This past Sunday morning, at a local farmers market, we listened to Gerry Shudde of Shudde Ranch talking about grass-fed beef.
While many people think that cattle are fed grass, this hasn’t been true with conventional beef growing for many years. Instead, ranchers send their animals to feedlots where they are fattened on grain, soy and other supplements. They are also given hormones and other growth-promoting additives in order to ‘fatten’ them up faster. And, because of the close quarters and the diet they are fed, it is necessary to feed them antibiotics.
Beginning in the late 1990s, more and more ranchers stopped sending their animals to feedlots. Instead, they’re allowed to forage on their native diet – grasses in the pasture. Animals are allowed to grow at their normal pace, without the ‘benefit’ of hormones or other growth-promoting additives. This results in less stress for the animals and eliminates the need for antibiotics.
Gerry Shudde talked at length about the benefits of grass-fed & grass-finished beef. Here are some of the benefits that he mentioned:
- It’s better for the animals. Cows are ruminants who are supposed to eat grass; this is how they were created and is their best energy source. The animals are not fed growth hormones or antibiotics. Also, these cows are not subject to crowded, stressful feedlot conditions.
- It’s better for the environment. As they graze, the cattle stir up the soil and keep the cycle going. Sort of a self-fertilization process that ensures the grass is always nutrient-dense. As well, the grass consumes and stores carbon in its roots, making this a better system for the environment.
- It has a higher nutritional value than conventional grain-fed beef.The beef is higher in B vitamins, zinc, beta carotene and minerals. It’s also high in Vitamin E which helps keep it fresh longer.
- It is higher in Omega-3 fatty acids.
- It is higher in Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) – Why care about CLAs, you ask? I first learned about them years ago because they are known to help control body fat composition. But that’s just part of it. Research shows that CLAs help us in many ways:
- Fighting cancer
- Reducing blood pressure, cholesterol & triglycerides
- Fighting cardiovascular disease
- Fighting osteoporosis
- Reducing inflammation and helping to fight off infection
- Improving insulin’s ability to reduce circulating glucose
- It is generally lower in calories, fat and cholesterol and cooks faster than conventional beef.
- It has a better flavor than grain-fed beef.
Don’t confuse organic beef with grass-fed beef. The organic label tells you that the food is free of pesticide residues, synthetic hormones, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and other additives. However, organically raised animal products can still be sent to conventional feedlots where they will be fed grain to fatten them up.
Gerry Shudde did a wonderful job of educating us on the importance of grass-fed beef. He also said that they give tours of their ranch, although he did suggest that you wait for cooler weather. He said they like to give tours to Home School groups. Contact him through his website for more information.
Photo Courtesy peagreengirl via Flickr