Inside the 131 Method, we have a number of in-depth lessons discussing the importance of high-quality animal products. But today, we’re offering a brief overview of this complex—and sometimes controversial—topic. If you get confused over what to buy, and where, this article is for you!
To start, know that grass-fed differs from grass-finished. All cows are started on grass, but most transition to grain later in life to expedite growth. That means a label can say “grass-fed,” but still be grain-finished. The more humanely cattle are raised, cared for and fed, the healthier they are. Cows fed on nutrient-rich pastures produce better meat with superior mineral content and healthy fat profiles than feedlot cattle. Fundamentally, grass is a cow’s natural diet. Disturbing an animal’s natural habits and digestion leads to less healthy animals, who then produce less healthy meat.
Just as treatment of cattle impacts meat quality, the health of the grass must be well managed and in excellent condition. Ideally, this includes a mix of improved and native pastures, combined with legumes. Depending on specific needs, additions like clover and alfalfa can be added. The legumes promote a healthy pasture and provide an ideal source of nutrients for the cattle. Farmers who implement rotational management/rotational grazing, often handle the animals more often, enabling them to monitor weight gain and the general health of the cattle.
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Health Benefits Of Grass-Finished Beef
Beef provides essential nutrients necessary for a balanced diet and optimal health. Grass-finished meat contains more vitamin E and vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) than grain-fed beef. Grass-finished beef also offers other vitamins and minerals in higher quantities such as: vitamin B3, B6, B12, selenium, zinc, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, folate, copper, potassium and choline (1).
Nutritionally, the quality of grass-finished beef reigns superior. Three decades of evidence-based research shows significantly higher fatty acid and antioxidant profiles in grass-finished beef, depending on what the cattle eats. Grass-finished cattle’s fatty acid profile contains a healthier omega-6 to omega-3 ratio than grain-fed animals. Too many omega-6’s creates inflammation in the body, therefore, grass-finished beef is far less inflammatory than grain-fed. This healthy fat ratio also helps balance blood sugar and protects against diabetes and metabolic syndrome (2).
Grass-finished beef contains lower total fat and dietary cholesterol, but increased conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA has been shown to fight cancer, reduce heart disease, help build muscle and prevent weight gain. CLA is a polyunsaturated fatty acid available from grass-finished animals (3).
Healthier Meat=Healthier Gut
Grass-finished beef contains fewer hormones and antibiotics; after all, we are what we eat. Antibiotic use is widely known to wreak havoc on gut health. Our immune system lies within our guts, so it’s imperative to focus on continual gut healing protocols. Leaky gut occurs when “holes” in the intestines (intestinal permeability/IP) allow substances that normally cannot cross the epithelial barrier into the blood stream. The “foreign” substances cause symptoms including:
- Chronic diarrhea, gas
- Headaches, brain fog
- Excessive fatigue
- Skin rashes
- Arthritis or joint pain
- Depression and anxiety
- Cardiovascular disturbances
- Autoimmune diseases such celiac disease, Crohn’s, IBS
Intestinal permeability can be improved by dietary compounds such as glutamine and curcumin. These inhibit the inflammation and oxidative stresses that often prevent healing. Dietary sources of glutamine include protein-rich foods like: grass-fed beef, omega-3 chicken and pork, wild-caught seafood, bone broth, raw grass-fed cheese, omega-3 eggs, and a variety of vegetables (4). Be aware: high heat reduces glutamine levels.
A critical phytonutrient called carotenoid deactivates free radicals. Carotenoids act as antioxidants in your body, providing anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting benefits. They also help with the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Carotenoids are precursors to vitamin A, which is beneficial for healthy bones, eyes and skin. Grass-finished beef’s high carotenoid level comes from the carotenoids in the grass and forage they eat. Grains do not contain carotenoids. The fat of grass-finished beef is more yellow than the fat in grain-fed meat. This is due to the higher carotenoid content in grass-finished beef (5).
Where to buy Grass-Finished Beef
There are several organizations in America currently offering certifications for grass-fed meat. The American Grass-Fed Association (AGA) provides accreditation for grass-fed beef and dairy products. AGA requirements are more rigorous than the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Once granted approval, the AGA offers a grass-fed label. However, “grass-fed” labels are tricky. There’s not always a distinction between grass-fed, grass-finished and grass-fed, grain-finished. You want the former, not the latter. So what’s a shopper to do?
Buying your beef directly from a farmer is the preferred method of purchasing grass-finished meat. This option isn’t possible for most of us, which is where ButcherBox comes in and saves the day! They ship monthly farm fresh boxes full of frozen local and seasonal meats reared using sustainable methods. The UK has similar programs (6).
Paying for Quality
As with most things in life, you might pay a little more for organic. There’s no exception for quality meat, especially if it is organic and grass-finished. Spending the extra money for a nutritionally superior beef pays for itself in taste, quality, health benefits and reduced environmental impact.
Grass-Finished Beef Vs Grain-Fed Beef
If you have high cholesterol, your body still requires good cholesterol. Check with your healthcare professional to ascertain what is right for your health condition. Several studies show that lean grass-fed beef eaten interchangeably with fish or skinless chicken may reduce serum cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol (7).
Beef Preparation and Recipe
To keep grass-fed beef tender and prevent it from drying out, marinate or brush the meat with extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) before cooking. Grass-fed beef usually requires less cooking than grain-fed beef. Bring to room temperature before cooking. Preheat the oven or grill and ensure you don’t overcook the meat; it continues to cook after it’s removed from the heat. Once removed, tent the meat with foil and keep in a warm place for about 5 -10 minutes to rest and allow the juices to redistribute, further tenderizing it, and improving the flavor (8).
131 Method Grass-Finished Beef Recipes (Inside the Program)
Indian Spiced Beef & Zoodles
Yield: 4 servings
Serving Size: 1/4th recipe
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 12 min
- 16oz grass-fed, grass-finished 80% lean ground beef or bison
- 1 cup diced canned tomatoes (use fire roasted if you like a little spice)
- ¾ cup canned coconut milk
- 2½ tablespoons coconut aminos (or soy sauce alternative)
- 2-3 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 medium zucchinis, spiraled
- Coat a large, nonstick skillet with cooking spray over medium. Add beef and brown on all sides for 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, coconut milk, coconut aminos, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic powder and salt and pepper and sauté until beef is cooked through (about 5 minutes), then turn to low and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Toss zucchini noodles in pan and quickly toss to coat, then remove and plate among four plates. (If you leave the noodles in the hot pan too long, they’ll release water. You only want to warm them quickly, then plate).
Calories: 453| Protein: 33g | Fat: 30g | Carbs: 14g | Fiber: 2.5g | Net Carbs: 11g