Raise your hand if you’ve been sitting in one of these recently more popular “farm to table” restaurants and have scratched your head, wondering what grass-fed beef is? You probably also wondered why you paid extra for it. Hands up? Yeah, that was me too a few years ago. What’s really the difference? What do labels like cage-free, pasture-raised, grain-finished, wild-caught, conventional, yada, yada, yada even mean?
Actually, these little phrases have the potential to make a BIG impact on your body, and ultimately your health!
As it turns out, the source of your protein can dramatically change the level of nutrients it contains, in both a positive and negative manner. Even putting the ethics conversation aside for a brief moment, let’s talk about the objectives.
A cow/chicken/lamb etc, feeding on its instinctive selection of food, thriving in its natural intended environment, is typically healthier than its conventionally farmed counterpart. The alternative living conditions vary from farm to farm, but often involve overly cramped, filthy quarters and a diet of processed, inflammatory food. So, do the math here, folks. We are what we eat, right? I sure think so!
The goods news…
You don’t have to just take my word for it. Studies show that grass fed-cows contain more Omega 3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than grain-fed cows. Omega 3’s play an important role in everything from lowering cholesterol, to protecting us from cancer, to improving symptoms of arthritis, to reducing the risk of diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. These fatty acids hold major anti-inflammatory properties! Conjugated linoleic acid (Omega 6) is an essential fatty acid. It’s found in beef, lamb, eggs, etc, but cannot be produced in the human body. Also, CLA is responsible for boosting our immune systems, regulating our metabolisms, and aiding cholesterol control.
Conversely, grain fed cows’ intestinal tracts tend to be more acidic (and inflamed), providing a stronger breeding ground for bacteria like E.coli.
Let’s take a closer look into poultry. Free-range and pasture-raised chickens (we’ll break down those terms in a sec) produce eggs with more Vitamin A, 2x as much Omega 3’s, 3x more Vitamin E, and 7x more beta carotene than caged, conventionally farmed chickens! Ever compared the color of yolks between a pasture raised chicken egg and a conventional one? The pasture-raised egg is a dark orange color, compared to the bright yellow. The deep orange color stems from the additional beta carotene, similar to how carrots get their color!
Plus, conventionally raised chickens are more apt to have been treated with antibiotics given the propensity for disease outbreak, exposed to bacteria like salmonella. This could potentially lead to further antibiotic resistance in humans. Additionally, this can to serve as a hormone disruptor. Yikes.
The nitty, gritty… what do all those labels mean? Here’s a brief run down:
That’s the basic breakdown for ya! I know I talk a lot about ditching the diet mentality, and caring about this type of stuff is an integral factor in flipping that mental switch. Placing significance on the nutrients we consume is really just a form of self-care. If you’re interested in learning more about how the sources of the food we eat impacts our health, check out my 14 Day Paleo Program. It’s a great introduction and foundation to understanding gut health! And yes, grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chicken are included! Healthy gut, healthy peeps!