Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
3 Jan

Monday Musings: New Grass-Fed Study

grassfedcowA new grass-fed meat study (PDF) has just been brought to my attention, thanks to Aaron Blaisdell. It’s pretty fascinating. Researchers wanted to see two things: whether eating grass-finished animals instead of grain-finished animals would provide a significant influx of dietary omega-3s and whether the potential influx would actually make a difference in lab numbers. They took two groups of people, regular Irish folks, and provided weekly portions of beef and lamb, either grass-finished or grain-finished. The animals were “finished” for a minimum of six weeks. Both groups were told to avoid fatty fish and omega-3-rich oils for the duration of the study. All told, both groups ate roughly 469 grams of red meat a week for four weeks. Oh, and these were all healthy subjects with good cholesterol and blood pressure numbers and without prescriptions to any medications.

The results were impressive. Grass-finished eaters saw improved plasma and platelet fatty acid composition: less omega-6, more omega-3. This would presumably lead to a more balanced inflammatory response and, thus, better health.

A few takeaways:

1. The weeks leading up until slaughter appear to be the most crucial feeding period. Although the study’s authors don’t explicitly state what the animals’ pre-trial diets were, the cows and lambs were drawn from a region where the standard feed concentrate included “cereal, maize, and soya with a vitamin/mineral mix” and I think we can assume that both grass-finished and concentrate-finished animals shared the same diets before the trial. Whether those pre-trial diets were grass or grain-based isn’t clear. It is clear that grass-finishing is the key – at least enough to positively impact the omega-6:omega-3 ratios of whoever consumes the animals. Grass-fed and finished is probably optimal, but perhaps not absolutely necessary.

2. It’s interesting, but not really that surprising, that the intervention didn’t affect lipid numbers. LDL, HDL, and triglycerides remained pretty much the same across both groups. The heaviest impact was felt in the serum and platelet fatty acid content. Grass-finished animal eaters enjoyed higher levels of stearic acid (a type of saturated fat), EPA, DPA, DHA, long chain omega-3s, and total omega-3s, along with a reduced omega-6:omega-3 ratio. As we know from previous posts, the omega-6:omega-3 ratio of our fat cells determines what type of inflammatory cytokines will be secreted by platelets in the inflammatory response, and having too much omega-6 in our platelets results in a lopsided, overly inflammatory response.

3. If you look at the raw numbers, there’s not a huge difference between the omega-3 content of grass-finished and grain-finished, something on the order of mere mgs/100g. Beef and lamb, even the grass-finished stuff, just doesn’t have a whole lot of omega-3s to begin with. The folks consuming grass-finished meat ate, on average, 65 mg/d of long chain omega-3s, while those eating concentrate-finished meat ate about 44 mg/d of long chain omega-6s, yet the lab results – the big improvements in plasma and platelet fatty acid numbers – were lopsided. What’s the deal? This makes me wonder whether simply breaking food down into its various nutrients and fatty acids is missing the point. If you relied on that, you’d think grain-fed beef was essentially identical to grass-fed, but it’s clearly not, as the results of this study show. Maybe it’s the DPA, an often-ignored omega-3 fat that’s prominent in seal blubber and converts more readily to DHA, and that was increased in the grass-finished group. Maybe, and probably more likely, it’s the fact that omega-6 intake, especially linoleic acid (arachidonic acid intake was actually higher in grass-finished), was significantly higher in the grain-fed group than in the grass-finished group, about 8.5 g/day to 5.5 g/day. Or maybe it’s the fact that grass-finished animal flesh is a complex whole food that offers more benefits than can heretofore be identified and explained.

4. Oily fish is undoubtedly the most concentrated, most reliable source of long chain omega-3 fats in the diet, but you can’t live off fish forever. At least, I can’t. If I have fish more than a few times a week, I become physically repulsed by the thought of eating more. A three day stint of eating almost nothing but fresh sardines taught me that. That’s why I try to always eat grass-fed, grass-finished animals – because, the idea goes, when you’re eating grass-fed ruminants and avoiding concentrated sources of omega-6, you don’t need to supplement or worry about a steady fish intake. This study confirms it.

5. Grass-finished beef steak and mince samples actually had more saturated fat than grain-finished samples. The opposite was true for lamb, however.

All in all, this is just another reason to work grass-fed and (especially) finished animals into your diet whenever possible.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. fascinating. i wonder how grass-fed dairy computes.

    bee wrote on January 3rd, 2011
    • I use grass-fed dairy and it tastes better than Kroger dairy. This is not just in my head; after months of using Snowville Creamery milk and cream, the other adult in the household bought a half-gallon of Kroger milk for cooking purposes. I tasted some of it and was repulsed. It hadn’t gone off, either–it was still “fresh.”

      Mind you, several factors are different between Kroger milk and the stuff I normally use. (About 90 percent of the time or more, I use the cream, but we keep the milk around for my daughter.) Snowville uses low-temp pasteurization, probably the lowest temp allowed by law. And they ship their milk quickly so it is as fresh as possible. And they don’t homogenize their milk. Any or all of these factors probably affect the taste.

      But I’m sure what the cows are fed plays a major role as well. I was shocked the first time I opened a carton of the cream in early spring. I had never seen cream that yellow. And no coloring agents had been added to it, at least according to the ingredients list. So unless SC is doing something weird under the table and against the law, there are real quality differences involved here.

      Dana wrote on January 3rd, 2011
      • Dana- Snowville Creamery fan here! My mom went on a tour of a dairy that supplies Kroger, and the cows were very sickly and surrounded in runny diarrhea. She was most startled when a month later she went to the herd share farm to pick up her first gallon of raw grassfed milk: their poop was fewer and ver well formed patties. Between that and the mild rancid taste, I can no longer drink store milk.
        BTW, she finaly just bought her own goats, so now we just have plenty of raw goat milk twice daily…

        ILovePrimal wrote on January 3rd, 2011
        • Actually, any cow on rich feed will have “runny diarrhea”. A cow on lush grass will have very runny manure, as will a cow on a high concentrate (high grain) diet. A cow on poorer pasture or a dry hay diet will have the well formed patties.

          If you saw a cow with real diarrhea, (sick) you’d know it. It’s very different than runny manure from their diet.

          Jennifer wrote on January 3rd, 2011
      • I haven’t been able to find grass-fed dairy. I switched to grass-fed and finished beef for the sake of grassland birds conservation. I would like to find grass-fed dairy, because otherwise I’m going to really miss cheese and milk.

        Angela wrote on February 28th, 2014
    • No contest. Pastured, grass-fed and finished Jersey cows produce the best, tastiest dairy products you’ll ever have!

      I’m fortunate to live down the street from a family dairy farm, and quite literally drive by the sources of my milk daily as they’re out in the pasture eating a very rich diet :)

      Seek out a family owned dairy farm if you can find one, and buy their milk. I guarantee it will be tastier and fresher than even the stuff you get from places like Trader Joe’s.

      Paul wrote on January 4th, 2011
  2. Thank you for sharing! I hope more studies start coming out regarding grass fed/finished meats. Most studies attacking meat use grain fed animals.

    Paleohund wrote on January 3rd, 2011
    • That and they don’t control for grain consumption in the humans they purport to study. And generally they use observational studies where the participants are given questionnaires and asked to remember what they’ve eaten over the past several months or years, a notoriously unreliable method of research. *And,* since avoiding red meat in particular is considered a “healthy habit” now, I would posit that someone avoiding red meat is also more likely to practice other habits considered healthy, such as avoiding smoking, while people who continue eating red meat are more likely to have habits such as smoking.

      Until they control for all those factors we’re not going to know how much of a health liability grain-fed meat actually is. All I know is that until I transition over to grass-finished meat, I’m not going to go vegetarian waiting until I can afford it because I still feel better having the grain-finished meat in my diet than not having it at all.

      Dana wrote on January 3rd, 2011
      • Ok, what happened to my reply to this post?

        Andyinla wrote on January 3rd, 2011
        • OOPS! wrong post, nevermind, sorry to bother…

          Andyinla wrote on January 3rd, 2011
  3. The large effect on n3-n6 ratio between the two groups seems to have come from a combination of n3 going up a bit in the grass-fed group and n3 going down in the grain-fed group. n6 levels didn’t change in either group.

    Tim wrote on January 3rd, 2011
  4. About finishing:

    “Whether those pre-trial diets were grass or grain-based isn’t clear.”

    I have a good friend (we’ve been friends since we were about 14, I’m 34 now) who has raised beef cattle his entire life, so I’ve picked up more than a thing or two about the business. My wife’s grandfather has also raised cattle for a long time. It’s a common thing around here.

    The typical process is that cows are raised on grass (grazing and hay) then sold to beef producers who finish them on grain before butchering. In fact, many cattle farmers call themselves “grass farmers” because they are really in the business of raising and harvesting grass. Cows are just a vehicle to store and monetize that effort.

    That’s why the finishing is such a focus, because it’s where the grain enters the picture. Also they finish them on grain because it puts on weight fast, which brings more at the super market. No one (as far as I understand) would raise cattle entirely on grain, it would be expensive.

    Having said that:
    1) I could be wrong, this is just based on what I’ve picked up. Maybe everyone else in the world outside of Arkansas does things differently (I highly doubt it) and uses grain heavily for feed.

    2) There is some occasional grain fed as a supplement. Usually it has some minerals included and the point is not to feed grain but to give the cows some more minerals.

    My $0.02.

    Marcus wrote on January 3rd, 2011
    • The other piece of the puzzle is that our evolutionary experience with grazing animals is hunting the *older* ones. We went for the fatter and the slower. That usually meant the grandmas and grandpas of the herd.

      Nowadays we eat them young. But when they’re young they’re lean. Do your research about what tribal “primitive” people actually eat–they pretty much always have a high-fat diet. Even the Kitavans eat lots of coconut, which is a high-fat plant food. But any human group that hunts herd animals is going to go for the fat first.

      It’s no wonder we go for grain-fed, marbled beef. It’s not because we perversely wish to drop dead of a heart attack. It’s because we’re hardwired to want that fat. Until someone’s willing to keep individual members of their herd around for longer than a year or two, that’s not going to change.

      It’s interesting to me that grain-feeding not only marbles the beef but also induces other changes in the cow’s body that are very like aging.

      Dana wrote on January 3rd, 2011
      • Just to clarify, there is NO saturated animal fats in arterial plaques, and fats eaten in the diet DO NOT get stored as body fat unless SUGARS are eaten in combination with or at and within around 2 hours of the fat intake.

        http://tl.gd/7ch2be “Ask any physician what the predominant component of an arterial clog is and the chances are extremely high they won’t know the answer. The 1994 Lancet, 1992 Eicosanoids & the 2001 Annals of Biochemistry all stated the very same thing: Arterial plaque is formed from adulterated Omega-6 polyunsaturated oils: the oils in your supermarket cooking oil section! NOT cholesterol or saturated fat!

        The Lancet article report investigating the components of arterial plaques found that in an aortic artery clog there are over ten different compounds in arterial plaque, but NO saturated fat. This means that the bacon, eggs, cheese, steak, whipped cream, etc. that the media, the medical community and the food processing industry have been telling you for many years are bad for your health are NOT the reason for a clogged artery.

        These natural saturated fats are actually good for you. You need them for body structure and to make up your cells bi-lipid membranes that control the flow of oxygen, nutrients & wastes that go into and out of your cells. These essential fats are critical for the health and proper conditioning of your body’s 100 trillion cells.

        So Why Does Everyone Say to Lower LDL Cholesterol?” More here http://bit.ly/cc4n9t

        Andyinla wrote on January 3rd, 2011
    • Where is this, Marcus? My understanding was that in the USA, cattle are fed grain even as part of the regular diet since the grain is subsidized and therefore very cheap. In other countries the grain subsidy doesn’t exist and so it’s cheaper to pasture cattle.

      Andrea Reina wrote on January 4th, 2011
  5. I think Ray Peat is on to something when he says you want to minimize your total PUFA intake, while keeping what you are eating at an evolutionary ratio. This approach is also the most “paleo”. Personally I no longer supplement with fish oil, but I go out of my way to avoid all extraneous sources of linoleic acid.

    @Tim: Linoleic acid (an n6 fatty acid) levels went down in the grass-fed group and up in the contrenctrate group (27.85 to 25.29, 26.98 to 27.54, respectively, from table 2).

    Tuck wrote on January 3rd, 2011
    • There wasn’t a statistically-significant change in LA, with the difference between the two values being within the errors of the measurements.

      That difference between the two means could therefore have been due to measurement error, with there being no real difference between the two groups, or it might have been real but minor fluctuation that was entirely due to chance.

      Tim wrote on January 4th, 2011
  6. Hi Mark, fascinating study indeed. One thing that is a bit of a red flag in this study is that the consumption of linoleic acid (LA) in the concentrate group is much higher than in the grass group, even though the difference in meat LA content should not have been that high. By the way, Table 4 shows a higher content of arachidonic acid (AA) and the grass group. How could that be? One would expect the animals to be converting dietary LA to muscle AA.

    Still, the dietary n-6 content of either group does not even get close to what one would get consuming seed oils:

    bit.ly/bh9TEf

    Ned Kock wrote on January 3rd, 2011
  7. Agree about too much fish. I haven’t had salmon for over a month because I had it one time too many a while ago.

    As for the beef, I simply love the 97%-lean, grain-finished ground beef I get from my local butcher. What I do, however, is melt a pad of Kerrygold over it once I take it off the grill.

    Steve-O wrote on January 3rd, 2011
    • This is how I eat my steak, roasts etc too, with a slice of KerryGold butter on top…

      I dated a guy (at the time was my personal trainer) who left me because he saw the 4 lbs (8 bricks) of butter in my freezer…. he said I would never lose weight!

      …needless to say I’m 10lbs lighter than I was that day….

      ILovePrimal wrote on January 3rd, 2011
      • Not to mention the easy 150 – 200 annoying pounds you “lost” the day you broke up with him. ;)

        Martha wrote on January 3rd, 2011
      • I almost did the same thing recently when I saw vegan, organic margarine in a friend’s refrigerator.

        Personally, I always feel better when I have a few hefty bricks of butter on reserve. Lovely.

        Louise D. wrote on January 4th, 2011
        • Organic margarine is an oxymoron.

          chipin wrote on January 5th, 2011
  8. Give me salmon 5 days/week!!

    Bob Crason wrote on January 3rd, 2011
  9. The grass finished beef at least had the last six weeks of of their lives out in the paddock, cruising around with their mates.

    They like to do the sprint thing, occasionally, and they wouldn’t be able to do that in a feed lot. It can be a bid off putting when a dozen 600kg animals bear down on you at a speed you can’t compete with. But it’s all in good fun. They seem to know what they ae up to, anyway.

    There really aren’t the controls mentioned in your post that would make a farmer pay attention… were the animals steers, heifers, bulls or cows?

    kem wrote on January 3rd, 2011
    • Those cow races sound like a delightful thing to witness.

      Dana wrote on January 3rd, 2011
      • They are.

        kem wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • Where I’m from we call that “Fast Food” !

      Mainer wrote on January 4th, 2011
  10. I definitely prefer grass-fed beef. I can’t even cook conventional anymore – it just smells wrong and tastes even worse. We are blessed to live where we do and have a plethora of options for healthy meat, eggs, and veg. I love how our perspective on so much has changed since going Primal. :D

    Melissa Fritcher wrote on January 3rd, 2011
  11. Bought some Omega 3 fish oil capsules at Costco, each one is 1000 mg, 400 capsules in all, I think it cost me ten bucks.

    rob wrote on January 3rd, 2011
  12. I am not sure if many people are aware of this, but you better off eating 38 g of sardines (a fairly small amount) than taking 2 fish oil softgels:

    bit.ly/gsaJI3

    Ned Kock wrote on January 3rd, 2011
    • I was eating a can of sardines a day for a while. Then I cut myself. It was like something out of a Tarentino movie. My blood was thinner than it’s ever been, and that’s coming from a guy who used to clot in seconds. I cut back a bit.

      Allbeef Patty wrote on January 3rd, 2011
  13. As nice as it might be to eat grass-fed beef all the time, some of us are working minimum wage jobs. I eat grain-fed beef out of necessity; I’d sure love to eat more grass-fed beef but I don’t have the money to buy it.

    I think Mark should tell the poorer people that even if you can’t afford grass-fed beef, even eating grain-fed beef is better than eating grains themselves. I may not eat grass-fed beef cause of the cost, but I definitely follow all of the Primal tenets (no grains, soy, or refined sugar; lots of animal fat and animal protein.) Mark seriously needs to have a section to help the poor eat Primal. He could even call it something like “Primal Poverty.”

    Joe wrote on January 3rd, 2011
    • @Joe, I’ve said it many times here that grain-fed trimmed beef is still far better than the SAD high grain diet. I have also done several posts over the past four years on going Primal on a budget. Some of those strategies still allow you to access grass-fed beef even on a budget.

      Mark Sisson wrote on January 3rd, 2011
      • I’m in the same boat as you Joe. When I went primal I lost almost 20 pounds eating grain fed meat. This past summer I got down to 7% body fat fairly easily. So, I am proof that grain fed meats aren’t that bad. When I start making millions I’ll buy grass fed meats….lol…:)

        Aaron Curl wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • We’re a family of 4 living on a part time minimum wage income. We save up to buy a side of totally pastured, organic beef. It’s cheaper than the grocery store as it’s $2.55 a pound for all cuts and lately even the cheap hamburger is $3 a pound at the grocery store (way more for actual cuts of beef). It can be done on a budget but sometimes you have to get out and do a bit of legwork. And believe me, when you go grassfed, you won’t want to go back!

      Carla wrote on January 5th, 2011
  14. Grass-fed beef is excellent and grass-fed bone broth is even better. Wouldn’t recommend majority of fish oil supplements to anyone. Too unstable and way too processed.

    Aram HOvsepian wrote on January 3rd, 2011
  15. Yep, I’ll keep eating my conventional meat and supplement with fish oil.

    Derrick wrote on January 3rd, 2011
  16. If you can’t handle fish more than a few times a week, I think you should experiment with different kinds of fish.
    I alternate between various sashimis, occasional salmon, occasional sardines, and lots of salt-grilled (Japanese shioyaki style) mackerel. I could eat that kind of mackerel daily for the rest of my life.

    boo wrote on January 3rd, 2011
  17. Happy fish and happy cows make happy people. It makes sense and the general public is starting to wake up to the truth. Healthy food (as in organic, grass fed, wild caught etc.) tastes better and is more satisfying to eat. If you eat dead, dying, chemical ridden food it isn’t good for you. Go figure…

    Mike @ Papa Star Health wrote on January 3rd, 2011
    • Well my food better be dead or I ain’t eating it =P

      suvetar wrote on January 6th, 2011
  18. 469 grams is one pound. I don’t know about most of you, but I eat about a pound of some type of meat a day. The study has them eating a pound a week? What else did they eat? Just being curious, because I didn’t have time to read the study. Gotta go to work.

    Aaron Curl wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • We met an old musterer that claimed that his good health was due to eating a “sheep a week”.

      kem wrote on January 4th, 2011
  19. Great post, I’ve been waiting for a study like this to be released. All the more reason to continue buying grass-fed. Does anyone have information on farming practices in the UK? I believe there are better standards here but I’m not certain. We don’t usually have the choice between grain or grass fed in most supermarkets. My local butcher might know… Any insight would be appreciated.

    Cara

    Cara wrote on January 4th, 2011
  20. Great post! My family is going to buy 1/12 of a grass fed cow this spring! That’s the cheapest way to do it and we are supporting a local farm!! Once we get a bigger freeze we are going to move up and by 1/8 or 1/4(probably when my little boys are big boys!)

    Joanne(MamahoodMyWay) wrote on January 4th, 2011
  21. Great post! My family is going to buy 1/12 of a grass fed cow this spring! That’s the cheapest way to do it and we are supporting a local farm!! Once we get a bigger freezer we are going to move up and by 1/8 or 1/4(probably when my little boys are big boys!)

    Joanne(MamahoodMyWay) wrote on January 4th, 2011
  22. Mark, I hear from time to time that people here devour bacon and other pork products. I get real confused about this because pigs don’t eat grass and even when pastured, hold more O6 fats because almost every farmer I know and even J. Salatin feeds pigs a diet of grain and then allows for roaming and rooting.

    So do I understand that pork is something that should fall under the 80/20 rule in a primal diet?

    I still after a year and a half of living primally eat only a slice of bacon a day during the week; but know that this is an indulgency.

    Discuss.

    Daniel Merk wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • Yeah, I’m curious about this too. 1) can’t find “pastured” pork locally, 2) was told by a butcher a pastured pig would become a wild boar, and 3) I would expect common grain-fed domesticated pork to be high in LA and relatively lowish on important n-3. This all leaves me instinctively avoiding excessive pork fat (i.e. conventional bacon).

      Time to go boar hunting…

      Jon wrote on January 5th, 2011
      • I grew up on a farm; we were organic because we didn’t have money for artificial fertilizers and such. We raised beef cattle and pigs, and all were “pastured” and grass-fed, and we slaughtered and cured the meat ourselves. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but I know something about pigs. Pigs do eat grass, and roots (with the soil they came in), and nuts, and practically anything else organic that doesn’t run away from them! Pigs are a great way to turn food scraps like carrot tops into ham. Pigs -and their meat- are probably better off without corn, they are certainly fatter if corn-fed, but I don’t think it’s as bad for them as it is for cows. (A diet of corn makes cows sick.) I don’t have any idea what the ratio of O6:O3 in pig fat is, and honestly? I don’t care. Nobody calculated omega ratios when I was growing up, we raised our meat, we treated it well, and we ate it, and we were fiercely healthy. I’ve found a couple sources of pasture-raised pork near where I live, and if you can’t find that, try U.S Wellness Meats on-line. They ship and they are reasonably priced.

        As for a pastured pig becoming a “wild boar”, what does this even mean, and why do you care? You care if he was healthy and happy, not how domestic he was. Pigs are like any other domestic animal – with less human contact they’ll become less domestic! Turn the pigs out and ignore them, then yeah, they’re not gonna want to let you pet them. Every pig I’ve ever raised was affectionate, smart, playful, and willful. Pigs tend to have short tempers, especially males, and they can bite you, but pigs raised in a natural environment are -surprise – much calmer than pigs raised in confinement. Every farmer I’ve ever known who raised pastured pigs liked their pigs.

        As for “indulging” on one slice of bacon a day? My goodness, I’d feel deprived. I eat almost as much bacon now as I did when I was growing up – three or four slices with breakfast, and probably snack on it some during the day. My cholesterol is fine, thanks, and I almost never get sick. I’ve had one serious illness my whole life (caught mono at camp when I was a kid) and I rarely even get a cold. I don’t think the bacon is doing me harm!

        Elizabeth wrote on January 6th, 2011
      • Jan,
        I found out Hearst Ranch meats, who do sell grass fed beef, as well as heritage turkeys now sell pork as well.
        You can order it in various amounts and it comes in a frozen pack container.
        If you wanted to know….
        hope it helps.

        Cate wrote on January 7th, 2011
    • Actually, pigs do eat grass. Our pigs eat hundreds of thousands of pounds of hay in the winter and graze about 70 acres of pastures in the summers. We raise pastured pigs in northern Vermont mountains. We do not buy or feed commercial feeds nor do we buy grains for our pigs. We have raised some on just pasture and they do great, growing a little more slowly and leaner. Normally we also feed dairy which provides lysine, a limiting amino acid, and pumpkins, apples and such. But the fact is, pigs can eat grass, they can thrive on pasture and pasture is not just grass. It also contains clover, alfalfa and other forages. We only sell locally but there are probably real pasture based pig farmers in your area. You can read more about our farm at my blog. Follow the link on my name.

      As to O3′s vs O6′s, we’re actually doing research on the fatty acid contents right now. Tune in next year for results.

      Walter Jeffries wrote on November 18th, 2011
  23. Note that they trimmed the fat from the meat but the fat is where you would actually find most of the beneficial Omega-3′s. Now for normal grain-finished animals you would certainly like to trim the fat because of the high Omega-6 content, but for the grass-finished animals, you would be better off keeping the fat. It would have been interesting if they repeated this study without removing the fat. If the ultimate goal is to increase Omega-3′s in the diet, then trimming the fat doesn’t make sense. I think that had they included the fat, they would have found that the grass-fed beef was actually a better source of Omega-3′s than salmon.

    Kevin Greer wrote on January 4th, 2011
    • No, salmon has about 10-fold more n-3 PUFAs then even grass-fed beef. As this paper says in the introduction “Oily fish is the unsurpassed richest dietary source of LC n-3 PUFA”

      This article (link below) looked at the differences in fats in muscle versus adipose tissue in grass-fed cattle, the n-3:n-6 ratios of these two tissues were pretty similar.

      http://jas.fass.org/cgi/content/full/83/5/1167

      Tim wrote on January 4th, 2011
      • Tim,

        Thanks for the link. While the ratios are similar, the absolute quantities aren’t. From the last row in table 5, the muscle is composed of only about 2.5% fatty acids, whereas the fat should be closer to 100% fatty acids (I assume, is this true?). So if they have similar ratios but the fat has 40 times as much fat as muscle, then the fat should have 40 times as much n-3 as the meat. If salmon has a 10-fold increase over meat, then it still has 4 times less than the fat alone. If the muscle+fat combination is about 25% fat then it would have the same amount of n-3 as salmon. If it has more than 25% then it would actually have more. Is my logic correct do you think?

        Kevin Greer wrote on January 5th, 2011
        • You will get more n-3 PUFAs by eating beef fat, but you will also get much more n-6 PUFAs. This will therefore hurt rather than help what really matters here – the ratio between n-3 and n-6 in your body.

          Health benefits don’t come from simply increasing the quantity of n-3 in your diet, they come from shifting the balance towards the anti-inflammatory n-3 and away from the pro-inflammatory n-6 fatty acids.

          Tim wrote on January 5th, 2011
  24. Makes me want to get that 1/4- 1/2 cow in my freezer asap!

    Herbwifemama wrote on January 4th, 2011
  25. Grass fed tastes better too. Grain fed beef has a “watered down” taste to it. That being said, I still supplement with Omega 3 oil just to make sure my fats are balanced. I find I crave it!

    Nathan wrote on January 4th, 2011
  26. I would choose grass fed just for the taste, it’s much more filling and tasty than grain fed.

    Ahmed wrote on January 5th, 2011
  27. Marcus – Most cows in the US are raised on pasture, than shipped to feed lots for finishing to fatten up for slaughter.

    This is because cows in feedlots eating grains will get sick and die if they spend too long in them. Even as it is, the 6 weeks spent on the feedlots, the cows have to be fed grain feed laced with antibiotics…which is what some researchers believe may be the real reason why antibiotic bacterias are proliferating.

    Cows not eating grass have their immune systems crash without the antibiotics. But when they’re living on grass on pasture, they have the health they were designed to have on their natural diet.

    In essence, grain fed beef is fattening them up and making them sick right before slaughter in the name of more profits.

    Here’s the typical life cycle of cows raised for beef consumption in the USA – http://www.nebraskastudies.org/1200/frameset_reset.html?http://www.nebraskastudies.org/1200/stories/1201_0500.html

    I live near a ranch here in Hawaii. I talked to the rancher and he told me that 95% of all cattle raised on pasture in Hawaii gets sold and shipped off to the US mainland feedlots for fattening, slaughter and processing. Only a very small percent is sold to local market as 100% grass fed.

    I found a local butcher that sells 100% grass fed ground beef at $5 a lbs, and the prime cuts like NY strip, Porterhouse & T-bone are around $8-$9 a lbs. That’s not too extravagant, even in these tough economic times.

    Dave from Hawaii wrote on January 5th, 2011
  28. I did my own animal testing on my dogs by putting down 2 sources of meats.

    Commercial Soy Fed Chicken and free-range, non-soy fed, bug eating Chicken from my Farmer. Dogs chowed down on the free-range, bug eating chicken and didn’t touch the other until days later when they were starved and the pieces rotting in the yard.

    Grass-fed, grass-finished raw meaty bones and feedlot meaty bones bought at Winco. Dogs never touched the Winco bones.

    My dogs know what’s garbage and what isn’t.

    Also, after feeding my dogs weeks of feedlot meats, chicken, pork….they started craving fish which they normally don’t eat. That’s proof alone for me that Omega 3′s are missing big time in grainfed and soy fed animals.

    suvetar wrote on January 6th, 2011
    • Don’t your dogs listen to the marketing hype of the SAD?

      Real wrote on January 10th, 2011
  29. What about poultry? Does anyone know what are the rules? I have heard that chicken, even though pastured, has to be supplemented with grains as well. Otherwise they do not grow properly. Is it true? What about other poultry: turkey, duck, goose etc.?

    Alina wrote on January 11th, 2011
  30. It is my dream to try grass-fed meat.. I found grass-fed cheese made from raw milk at a store in Metro Detroit, but that was all.

    Does anyone else happen to know where one can buy grass-fed in the Metro Detroit area OR in Germany?

    Brian Kozmo wrote on January 12th, 2011
  31. I am a third generation rancher and have marketed grass-fed/finished beef for three years. This is a great site! Here’s a couple more thoughts for this discussion.
    Beyond the taste and health benefits, the production techniques can be very environmentally positive. Here at the Lazy R, we try to mimic natural cycles. we match the nutritional requirements of our cows to the forage availability of the eco-system. This means we time our calving by controlling when our bulls are breeding our cows to allow our cows to calve in late spring early summer. this matches the greatest needs of the cow (lactation and gestation) to the maximum available forage in quality and quantity. this also coincides with the longest day of the year, or maximum sunlight available for photosynthesis. In this way we mimic natural cycles and we know this because its the same time the deer and elk also have babies here.
    We also mimic the predator/prey relationship using portable hot wire which keeps our animals closely bunched, and moving often, without coming back to the same place until the grass has had time to recover.

    maurice robinette wrote on January 19th, 2011
    • Maurice,

      Thanks for sharing that! I love hearing how my food is raised :)

      Your process sounds a lot like that of the farm/ranch profiled in Michael Pollan’s book, The Omivore’s Dilemma. In that case, the rancher referred to himself as a “grass farmer” because he was constantly trying to figure out how to grow the healthiest possible grass for all his animals.

      He too rotated his livestock around to different places. The cows/bulls were followed by sheep, which were followed by chickens. The chickens came in after 2-3 days to ensure the fly larvae were just right for them to eat, and they would simultaneously scratch everything into the surface soil mixing things up real nice to help the grass grow. Then after some time, the cows would come back, but not until the grass had fully recovered.

      Fascinating stuff!

      Paul wrote on January 19th, 2011
  32. These techniques are more commonly found among practitioners of holistic managmement. HM is a decision-making process that uses personal values as a set of goals and uses those goals in addition to impacts to the eco-system,economics and society to make the best decisions possible. This model was developed fifty years ago by Alan Savory as he observed the impacts to a game refuge in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) relative to adjacent cattle ranches. Millions of acres world-wide are now managed in this way and the trend continues to grow as people learn more about it.
    thanks
    Maurice R

    maurice robinette wrote on January 20th, 2011
  33. 7th generation cattle farmer here. Our late neighbor, Charlie Baird, was raising grass fed, pasture rotated cattle, back in the early 1980′s, when everybody else around here was going in the exact opposite direction. He mostly was focused on selling seedstock to other operations. The funny thing was, he weaned off heavier calves than most people who were creep feeding their calves grain. I’m now raising grass fed & grass finished beef myself with some of the same genetics that Charlie sold us.

    RE the taste of grass fed beef… I love it! It’s a little bit of a learning curve in regards to properly cooking it, but if cooked correctly, it’s the bomb!!

    I’d also like to say thanks for the extremely informative & well written article! This site is great!

    TJ wrote on February 11th, 2011

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