For the sake of the betterment of our health, I’m going to throw my dad under the bus here. Dad hit the grocery store on his way home from work last week and later told my mom that he picked up “a salad and some meat.” Sounds good, right? Digging a little deeper, she discovered that what he meant by meat was some ham and turkey from the deli counter.
I’m not trying to rag on deli meat. Okay, yes I am. But not just deli meat… most meat that you find in a grocery store. Most of the beef consumed today is not, by any stretch, what our great-grandparents ate. Our great-grandparents ate beef that came from cows that spent their lives grazing on grass in open fields. They ate what they were built to eat: cows are ruminant animals, and ruminant animals are meant to eat grass.
About the mid-20th century, to keep up with demand, ranchers started sending their cattle to feedlots to fatten them up so they would be ready for slaughter sooner. To make this happen, they are given food besides grass, usually grains, and corn. The main problem with this is that their systems aren’t meant to eat grains and corn, and when they are fed stuff they aren’t meant to eat, they get sick. When they get sick, they are given antibiotics to stop the infections they suffer as a result of eating stuff their bodies can’t handle. Guess who also ingests the antibiotics given to grain-fed cows? People that eat grain-fed cows. Read about why that is bad here. Care to top off that antibotic-laden steak with some hormones? Done and done.
Antibiotic and hormone-riddled meat aside, modern day CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) completely eff up the nutrition of today’s beef cattle. Instead of grazing on nutrient-rich grasses, CAFO cows are fed a diet of grains typically mixed with corn, soy, cereals, and even candy (wrappers and all… no lie).
The saying “you are what you eat” applies to animals as well as humans. There are significant differences in the quality of meat based on what the animal ate- grass-fed beef and grain-fed beef are two completely different foods.
Cows can’t make nutritious meat if they aren’t fed the proper ingredients; if they aren’t fed nutritious food, they won’t become nutritious food. There is no magical transformation from grains, soy, corn, and candy into vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Feeding cows junk food turns them into junk food.
Need more reasons to choose grass-fed beef?
- Grass-Fed beef contains Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), a potent antioxidant, which can lower your risk of heart attack, type II diabetes, and cancer
- Grass-Fed beef has a profoundly better saturated fat profile
- Grass-Fed beef has a better omega-6:omega-3 fatty acid ratio (our diet is too high in omega-6 and it is making us fat and sick… read more here)
- Grass-Fed beef has significantly higher vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
CAFO meat has the wrong kind of fatty acids, contains obesity-causing hormones, and usually has mycotoxins (nasty biotoxins formed by mold in cattle feed and meat processing). Yes, it is more expensive, and can be harder to source, but grass-fed meat gives you more bang for your buck, with significantly higher levels of omega-3s, antioxidants, minerals, and other important nutrients.
Grass-fed ground beef is usually easier to come by than other cuts, which is why I want to share with you my favorite recipe for burgers. We serve them on a bed of chopped greens; the kids top them with shredded Kerrygold cheese and homemade ketchup, and we adults mix it up with balsamic mayo, caramelized onions, chèvre… you get the idea. Mix it up!
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon parsley, curly or flat leaf, finely chopped
- 2 pounds grass-fed ground beef
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- ½ tablespoon cracked black pepper
- Using your hands, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Don't be afraid! Your hands are your most important kitchen tool. Form into four patties about ½" thick. Use your thumb to make an indent into one side of the burger so when the heat hits it, it stays in a patty instead of turning into a ball.
- If using a cast iron pan, heat on medium-high until the pan is really hot. If your pan isn't really well seasoned, add a little avocado oil. Add burgers (indent side down) and cook for four minutes. Flip and cook for four more for a medium-rare burger. (if you want it cooked more, put the pan in a 350 degree oven for 5-8 minutes... just be careful not to overcook; grass-fed beef is way way way better underdone!
- If using on a grill, cook for 4-5 minutes a side over the hot spots.
- Let rest for 2-3 minutes before serving.
Recipe adapted from Paleo by Season
Steroid Hormone Implants Used for Growth in Food Prodcucing Animals from the Food and Drug Administration
Why Grass-Fed Meat is Healthier Than Grain-Fed Meat from bulletproofexec.com
The Problems with Conventionally Raised Beef from Mark’s Daily Apple
Why Grass-Fed Trumps Grain-Fed from Chris Kresser
How Essential are the Essential Fatty Acids? from Chris Masterjohn
Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Beef from Wellness Mama
Can Some Trans-Fats be Healthy? from Chris Kresser
How too much Omega-6 and Not Enough Omega-3 is Making Us Sick from Chris Kresser
Growth Hormones Fed to Beef Cattle Damage Human Health from Organic Consumers Association