I like to feed my bones red meat especially during the winter months and the transitional months of spring when my body craves heartier fare.
Now, you don't have to have meat for healthy bones. But if you're a person like me who feels more energetic eating some meat, it's a good choice.
Red meat is a great source of bone-building protein. That’s what makes your bones flexible so they bend instead of breaking. Adults need about 50 grams of protein a day, with women needing slightly less and men needing slightly more. Just 4 ounces of red meat has about 28 grams of protein.
I avoid industrial beef from animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). These factory farms are known for their cruelty to animals. They feed cattle corn that makes them sick, then pump them full of antibiotics and hormones. The animals are crowded together, standing in their own excrement, and that leads to more sickness. The final product has a high risk of deadly E. coli bacteria and mad cow disease.
In addition, massive pollution from tons of manure spreads to surrounding areas. Contaminated runoff makes its way into rivers. There are now dead zones at the mouths of many rivers from the toxic pollutants, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides spewing from these operations.
Factory farms are bad for animals, for the land and for the environment. In fact, I wouldn’t eat meat at all if that were the only meat on the market.
Fortunately, we have a choice. We can choose to buy beef from animals fed grass on open pastures.
Compared to meat from factory farms, grass-fed beef has less total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories. It also has more vitamin E, beta-carotene and vitamin C.
But Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the best reasons to eat grass-fed beef. Omega-3s are the most heart-healthy and brain-healthy fats you can eat. Meat from grass-fed animals has two to four times more Omega-3s than meat from animals fed grain.
Grain-fed beef, on the other hand, is high in Omega-6 fats. They’re also necessary for good health but Omega-6s are stiffer, and promote blood clotting and inflammation. And as Dr. Oz would tell you, inflammation is the root of all chronic disease.
A healthy balance of Omega-3s to Omega-6s is 1:1, equal amounts of each. Unfortunately, the average American consumes 40 times more Omega-6s than Omega-3s.
That imbalance has led to our epidemic of chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis and depression.
One reason is our meat supply. When you feed cows grass, their meat contains more Omega 3s. But when you feed them corn and soy their meat contains more Omega-6s. In fact, grain-fed has 10xs more Omega 6s than Omega-3s. But grass-fed/grass finished comes very close to the perfect 1:1 ratio for human health.
When you're buying beef look for "100% grass-fed". You'll see labels that say "grass-fed" but so what? The animals got some grass. What else did they get? Unless you insist on 100% grass-fed that animal also ate some grain.
You see, many producers feed their cattle on grass until they're almost ready for slaughter. Then they "finish" the cattle on grain for several weeks or months to fatten them up quickly. But as soon as the animals are fed any grain at all, their ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 begins to get out of whack.
If you want grass-finished beef, you have to ask for it. Get to know your farmer or your butcher and don't be afraid to ask questions. After learning about the omega3 to 6 ration, my private client shared her using Niman Ranch's beef and was now concerned if their beef is grass-finished. Their website "at a glance" gives the appearance the cattle are grass fed/grass finished. However, from their website:
"Niman Ranch Beef are raised on pasture and finished on grain." Niman's response response to my question about grains and GMO grains finished:
"Our cattle are pasture raised on grass but are finished on a vegetarian diet that does include some grain. Although many of our ranchers do not use GMO grains in the feed there are some who do, we do not segregate the animals based on this criteria before processing."
Here's a family owned cattle ranch that has returned to traditional practices: grass fed - grass finished, tending to the soil, the grass and the cattle. And they ship! Find them here: Beyond Organic Grass Fed Beef.
Since I'm all about Our Bones, here's a side benefit from shopping at Beyond Organic:
We also donate Beef Bones to the Wellness Kitchen in Templeton where they make Healing Stock for cancer patients. Patients going through chemo can sign up for meal programs and the bone stock. Local Drs. have "adopted" a few patients that cannot afford it and the Wellness Kitchen has a program that allows them to receive the healthy food every week (without cost to the patients that qualify).
If you eat meat, please don't patronize factory farms. Every time we open our wallets, we cast a vote for the food we want farmers to produce.
Grass-fed beef is definitely going to cost more than commercial CAFO beef. But we have to weigh the price at checkout against the costs to our health and the environment.
Here's my personal tip: eat your grass fed/grass finished beef as a condiment surrounded by your delicious veggies.
My cattle farmers (they don't ship...yet), Jeanmarie Mitchell. Her farm is in Stockton, NJ, supplies beef for my healthy bones cooking classes and many of the fine restaurants in the Bucks Co, PA area. www.tullamorefarms.com
Tullamore Farms is a small, family-run enterprise dedicated to providing the Delaware Valley with the finest ethically and sustainably raised food products while focusing on responsible, progressive stewardship of land and livestock. We strive to rekindle the harmonious connection between farmer, animal, and customer.
It’s up to us as consumers to create a food system that works for animals, the environment, us and our bones.
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From my delicious bones to yours,