And a side salad – beet and goat cheese, at Tom’s request.
Today’s lesson is all about food quality and how there’s some stuff we just don’t fully understand.
Most cows in the US are fed grass early in their lives as they are raised by private ranchers, but then subsist entirely on a diet of corn, antibiotics, and candy wrappers after being sold to massive agribusiness conglomerates running CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations).
Our cheeseburgers today were made with 100% pastured grass-fed ground beef. This means the cows were raised in a natural setting, walking around grassy fields, eating the diet they were designed for.
Sidebar: Extended Reasoning.In line in front of me at the grocery store recently, a woman was pushing the butcher big-time to get naturally raised beef. The butcher replied that grain-fed is cheaper and just as good. The customer (rightfully) explained that corn is an unnatural diet for cattle, and that cows fed a natural diet are much healthier. Quoting Michael Pollan, she rather righteously proclaimed that “You are what you eat eats too.” At this point, I glanced at her cart to see, to my dismay, frozen pizzas, Doritos, and loaves of bread. It occurred to me that while she recognized that animals are much healthier eating a natural diet, she hadn’t yet realized that the same is true for human animals.
Early in my health blogging career (if you can call it that), I made the mistake of reductionism in an analysis of the constituents of grass-fed beef. I had the hubris to think that I could simply compare the quantities of nutrients in grass-fed and grain-fed beef to determine the health benefits of grass-fed. Turns out I was wrong (big surprise). Shortly after (serendipitous), a great study was sent in by a reader comparing grass-fed and grain-fed meat. That same day, another blog covered the study results.
For those of you too busy to link over, here are the bullet points.
- Healthy (read: asymptomatic) volunteers were fed lamb and beef from grass-fed or grain-finished animals (meaning they were grain-fed for at least the last six weeks of their lives).
- The group eating grass-fed meat saw improvements in n3:n6 ratio in a blood panel. (Remember from yesterday this means improved inflammatory state).
- These improvements came with just four weeks of eating quality meat.
As I wrote at the time:
The really interesting thing here is that consumption of grass-fed beef seems to have positive effects greater than those one would expect from simply looking at the sum of its parts.
The mistake I made is that whole, real food is more than just a collection of ingredients. This is an example of real food demonstrating a synergistic, health-promoting effect.
I should note that while grass-fed beef is a better choice than grain-fed, grain-fed beef is still a better choice than a bagel. No fair saying stuff like, “grass-fed beef is too expensive, I’ll just eat pie instead.” Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.