Choose Healthy Grass Fed Meat and Dairy Products

Jo Robinson explains the health benefits of grass fed meat and dairy products. Grass-fed cattle are easier on the environment and provide healthier milk and meat than their grain-fed counterparts.

| April/May 2002

Learn about the health benefits of grass fed meat and dairy products. 

Grass-fed meat and dairy products have less fat and more vitamin E, beta carotene and cancer-fighting fatty acids than factory-farm products. All across the country, farmers and ranchers are returning to this ancient and healthier way of raising animals. Instead of sending them to feedlots to be fattened on grain, farmers are keeping animals home on the range. Cattle graze, lie down, chew their cud, graze — a soothing cycle, repeated day after day — and chickens hunt for seeds and bugs as their ancestors have for eons.

Although raising livestock on pasture is viewed as a radical departure from modern ranching, it is simply a return to a more balanced system. Ranchers boycotting the feedlots are hardworking pioneers whose goal is to make a living selling their products directly to customers or farmer's markets, restaurants and natural food stores. By eliminating some of the middlemen they hope to accomplish what can seem like an impossible dream: making a decent living from a small, family farm. Many of the ranchers have another goal, as well. In addition to feeding their families, they want to create a workable, profitable alternative to agribusiness-as-usual.

After three years of examining this grassroots movement, I've become convinced these farmers are on the right track. Raising animals on pasture is better for the animals, ranchers, environment and health of the consumer. It's one of those rare situations in life that is a win-win-win-win.

Grass-Fed Meat Equals More Omega-3s

I became interested in pasture-based ranching several years ago when I was writingThe Omega Diet with Dr. Artemis P. Simopoulos, an authority on nutrition. The book focuses on the health benefits of a Greek Mediterranean diet and stresses the importance of eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have been proven to lower the risk of a long list of diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, allergies, auto-immune disorders, obesity and diabetes.

To get the benefits of omega-3s, most people eat fish, flaxseed, walnuts or take fish oil pills. Few realize these lifesaving fats are also found in the products of grazing animals. The reason is simple: Omega-3 fatty acids are created in the green leaves of plants, where they are essential for photosynthesis. When animals eat lots of greens they naturally accumulate more of these essential fats in their bodies. For example, steak from grass-fed cattle has two to six times more omega-3s than a steak from grain-fed cattle according to research at the University of Hawaii. When we eat the steak, the omega-3s are passed on to us. It's often said, "We are what we eat." The truth goes deeper. We are also what our animals eat.

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