The Beef Between Grass-Fed and Grain-Fed Cattle

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April 23, 2005 | 22,320 views

Which is better, grain-fed or grass-fed beef? That is a question Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is trying to find the answer to; however, early studies have indicated that grass-fed beef not only has less fat, but also has higher conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)--indicating grass-fed may be an all-around healthier choice.

CLA is a mixture of different types of fatty acids; the chemical structure of these acids that are found in plants are changed in animals' digestive systems.

The Project: Grass-Fed Versus Grain-Fed Beef

Virginia Tech--together with West Virginia University and the University of Georgia--is currently in the midst of a 10-year study to find a definitive answer to the question of whether beef made from grass-fed cattle is any healthier for you than grain-fed animals. The goal is to develop pioneering concepts and practices to improve the efficiency and sustainability of grass-fed beef production systems in Appalachia, according to Virginia Tech researchers.

Each phase of the project takes place at a specific organization:

During the meat evaluation stage, one rib is taken from each steer and tested for cooking qualities, taste and fat and bone content. Researchers also analyze the meat for minerals, vitamins and fatty acids that are beneficial to human health (i.e. CLA).

Science Daily April 7, 2005

Virginia Tech News March 11, 2005

The rationale behind my nutritional guidelines really boils down to one thing: Common sense. My recommendations stem largely from what scientific research has determined are the types of foods that humans are naturally designed to eat.

Health problems invariably surface the further you stray from eating such foods. Another way to say this would be that your body's biochemical make-up is adversely affected if you eat things that aren't right for it. One result of this is that your body's composition will inevitably change.

Why would things be any different for a cow?

When you think of a cow in its natural environment, doing what it naturally does, you likely will picture it grazing. Is it grazing on stalks of corn? Of course not! It's grazing on GRASS.

Grass is a cow's natural food. Corn and other grains are not.

When cows eat grains their body's composition changes. Most importantly for us, these changes include an alteration in the balance of fatty acids in their bodies. The preliminary results of the study being discussed here confirm what prior research has already shown us.

Preliminary results in the research summarized above further prove the notion that a cow's body composition changes when it is fed grains by showing that levels of an important nutrient known as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) are much higher in their grass-fed counterparts.

Research to this effect is not new. What is important about the research shown here is the size and length of the study, as well as the main goal behind it all.

According to Virginia Tech researchers, the results of this study will be used to help support the development of innovative concepts and practices to enhance the efficiency, profitability and sustainability of grassland-based beef production systems in Appalachia.

This is an incredibly important step in the right direction, in terms of recovering and maintaining the health of this country's population and the earth itself.

If we can, some day, return these and other farming practices to their traditional roots, the foods that result will be more nutritious, and the environmental impact that agriculture has will lessen.

Support your health and the livelihood of the farmers out there who are trying to do things the right way by eating grass-fed beef and organic food. It is best to obtain your grass-fed beef locally as shipping costs can be very high, but if your local grocery store doesn't carry grass-fed meats yet, check out the options at our Web store.

Related Articles:

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Scientifc Literature that Supports the Health Benefits Of Grass Fed Beef

Why Grassfed Animal Products Are Better For You