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Have you ever wondered about the past life of the meat on your plate? The benefits that come from grass-fed and pasture-raised meat are not solely for your health, they are also better for the economy, the environment, the farmers and the animal. It is not natural for cows, or several other animals for the matter, to consume grain. Unfortunately, many people believe that meat is meat and that the life of the meat prior to it making its way to your plate didn’t factor into the meat itself. In reality, an animal’s diet can have a major impact on the nutrient content of its products.
The differences between grain-fed and grass-fed animal products are undeniable. First and foremost, grass-fed meat products tend to be much lower in total fat than grain-fed products. Other health-related benefits include:
- Lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Prolonged high levels of LDL cholesterol will eventually start to create fatty buildups in your arteries – making the risk of heart attack and stroke much higher.
- Fewer calories. Lean meat = fewer calories!
- Extra Omega-3s (the good kind of fat). Those with healthy levels of Omega-3s in their diet are at less risk for having high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat patterns, or cancer, and are less likely to experience depression, attention deficit disorder, and Alzheimer’s.
- Keeps blood sugar at healthy levels. Proper levels of healthy fats in your diet support healthy blood sugar (thanks to that extra Omega-3s!).
- Free of antibiotics and hormones. Grass-fed meat is a lot less likely to have traces of these false weight-inducing drugs in meat, which unnaturally causes an animal to gain weight and therefore, produce more meat.
- Lower risk of exposure to diseases like E. coli. Grass-fed cows have healthy pH balances (typically a pH 7) and are able to fight off these types of illnesses. Pasture-raised cattle does not have the same exposure to the microbes that are commonly found in feedlots, thus making the human who consumes the meat much safer.
Other pasture-raised foods like eggs come with benefits, too. Compared to grain-fed chickens, these eggs have less cholesterol, less saturated fat, more vitamin A, double the amount of Omega-3s, triple the amount of Vitamin E, and nearly seven times more beta carotene (which the human body then works to naturally convert to Vitamin A).
How to know meat is grass-fed and pasture-raised
Because the demand for this type of meat is increasing, many areas now offer some sort of meat trade or farmer’s market with ordering services for monthly deliveries of certified grass-fed and pasture-raised meat.
You may also have some luck at your local grocery store. Many of the organic meat options are now grass-fed and pasture-raised and will be clearly marked on the label. If the packaging also contains labels from either the American Grassfed Association (AGA) or American Food Alliance (AFA) or both, then rest assured the meat is safe (they are known to have stricter requirements than the USDA).
If you’re interested in introducing healthier eating habits into your diet, this is an easy (and surprisingly not too costly!) way to do so. Have you noticed any other benefits from your grass-fed and pasture-raised meat and/or animal products? If so, I’d love to hear about them!