There is so much good information on the grass/grain issue that I just wanted to list some other good references. This highlights a couple of studies that are relevant to the debate. Again, it is my personal belief that an unnatural, grain-based diet changes the pH level of the cow’s digestive tract - it makes it much more acidic. It is probable that this allows nasty things to grow and adapt to a higher acidity level in the cow's gut - probably similar to a human gut. I wonder if you cultured the grain if it would change that dynamic. hmm. something to ponder.
Your own cattle, in your own pasture, are probably much less susceptible to the e Coli problem. Cleaner, more humane conditions would suggest that the chance of infection would be mitigated, especially if they have access to fresh grass at all times. I am just guessing on this - I could be wrong. The main complaint people have with the grass-fed beef is that it is not as tender as beef from animals finished on grain. If you are doing your own and want to try to finish them with grass, ask the butcher to age the meat. This is done by hanging the carcass for a period of time in a cooler, the aging process will tenderize it. This would probably work for wild game as well.
Anyway, when we eat grain-fed beef (especially those "fattened up" in a feedlot), those resistant E. coli and other nasties are consumed and better able to survive the acidic contents of our own stomach and end up making us really sick. There is a good article on this acidic situation here.
So, a couple of studies:
A study done in 2000 by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln suggests grass-fed beef may have a lower risk of E. coli contamination. The theory is that a grain-based diet alters the pH balance of the cow’s stomach such that it becomes abnormally acidic. Evidence suggests over time E. coli bacteria gradually adapt to this high acidity, then passes it along to consumers of the beef. You can read this entire report on line.
A study done in 2008 by German and Canadian researchers analyzed four different types of cattle that were grass-fed or grain-fed, and concluded that grass-fed meat is “clearly superior”. The link takes you to the abstract, not the study. You have to buy the study.
A study done in 2009 by the USDA and researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina compared the two feeding methods and concluded that grass-fed beef provides the following benefits: (you have to subscribe to the magazine to get this full report)
- Leaner - less total fat means fewer calories. Grass-fed beef reportedly contains about 1/3 of the fat of a similar cut of meat from a grain-fed steer.
- Lower in the saturated fats - the “unhealthy” fats that are strongly linked with high cholesterol and heart disease.
- Higher in multiple nutrients and antioxidants- including beta-carotene, vitamin E, and the B-vitamins thiamine and riboflavin. Grass-fed beef is also higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium.
- Higher in total omega-3 - more than half of the total fatty acids in grass are omega-3’s, which form in chloroplasts of green leaves. Grass-fed meat may be 2-4 times higher in these good fats. Omega-3’s protect our cardiovascular systems and support optimal brain function.
- Contains a healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (1.65 vs. 4.84) - a lower ratio is believed to reduce the risk of chronic disease.
- Higher in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) - which research suggests may have cancer-fighting benefits.
- Higher in vaccenic acid (which the body converts to CLA) - which may reduce cancer risk and improve cholesterol levels.
When cows primarily eat grains for long periods of time, they develop acidosis in their stomachs, which causes the walls to become ulcerated. These damaged walls allow bacteria to migrate into the body cavity where they cause abscesses. In fact, 13 percent of conventional animals' livers are so abscessed that they aren't fit for human consumption. If antibiotics weren't given, this number would increase to about 75%. Of all the antibiotics and baking soda produced in the US, half is fed to cows in order to counter the problems created when they are fed grain.He also did a good "bullet point" article which has a lot of information.
Other range animals:
I think it will take an entire article or even two to cover the benefits of genuine, free range chickens, turkeys, pigs and others so, stay tuned :)
(time for me to get the kiddo to his schoolwork)
Best of Health