Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Extra Step - Grass Fed Protein

So, we are on to Step Three in Phase Two of the "Steps"  - Grass Fed Protein.  There is a very interesting and technical discussion to have on the enormous benefits of grass fed meat.  I would like to start with a couple of questions and random thoughts today and then list several web sites which break down the grass/grain difference.  Read a little, study a little, think a little, learn a little.  Apply principals that you know to be true. 

The first link I have is a wonderfully concise article from Eat Wild

So, to start today - my thoughts: 
  • Is this how meat was raised hundreds of years ago?  
  • Where did "graining" meat at the end come in to our lives?  
  • Who profits from grain fed meat rather than grass fed meat?
  • How is grain fed meat different than grass fed meat?

I would say that, just on the surface, if you were someone raising a cow, a couple of chickens and maybe a sheep or goat say.... 300 years ago.... these animals would have been raised on grass, bugs and a little grain that comes in naturally with grasses.  You, the farmer, would have made a lot of effort to provide the best grasses and herbs for your animals.  You would have moved your animals around quite a bit or you wouldn't have enough available grass for them to survive and thrive.  If you are interested in this type of eating, here are a couple of great pages for you.

From "American Grassfed Beef"  
The health benefits of grass farming.
From "Eat Wild - the #1 site for grass fed Food and Facts

I would suggest that "graining" meat is a process of industrialization.   If you are a large corporation it is probably in your best interests to just feed your cows whatever gets them to market the quickest.  Corn, Soy, Oats and hormones come to mind.  I should note that at least three of these entities are heavily subsidized - I don't know about the oats.  I'm just saying, do the math.

There might also be the idea that the Wall Street business model, taking controlling interest in farm after farm - either willingly or forced - might not be the best way to bring food to the table.  The bottom line is the King and God in this business model and whatever you have to do to get that bottom line up - you do..... or you are out.  So, inhumane treatment of animals, hormones, antibiotics, unnatural feed, foul, filthy conditions, horrible chemicals... all are acceptable, probably quite legal and encouraged.

Also, lest you think political parties, regulations and laws make a difference, they really don't.  The power brokers are the same - administration after administration.  The regulatory agencies that are intertwined with the corporations - the same.  What changes is that it gets harder and harder to legally have a small, local farm.

For a couple of book suggestions, you might try  Jo Robinson's Why Grassfed is Best!  or Tender Grassfed Meat by Stanley FishmanAlso, here is an article by Stanley Fishman and another article by Jo Robinson.

As for the fats,  it is important to understand that once cows and other grass-eating animals are fed grains, they stop producing CLA (conjugated linoleic acid - a fat that reduces the risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes, and a number of immune disorders.) The best source of natural CLA is from 100 percent, exclusively grass-fed animals.

Omega 3s and 6s are essential polyunsaturated fats.  We have to get these from food, our bodies cannot manufacture them from other fats.  Some of the most crucial fats are the compounds that make up the cell walls for the body's cells.  If the ratio of Omega 6 fats to Omega 3 fats exceeds 4:1... more health problems tend to occur.  Grain fed beef can have ratios that exceed 20:1 whereby grass-fed beef is about 3:1.

It is important to have sufficient amounts of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fats, and they need to be balanced for normal development.  Because of the rapid change in our diet, Omega 3 fats are diminished.  Our culture switched to modern vegetable oils which are based on oil from seeds rich in Omega 6 fats.  Industrialized agriculture of the meat industry forced production by focusing on aggressive agricultural management techniques.  This is based heavily on an emphasis of grain feeding for livestock.  

As a side issue, green leafy vegetables raised with heavily industrialized techniques tend to have drastically lower Omega 3 levels.  So, it is estimated that generations ago the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio was 1:1 from both meat and vegetable sources.  Today vegetable sources have an estimated omega ratio of 10:1 and a modern diet of factory farmed meat, fish, chicken and vegetable oils has a ratio estimated to be about 20:1

Many scientists believe that a major reason for the high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and some forms of cancer is the profound imbalance between our intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Making a switch from grain fed to grass fed meat returns you to a diet of long ago.  This type of diet helps our body systems function a lot better.  Consider purchasing your grass fed products from a local small farmer or raising it yourself.  Learn how to cook these meats - they do taste different and have a different texture.... not bad, just different.

That is all the thoughts I have today.  I am headed out to the garden.  Hopefully we can get some great recipes and cooking tips over the next several days.  Here are some other links for further study.

(He does tend to go off track somewhat, but again, apply what you know to be true.)

Be blessed today


  1. We simply don't eat anything besides grass fed meat. Eating "organic" meat never assures that it's pastured so make sure you're getting quality meats when you buy them!
    Our best bet in achieving this has been buying a hog or a beef from a local farm and having it butchered. Talk about knowing where your food comes from! Just make sure you have a large enough freezer. :)
    We would like to raise meat chickens in the future as well.

  2. We are on that same page... nothing but grass fed. My uncle raises grass cattle and we just got 1/2 a beef... and the liver and heart and tongue. It is still in my freezer. I'll pull it out soon and do recipes to go with this :)

    We just started raising meat chickens. They won't have a lot of white meat - those ones can't forage - so we are learning to butcher, cut and cook the smaller, leaner ones. They are good.

    We are in the process of making a big worm bin so we don't need any laying pellets in the winter. Right now we just do a little at night to get them in - other than that, they are on their own. But we have a lot of grass and clover and bugs. They don't lay as many eggs, but the eggs they do lay are amazing - bright orange yolks, just beautiful!

    It has been a good adventure, hasn't it... and it continues.

  3. Thanks Cindy! I'd love to see pics of the worm bin & how to go about doing that.

    Grass-fed sounds good to me. I'm reading a pamphlet I got from the people giving us milk on grass-finished beef because that is what they do.

    Growing up on my parent's farm & raising lambs for 4-h, we were always told to grain them at the end. The mom's & babies would be pastured most of the year & then when we picked our lambs they would go in a pen & we would feed them mostly hay & a little grain. As we got closer to the fair the ratio would change & we would give them less hay & more grain until the end when they only got grain.

    The reasons given were more wieght gain, better taste & was to help in quality when they were judged. Its interesting to think about who makes the profit in this situation & who has to do less work in exchange. I could have spent barely any money on feeding my lamb if I had put the work into moving them around to green grass as needed. It's a trade off & one we are willing to make in so many areas.

  4. I just can't buy store-bought meat anymore. We're looking into getting heritage turkeys in May and are getting ready to expand the chicken yard to accomodate meat birds. My hubby is talking about building an incubator so we can hatch our own eggs...goodness knows there's enough of them!

    We raise our own grass-fed beef, but every other year we have to buy from a friend (beyond organic!)...we just don't have enough pasture to graze more than 3 at a time.

    Ah...if only....

  5. Kim, we bought an incubator. It is the way to go. We had our first batch come out. We are just using our multi-breed birds and I think we need to raise them for about 3-4 months if we are not going to grain them.... which we aren't. We'll be patient. We actually might start with some of our older layers, but they seem to be laying well still so....

    Let me know how the turkey thing goes. we have been talking about getting some. Maybe. I think you have more eggs than us... from the sound of the phenomenal angel food cake you made :) We are always out of eggs. We have about 4 families that we share them with.

    Good for you on the beef. One of these days!

  6. Melissa, in one of those posts (sorry, I meant to flag it for you and didn't) there is a vivid description of what happens in the cows gut when you move to grain. It is not nice. I was hopeful you would read it and convey the info to your mom. Probably some grain will be fine, but maybe not totally grained.

    I think it might be the last post. It starts out good but then he gets kind of odd. I think I left it in there cause of the gut description.

    I do know from Organic Pastures that if the cows are on grass that the nasty bacteria just can't grow - the pH level is neutral and they just can't thrive. One of the things that makes milk from grass fed cows a wonderful and safe food. It is raw milk from grained cows that is a problem.

  7. Thanks Cindy- I will check it out & convey what I can to them.

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