You Are What Your Cow Ate

So do you know what your cow ate? I’m assuming of course that you eat beef.

Beef offers a number of nutritional benefits.

Beef offers a number of nutritional benefits.

Because there are a number of benefits to eating beef such as:

* it’s a complete protein meaning it has all of the essential amino acids

* it’s a good source of B vitamins which are important for immune function, the nervous system as well as healthy skin and eyes

* it’s a good source of iron which is important for oxygen transport in the body

* it’s a good source of zinc which is required for healthy immune function

* it’s a good source of magnesium which helps develop strong muscles and bones

And with particular types of beef we can get more nutrients such as omega-3s, vitamin E and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

Other types of beef? You may be thinking ‘beef is beef’, right? Well not exactly.

Growing up we all remember hearing the expression ‘you are what you eat’. In the case of beef a more appropriate expression might be ‘you are what your food ate’.

Because depending of whether a cow ate grass or grain influences the beef that develops within it. Here’s the difference.

A cow that eats grass will have:

* less fat

* fewer calories as it has less fat

* more omega-3s which we all need more of

* more CLA

* more vitamin E

Usually when we think of beef we think of protein, which is natural. The interesting thing is that the nutritional benefits of beef that is grass fed doesn’t have very much to with the protein. Instead this has almost everything to the quantity and quality of fat in the beef.

Another interesting thing to note is that many of the nutrients found in beef such as zinc and magnesium can also be found in some vegetables as well. The difference is that they are more readily absorbed in the meat as compared to the vegetable form.

But when you go to the grocery store you need to be aware of the labelling practices on meat. If a package of beef has no designation regarding grass than it will have been grain-fed. In Eastern Canada this will most likely be a corn-based meal or grain. In Western Canada the grain will most likely be barley.

However when you see a package with grass-fed on the label this could mean one of two things.

1. Grass-fed

This refers to a cow that was grass fed up to the point of maturity. However at soon point before the slaughter the diet of the cow was changed to include grain and fatten it up.

2. Grass-finished

This refers to a cow that was grass-fed its entirely life. This cow was not grain-fed during its life.

So of the two grass-type cows grass-finished would be the healthier option. And while it is healthier it does come at a price. If grain fed beef is in the $5-10/lbs range expect grass-fed to be substantially more.

The take home message is to know that beef of all types, grain, grass-fed or grass-finished, all offer nutritional and health benefits. And while the fat is different in grass-fed varieties this is more the case of additional healthy fats rather than the elimination of the less than healthy variety i.e. omega-6s. Each individual should decide based on how much omega-3, CLA and vitamin E they already get in the diet, as well as the value they place on eating the highest quality nutrition as to whether grass-fed beef is right for them.

Chris [fb-like]




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