Everyone knows that in order to be healthy you have to pay attention to what you eat. However, maybe you haven’t considered the importance of paying attention to what it was that you’re eating ate. In America today, the majority of beef comes from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). While in a CAFO, cows are fed corn and other grains instead of grass. Along with that they are given growth hormones so they will be fattened as fast as possible. The situation in which beef is being produced is unhealthy for the animal, us, and the planet. On the flip side, natural grass-fed beef has been proven to be healthier in all of those areas.
The conditions of the cows at CAFOs can be horrific. There are many conditions that the animals suffer from in this environment. One of those conditions is acidosis, which is when the cow cannot neutralize the acid that comes from the grain diet. Often when this occurs the cow will have severe diarrhea, stop eating, salivate excessively, kick at their stomachs, and eat dirt. Another condition that affects 15% to 30% of CAFO cattle is liver abscesses. Another condition caused by grain-based diets is bloating. Sometimes it can be so severe that the cow will die from asphyxiation. Yet another condition is feedlot polio. The high amount of acid in their diet creates an enzyme called “thiaminase” which destroys B1 vitamin and causes paralysis. These are just some of the many conditions caused by grain fed diets on CAFOs. The bottom line is that the animals coming from there are not healthy. Their bodies are not equipped to deal with a grain-based diet, so when they are forced to live off of that many problems arise.
Not only are CAFOs bad for the animals, they are also having a terrible effect on the planet. They release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire global transportation industry. They have also increased deforestation and draining of the wetlands. Along with that though, they are wasting an enormous amount of resources. For every 100 calories fed to livestock they are only getting 30 calories of meat out of it. That’s a 70% calorie loss. If we are looking for ways to solve world hunger, why don’t we use those 100 calories to feed people instead of throwing away 70% of it to get 30 calories of meat? With the population of the world reaching over 7 billion in 2013, it seems insane to be wasting that much food on animals that aren’t meant to consume grain in the first place.
On the flip side, grass-fed cows are much healthier, and consequently the beef is much better for us. Studies show that grass-fed beef is lower in total fat, higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin B-. calcium, magnesium, potassium, and omega 3s. These are just a few of the health benefits seen from consuming grass-fed beef compared to grain-fed.
However, not only is it healthier to eat, it is also better for the earth. In his article “Where Corn is King,” Dr. Mercola tells of grass farmer Joel Salatin who produces beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, rabbits and vegetables. Salatin has come up with a brilliant rotating system that not only allows the animals to live how they naturally would, but also works with nature to get the most out of the land. He doesn’t use chemical fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, or antibiotics. Instead, the cows are moved to different grazing pastures every day—which mimics their natural eating patterns and promotes regrowth and revegetation. After the cows are taken to a different pasture Salatin takes the chickens and other birds to the old pasture. This cycle continues successfully allowing the animals to live normally and healthily, as well as allowing the earth to naturally regenerate.
Not only is grass-fed beef more beneficial, it can also be more profitable. Mercola states, “Instead of making $150 per acre per year from a crop that produces food for three months, but lays fallow for the rest of the year, Salatin’s making $3,000 per acre by rotating crops throughout the year, thereby making use of his land all 12 months — and maintaining its ecological balance at the same time. This generates complementary income streams for the small farmer and allows them to compete with CAFO operations, while protecting the land from ecological disasters.”
Grass-fed beef offers many benefits over grain-fed beef. It is better for the animals, healthier for us, and safer for the planet. More and more grocery stores are starting to carry grass-fed beef, so it is becoming increasingly easy to find. Grass-fed beef from supermarkets will always have a “100% Grass-Fed” label on it. If you are looking for a way to eat healthier, or to help out the animals and the planet, eating grass-fed beef is definitely something to consider.
*Header Image by Nick Ares