What We Need to Know About Beef Production

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beef production, beef quality

Photo courtesy of megnut via Flickr

If you are a meat-eater and like to savor its taste but also want to get the best nutritional benefits from its consumption, you need to know where your meat comes from and how it was produced. Or rather what was the animal fed and where it lived.

Beef has many nutritional benefits such as omega-3 fats, conjugated linoleic acid (the same heart-healthy fat that’s found in olive oil), and vitamins A, B,  E. It also contains micronutrients such as potassium, iron, selenium and zinc; but those can significantly vary based on the actual beef production. And since beef is a rich source of the most easily absorbed iron called heme iron, it’s good for child-bearing women, infants and children, who are most likely to be iron deficient due to their increased level of need for iron.

Naturally, cow’s diet and living conditions have a major impact on it’s health, and therefore on the health of those who eat the cow’s meat as well as milk. “Cows are what they eat” and even small changes in their diet can greatly affect the nutrition profile of the cow.

According to researchers from Clemson University who conducted a two-year animal study feeding Angus steers with a variety of food, each diet had a significant effect on their growth, the quality and taste of meat, and the nutritional components such as fatty acid profiles.

Here is a brief comparison of grain-fed beef cattle versus grass-fed beef cattle from a health and welfare perspective:

1. Grain-fed cattle “live” in large feedlots also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), confined to tiny spaces with bad hygienic conditions and an unlimited access to grain-based feeds such as corn to fatten them up as fast as possible. Digestive system of cow is not designed to process grain therefore consumption of corn upsets its stomach and eventually makes the cow sick allowing for parasites and diseases (such as the bacteria E. coli) to thrive. Therefore CAFO cows are fed antibiotics their entire lives to keep them “alive”.

In fact, 80% of antibiotics used in the US are used on animals; and 83% of those animals aren’t even sick. According to the World Health Organization, when humans consume CAFO cattle, antibiotic resistant bacteria that remains in the meat is ruining the natural gut bacteria in humans, creating digestive problems, weight gain and associated diseases.

2. Grass-fed cattle are usually pasture-raised animals, living outdoors on grassland their entire lives. Since they feed mainly on grass, which their digestive system is designed to process, they generally don’t receive any hormones or antibiotics, which CAFO cows do. Certain grass-fed certification programs allow the use of antibiotics, so it’s advised to always read and understand labels and check the origin of the beef you buy. Some diets such as the Paleo Diet recommend to eat only meat from grass-fed productions for the best health and nutritional benefits.

Read the full article at Care2.

And since meat and animal protein is also very important for child’s proper development, parents should be aware of what they feed their children. Particularly since their immune systems are in development, excessive exposure to antibiotics (including those remnant in meat cuts) can lower their body’s response to antibiotics when they really need them.

Healthy recipes with beef or veal, especially for kids:

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