Conscious Eating: Why Grass Fed Meats Are Important For You and Your Family July 07, 2013 16:25

You want the best for your family, and that includes the food that you eat. You shop for organic produce and dairy products produced without growth hormones, but what about meats? Grass fed meats represent one of the best possible choices for your family where food is concerned. Choosing grass fed meats not only enhances the nutritional value of the meals you place on your family’s table, but also provides an ethical and socially responsible example for your children.

 

What Are Grass fed Meats?

Back in the day, nearly all meats were grass fed. Ranchers and farmers fed their chickens, cattle and pigs by allowing them to range on the prairies surrounding their farms or homesteads. Today’s high-tech feed was not available. In the twenty-first century, grass fed meats borrow from that tradition by skipping commercial feed and even corn in favor of allowing animals to graze and feed on grass.

The process is not as simple as turning the animals loose, however. Ranchers and farmers who cultivate grass fed meats follow a strict protocol of feeding  and grazing that is designed to enhance the quality of the meat as well as ensure that animal welfare standards are followed in the raising of the animals.

Nutritional Advantages of Grass Fed Meats

Grain fed animals are raised to fatten up for market as quickly as possible. In the case of grain fed beef, this means that cattle are slaughtered after fourteen to eighteen months.   Many grain fed cattle are penned in close quarters for much of their lives. By contrast, grass fed cattle are allowed to graze much as they did during the nineteenth century, and are not slaughtered until they are more than two years old. As a result, grass fed cattle are leaner and have more nutritional value than grain fed cattle.

Environmental Advantages of Grass Fed Meats

Grain fed meats represent a major drain on environmental resources. Commercial feed, corn and other crops must be cultivated, which requires using land and water resources. Growing grains for grain fed meats also encourages monoculture – the cultivation of single crops that can exhaust the soil. By contrast, grass fed meats do not require the diversion of crops such as corn that could be used for human consumption. Instead, the animals graze on grass and other naturally growing plant life.

Ethical Advantages of Grass Fed Meats

 Besides avoiding the diversion of grains from human consumption, grass fed meats also represent an ethical method of animal husbandry. By definition, grass fed meats are not enhanced with growth hormones or genetically altered crops to boost their growth. Animal welfare standards are also an essential element in maintaining grass fed cattle, pigs and chickens.  By contrast, many grain fed animals are raised in appalling conditions, along with being fed a steady diet of growth enhancing substances.

Health Advantages of Grass Fed Meats

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, abbreviated as BSE, is commonly known as “mad cow disease.” Mad cow disease gets its name from the fact that cattle that are infected with BSE often behave erratically. This incurable condition, although extremely rare in humans, can be contracted by consuming infected beef products, primarily from the spine or brain of an infected cow. In humans, BSE is known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which is fatal and incurable.

The practice of including parts of slaughtered animals in animal feed to be fed in other animals has been identified as a major factor in spreading BSE. Since grass fed beef is never fed renderings from other cattle, the odds are virtually zero of grass fed cattle being infected with BSE. Likewise, chickens and pigs that are grass fed are also not fed renderings from other animals, minimizing the chances that similar health hazards would ever occur in grass fed pork or poultry.

For Further Reading

  • The New York Times: Where Corn Is King, a New Regard for Grass Fed Beef
    nytimes.com/2013/06/18/us/for-ranchers-an-uncommon-quest-for-grass-fed-beef.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  • Teens Health from Nemours: Mad Cow Disease
    kidshealth.org/teen/infections/bacterial_viral/mad_cow_disease.html#
  • WebMD: Mad Cow Disease
    webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/mad-cow-disease-overview
  • Whole Story: Raised to Taste Better
    wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/raised-taste-better
  • Whole Story:  The Scoop on Grass Fed Beef
    wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/whole-story/scoop-grass-fed-beef