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Many who learn about ancestral diets come across the concept of grass-fed meats. But what does grass-fed mean, and is it really healthier?
The Differences Between Conventional & Grass-Fed Meats
While some will argue that meat is meat, there are significant differences between how conventional feedlots operate and treat animals versus farms where animals are raised with humane treatment, space to roam, and truly nourishing diets.
Paleo ancestors ate meat in their diets, but it never came from grain-fed cattle who were packed into stalls and pumped full of hormones to make them grow faster, or treated with antibiotics because they were frequently prone to sickness and infection. The quality of the animal’s health when it is alive affects the quality of the food product that comes from it. Ignoring this basic wisdom leads to the justification that meat that comes from conventional farming operations is every bit as good as grass-fed, pasture-raised beef. It is not.
It’s also important to note the subtleties in labels. Grass-fed does not always mean grass-finished, and organic doesn’t necessarily mean grass-fed. This is why buying meat from supermarkets can be trickier than just sourcing it from a local butcher who can tell you where the meat came from and how it was raised.
Most meat in the U.S. comes from feedlot operations. There are more than 450,000 in the country. Animals kept in captivity are not the animals that our ancestors nurtured and then honored by consuming in their entirety. Organ meats and nose-to-tail eating have gone out of style, and instead, we buy the same few cuts of meat, over and over, from the supermarket.
If you want to truly follow ancestral diet principles, buying locally-sourced meat from grass-fed, pastured operations is an essential first step. You may pay a little more per pound initially, but the value that you get in the big picture is an investment in your health. Plus, when you source meat directly from farmers, you’ll get a wider variety of cuts, offal, and even bones to make your own bone stock.
Why Grass-Fed Meat is Better
Grass-fed meat isn’t only better because it’s more humane and free from antibiotics and added hormones. It’s also better for the environment and richer in healthy fats and other nutrients.
Large feeding operations produce huge amounts of waste—1.6 million tons per year, to be exact. For those who want to avoid meat because of the environmental impact, it’s less about avoiding all animal products and more about where the animal products come from.
Grass-fed beef contains better nutrient profiles, especially when it comes to omega-3 fats. It has 2-4 times more omega-3s than conventional beef. Grass-fed beef is also higher in antioxidants like glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and vitamin E, as well as precursors to vitamin A. All of these nutrients have important antioxidant and immune roles in the body.
Grass-fed beef is also higher in B vitamins, which play an essential role in cellular health. It’s also a good source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which supports healthy cells and immunity. It can even play a role in lowering cancer risk.
Today’s Simple Step
Search social media or ask local natural health practitioners for recommendations. If you live in an area that does not have grass-fed options, find an online alternative, like Butcher Box.
This Grass-fed Beef Shank Hot Pot is a nourishing dish that provides plenty of healthy fats along with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.