventionally raised or “factory farmed” beef is raised?

It is actually kind of sad that today we call the meat sold at the grocery store “conventional” because 50 or 60 years ago, meat was not raised in this way. What does this mean? Well, after WWII, someone invented self propelled grain combines. This gave farmers cheap access to a huge surplus of grains. (Nowadays, it is affordable due to government subsidies, but that is another story.) As an experiment, they began feeding cattle grains, usually during the last 60-90 days before slaughter and while the animals are confined to a feedlot. They found that the animals got to harvest weight much more quickly and this saved the farmers money! The story was spun that corn/grain fed animals were tastier and more tender. Well, the tender part is true because the grains caused the animals to gain weight quickly which gave their meat increased marbling which translates into tenderness. The taste part is a personal one, some people do enjoy the milder flavor of grain finished cattle versus the more “beefy” and intense flavor of grass fed and finished beef.  After eating grass fed meat, most people find corn/grain fed beef to be mushy and bland. (Fun Fact: USDA grading of beef is only available on corn/grain fed animals because it is only a rating of the amount of marbling, the higher the level of marbling in the beef, the better the USDA grade. Grass fed meat doesn’t get graded because the marbling isn’t as prevalent and doesn’t reflect on quality or lack thereof.)

Most people know that cattle are ruminants which mean their bodies were designed to process and take their nutrition from breaking down grasses. Their natural diet is strictly, 100% grass. What happens when cattle are fed grain? Well, their stomachs essentially are in a constant state of upset and the pH balance is off. We’ve gotten into all the facts and figures on the nutritional differences between grass fed and conventional cattle here but for short, grass fed beef has a better nutritional profile. These include higher levels of heart healthy Omega3 fatty acids and lower levels of unhealthful Omega6 fatty acids while also being higher in many important nutrients like vitamin E and Beta-Caroten. But, if you want all the details, click on the link above for facts, figures and graphs. There is also information on how this unbalanced and unnatural stomach environment allows for the proliferation of bacteria like eColi and others that cause foodborne illness in humans who consume the meat.

Because of the filthy and unsanitary conditions at feedlots, the animals are regularly administered antibiotics to keep them from becoming ill and also to encourage even faster growth. They are also given added hormones, even if many producers will tell you these hormones are “natural” because they are not manufactured in a laboratory. What makes these added hormones unsavory is that they are administered with the sole intention of, once again, increasing the growth rate of the animals. Some of these feedlots even feed the animals plastic pellets for roughage or include urea and manure in their feed.

Conventionally raised cattle are also a problem for the environment in that the manure created from all those animals confined to a feedlot isn’t used to provide natural fertilizer for the land. Rather, it is (attempted to be) contained in large pools and frequently leaks or runs off causing groundwater contamination and contamination of other water like rivers and streams. Factory farmed animals also discourage the growth of family farms and, by their unrealistically low prices, often encourage family farms to close completely because they cannot compete.

family farmer organic grass fed beef

How does that differ from how grass fed beef are raised?

As we mentioned above, grass fed animals are raised much as they had been since farmers began keeping animals for food. Grass fed beef are raised 100% on pasture where they roam and feed on natural grasses. Their lives are very low stress and the farmers who have gone back to this method of farming tend their animals with humane practices and take pride in their stewardship of the land. The animals are rotated among pastures so that their manure acts as a natural fertilizer and helps sustain the ecosystem naturally without over grazing. Because the animals are living the way they were meant to, they do not tend to become ill (like in the feedlots with their dirty conditions and high stress environment) and so rarely, if ever, receive antibiotics. They do not receive growth promoting hormones either.

This lack of artificial growth promoting is one of many reasons that grass fed meat will be more expensive than its factory farmed counterpart. The animals simply take longer (more time) and, therefore, more food (grasses) to come to market weight. Because they take longer to come to weight, they also require more labor resources from the farmer. This time and these resources cost the farmer money and he has no option but to pass that additional cost to the consumer. The family farmer is also more immediately and deeply affected by weather events, like drought, as they depend on the land to produce the necessary grasses to feed their animals.

That sounds pretty good, but what makes meat organic?

Organic certification doesn’t certify whether an animal is 100% grass fed or fed any grains. It does certify that the feed, regardless of the formulation, is certified organic as well. Their feed cannot contain any animal byproducts (must be vegetarian) which have in the past caused outbreaks of “mad cow” disease. Organic also means the animals are born and raised on certified organic pastures. The mother animals must be fed organically for the last 1/3 of gestation. There must be unrestricted access to the outdoors (and direct sunlight) where they can behave naturally. If the farmer does provide shelters, it is principally used to protect the animals from inclement weather and the shelters cannot get in the way of the animals exercising or moving and must ensure they are comfortable. Organic certification requires that the animals be treated humanely and live in a low stress environment.

Organic is the best choice for those choosing to avoid GMO foods. The organic requirements also prohibit administering antibiotics, added hormones or steroids or any growth promoting substances.  In this way, the meat from these animals is as clean and healthy as you can find, except for organic and grass fed meat!

Can you get organic and grass fed beef?

Yes, and the reason that organic and grass fed beef is the best is that it combines the superior nutritional values of grass fed meat with the organic certification requirements of the USDA. So, organic grass fed beef is 100% grass fed, the pastures and grasses they roam are organic which means you are avoiding any exposure to any grains or GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and added chemicals in the form of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Additionally, these animals never receive any antibiotics, added hormones, steroids or other growth promotants. They must live a low stress life with humane treatment from the farmers including requirements that any shelter provided doesn’t restrict the animal’s movements or ability to exercise and ensures their comfort.

organic grass fed beef burger

Why can’t I find organic grass fed meat at the grocery store?

Grocery stores are beginning to understand that people are becoming educated about the food they eat and serve their families and that they want organic meat and grass fed beef. However, supply is limited as of yet and when they do offer some selections of these products, it is often limited and the meat may come from as far away as New Zealand or Australia. Topline Foods’ beef comes from family farms in the Pacific Northwest United States. That may not be your local backyard but it is closer than that and, American to boot! We think everyone should have access to high quality organic meats, not only those who live near a local farmer. There are a lot of reasons that people give us for not having access to local sources of organic foods. Some people live in large urban areas like Los Angeles, San Diego, or Orange County in Southern California. Others live in desert areas that do not provide the ideal environment for growing grasses like Phoenix or Las Vegas Nevada. And, sometimes, it just takes too much time to drive to organic grocers or farmer’s markets. It is especially disheartening to drive and spend your free time only to arrive at the store and find the supply limited. Let Topline Foods make it easy and convenient for your and your family to enjoy the many health and taste benefits of organic meat. Shop online today and we’ll deliver to your home or office.

 


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