Less Bad Fat
Fish is good for you because it's a low-fat source of protein. Guess what? So is our pasture-raised, grass-fed beef. Grass-fed beef has about half the fat and cholesterol of grain-fed beef. Additionally, the fat found in grass-fed beef is 41% mono-unsaturated (like olive oil).
More Good Fat
Grass-fed beef is packed with omega 3 fatty acids and conjugated Linoleic acid, compounds that are very beneficial to our health and that are almost entirely absent from feedlot beef. Our beef is also much higher in vitamins A and E than grain-fed beef.
Scientists are still working to figure out why a grass diet and free-range grazing makes such a difference in the health benefits of the meat produced by cattle raised that way. It makes sense that a healthy animal would have healthy meat. It's also not surprising that animals that are confined, stressed, dirty, and fed a diet that they aren't designed to eat--feedlot beef--produce much less healthy meat. It might be less expensive to raise beef in feedlots, but it can't be as good for you as beef that comes from happy, healthy animals grazing fresh grass.
People sometimes forget that corn-fed beef (and the feedlots that produce it) only became prevalent in the 1950s because it was cheaper, easier, and faster to produce, not because it was healthier, better tasting, or more environmentally friendly. Feeding animals grain in feedlots allows them to be raised in areas and climates where year-round grass isn't plentiful. The result is affordable meat, which is good, but also meat that's far less healthy than pasture-raised, grass-fed beef, which is bad.
A Healthier Way
In Argentina and Uruguay, where almost all the beef produced is grass-fed and pasture-raised, the average annual beef consumption is the highest in the world (about 60% higher than in the US), but there is no indication of proportionally higher levels of heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, or any of the other near epidemic maladies found in the US that are often attributed to the consumption of red meat. Lifestyle factors (mainly more exercise) might explain some of this phenomenon, but healthy beef has to be a big factor.
Experts have attributed health problems in the US to a near total reliance on concentrate-fed protein sources. When cattle, chickens, and pigs are fed diets very different from the ones they evolved to eat, the basic chemistry of their bodies (and the proteins they produce) changes. The proportion of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids changes dramatically in concentrate-fed animals vs. pasture-raised, grass-fed animals. Some other compounds with important health benefits, like alpha linoleic acid, are lost entirely.
Check out our blog for some great studies, reports, and articles that discuss this issue in greater detail.
A Glut of Corn
For decades the US has consistently produced vast surpluses of corn, whose production is dependent on fossil fuels. (see Michael Pollen's book The Omnivore's Dilemma for more details). This all-purpose grain is an indirect component of everything from soft drinks to hot dogs and steaks. The US beef industry has evolved to be entirely dependent on cheap corn and the feedlots where corn-fed cattle are raised. Cheap corn is only possible when there's cheap fossil fuel and those days are numbered.
This system puts an enormous strain on human health and the environment. When beef production shifted from pasture-raised and grass-fed to feedlot-fattened and grain-fed, it shifted from clean and solar-based to dirty and fossil-fueled. At Estancia, we are passionate about leading the market back to healthy beef that's as delicious as it is good for you.
Beef's Bad Rap
Americans have seen and felt the health consequences of consuming unhealthy beef over the last couple of decades. Obesity and heart disease have been blamed in part on over-consumption of beef. It's a reputation that beef doesn't deserve. Beef can be a healthy and delicious source of low-fat protein if it is produced the Estancia way: grass-fed, pasture-raised.