The Many Benefits of Grass-Fed Meat

Learn about the benefits of grass-fed meat, eggs, and milk, and how sustainable agriculture creates a healthier environment and a better product.

  • Grazing Animal
    Eating nutrient-dense meat from animals that grazed on perennial pastures helped humans evolve into big-brained, upright creatures.
    Photo by Fotolia/Tony Campbell
  • Blanco County Cattle
    The presence of grazing animals, such as these cattle in Blanco County, Texas, is required to keep pastures and prairies healthy.
    Photo by Laurence Parent
  • Perennial Pasture Grazing
    Animals which graze on deep-rooted perennial pasture pass on micronutrients to us.
    Photo by Fotolia/Ivan Kmit
  • Wild Salmon
    Wild salmon are better sources of beneficial omega-3 fats than farm-raised fish.
    Photo by Dreamstime/Canadapanda
  • Bison Cow and Calf
    A bison cow and calf graze on perennial pasture, as the species has done for centuries.
    Photo by Fotolia/Leekris
  • Grass-Fed Meat
    Grass-fed meat is tender and tasty if pasture is managed correctly.
    Photo by Fotolia/ketrik17
  • Industrial Beef Chart
    This chart compares key nutrients and fatty acid ratios between grass-fed and industrial beef.

  • Grazing Animal
  • Blanco County Cattle
  • Perennial Pasture Grazing
  • Wild Salmon
  • Bison Cow and Calf
  • Grass-Fed Meat
  • Industrial Beef Chart

This story hinges on two numbers: 5.0 and 6.8.

At 5.0 — the figure that dominates today’s industrial food chain — both you and the environment suffer. For humans, it means more obesity, more diabetes, more heart disease, more weakened immune systems, more feeble brains and dementia, maybe even more cancer. For the environment, it means more carbon in the atmosphere, more floods, more erosion, more dying streams and lakes, more cruelty. Push that number to 6.8, however, and we can reduce all of those problems.

Ruminating on pH

These two numbers measure the health of an ecosystem that was the linchpin of human development through the hundreds of thousands of years of our evolution to our modern form. That ecosystem is still essential, because the fundamental facts of humanity have not changed: We are big-brained, upright mammals that thrive in grasslands.

Compared with other organs, the human brain is an energy hog, and because our brains are big, we need more calories and nutrients pound for pound than other animals do. Our upright posture places extraordinary constraints on our structure, especially our center, and dictates a small, muscular abdomen. No room for guts to process a lot of food at one time.

Grass is useless to us — directly. We can’t eat it. Its energy is locked up in cellulose, and we don’t have the intestinal fortitude (or magnitude) to break those calories loose. So here’s the deal evolution cut for us: We outsource grass digestion to the deer, gazelle, musk ox, elephant, caribou, elk, aurochs, goat, sheep and, now especially, cow.

All of those animals have in common a cavernous gut that is centered on a fermentation vat called the “rumen” — hence their name, “ruminants.” Like all fermentation vats, the rumen is an ecosystem. It works by harboring bacteria that have the unique ability to break down cellulose to more usable forms of carbohydrates. The bacteria depend on a friendly environment in the rumen, which, especially in cows, happens to be best measured by acidity: a near-neutral pH of 6.8.

2/19/2019 12:39:23 PM

LOL, another pro-grass-fed beef article with a vegan jumping into the comments section with an ill-informed tip on how to really save the planet. Eric, read the article first, then comment. All of your points have been debunked, btw. Oh, and "Bambi" was a cartoon. "Much less land/water/energy..." Have you been through the Midwest, or CA's Central Valley lately and seen how much water they suck out of the ground to grow crops? "calories/acre..." Hmm, isn't that part of the problem? Calories from carbohydrates that often result in vegan 'hangries'? "use up land that could be wild..." Um, cattle can be incorporated into wildlands. Tractors on the other hand, not so much. "latest studies are now showing they emit more methane than they sequester carbon." No. "After a couple of decades.." of taking carbon out of the atmosphere, ya'know, reversing climate change. Otherwise, move the cattle to a different pasture and start again. The cycle and potential are endless.

2/18/2019 10:08:37 AM

If you really want to help the environment, then eat a vegan diet. The studies showing it is healthy are not "short-sighted", and if you're careful to eat the right variety of whole foods, you'll obtain all the nutrients your body needs. Here's why it helps the environment: Much less land/water/energy is needed to obtain your calories and nutrition. Especially when compared to grass-fed ruminants, whose calories/acre pales in comparison to corn, potatoes, and legumes. All that freed up land can return to the wild. Another big problem with grass-fed ruminants, other than that they use up land that could be wild, is that the latest studies are now showing they emit more methane than they sequester carbon. Maybe in the short-term, with hyper-vigilant herding, they can sequester more, but the sequestration process is finite. After a couple of decades, the ruminants have sequestered all that can be sequestered, after which all they're doing is emitting methane.

2/18/2019 8:01:27 AM

Getting the government involved (USDA) usually makes things worse (regulations drive small business out of business, and the megacorps don't care about your health and always sway law to their own favor). A part of the real answer is small local business and know your farmer. Which helps build strong communities, and thus a strong nation.



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