For the past twenty years or so, we have raised our own beef. In the early days – even as late as about 2006, the final days to “finish” a beef included lots of corn. Yeah boy, get that good marbling in those steaks. It wasn't until I read an article about the healthier ways to raise beef that our family changed it's ways.
I'll never forget the day….I looked at my husband and said, “We will never finish our beef with grain ever again!”. The mystifying look was legendary – followed with a “huh???”
Here is what I learned that day, and it has changed my life.
If cows are raised eating their normal diet of grass, the meat produced will have the right balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats. However, if cows are fed grain, the omega-3 content is lost. The key with omega-3 is not just digesting enough of it, but getting the right ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s. If there are too many 6s and not enough 3s, you'll develop many of the problems victims of modern food production face today – inflammation, weight gain, depression and disease.
So, what does that all mean? Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that play an important part in growth and metabolism. They can't be synthesized by the human body, so they have to come from our diet. Omega 3s reduce inflammation, lower the amount of serum cholesterol and triglycerides, prevent excess clotting and reduce the risk of cancer. While both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are important individually, they also work in tandem and the ratio is critical.
So, here was the clincher for me…..grainfed beef have a ratio of 20:1 of Omega 6 to Omega 3. Grassfed/grass finished beef have a 4:1 ratio – the ratio your body needs!
Cattle were designed to eat grass, which means that they process it and maintain a healthy digestive system. Feedlot cattle are finished with a grain diet, mainly corn and soy, which makes for a quick weight gain and a higher percentage of fat in the tissues.
Grainfed cattle also receive hormones in their diet, again to make them grow fast and gain weight quickly. This also results in a higher fat content in the muscle. Pasture-raised cattle are not given artificial hormones and so are naturally more lean – the overall total fat content of pasture-raised cattle is usually about 25 percent lower than the grainfed beef.
Now, I am not here to blast feed lots – I am only saying that for me and my family, this is our way of life. Raising cattle naturally, no antiobiotics, no hormones, no grain. Nothing but good forages that they were designed to eat!