Grass Fed Beef Safety


Grass Fed Beef & Safety - Why is Grass Fed Safer?

Is there a cleaner meat?

You probably don't want to think about it, but picture what cattle look like. Ok, now picture a hundred or so grain fed cattle on the size of a basketball field. They are standing outside in their feedlot.  What do you see? I bet you are imagining right:  the cattle are standing hoof-deep in manure and they are miserable.

It is pretty safe to say that cleaner meat is safer meat. So, now imagine pasture grazing cattle. What do you imagine now? They are walking around in grass, not cramped into a feed lot. You probably are imagining them being a lot cleaner than the grain fed cattle. You would be right!

The industrialized meat industry tries hard to provide clean and safe meat for customers, and they usually do an excellent job doing this. But accidents do happen, and the cleaner the cows go into the slaughterhouse, the safer their meat is going to be.



Usually, food products carry labels that are supposed to reveal much about them but are not enforceable to protect its parent company against lawsuits.

When buying meat, look out for the following misleading labels:

All natural: This is supposed to mean that synthetic or artificial products are not used throughout the meat production process. Due to the lack of oversight anyone can call their product an "all natural" product.

Cool (Country of Origin Labeling): The USDA regulates this label that simply states where meat was raised, slaughtered, and prepared for consumption.

Grass Fed: A very popular label that means animals were fed grass. USDA defines the label "grass fed" to include animals who also eat grain or who are raised in a smaller setting (not necessarily the outdoors) as long as they can reach pasture. Animals that live inside of a facility with a small opening leading to an outdoor area with grass can fall under the "grass fed" category which is not very telling at all.

Free Range: This applies to animals that have access to the outdoors. The USDA does not overlook this term except for chickens raised for consumption. Instead of "free range", look for "pasture-raised" which is a much more insightful term into the condition of the animal.

Organic: The USDA and third parties do verify "organic" claims on all products. It basically means that livestock were not treated with steroids or other enhancers and were given pesticide-free foods.

Vegetarian Fed: This term means a diet based on vegetables and is not an indicator of an animal raised in a pasture or under optimal conditions.

Air Chilled: Refers to how living animals are treated, particularly in between slaughter and buy. The meat could be packaged in many ways and could be wet, dry aged, or even frozen.

Humanely Raised: This term is given after an extensive audit by the Animal Welfare Association and other groups to monitor their care. To use this term, animals have to live in under crowded areas without castration, weaning, or limiting animals to non-pastured areas.

Biodynamic: This is a pre-organic standard that refers to a farm that can guarantee the meat comes from a self-sustaining system. Refers to the meat treating operation as an interrelated whole for this purpose.

Local: Animals have to have been raised within 20 miles. A third party does not approve this label.

These labels are often unfounded and misleading and do nothing but confuse customers about what they are buying. On the flip side, learning what you are buying is easy. Lets discuss the grass-fed label defined above and understanding what to look out for when buying wholesome grass fed meats.

All About the Grass Fed Label (USDA)

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) identified new rules on the usage of the grass-fed label in November 2007. According to their marketing claim standard:

Grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning.

The diet shall be derived solely from forage consisting of grass (annual and perennial), forbs (e.g., legumes, Brassica), browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state.
Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.

Hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources may also be included as acceptable feed sources.

Routine mineral and vitamin supplementation may also be included in the feeding regimen. If incidental supplementation occurs due to inadvertent exposure to non-forage feedstuffs or to ensure the animal’s well being at all times during adverse environmental or physical conditions, the producer must fully document (e.g., receipts, ingredients, and tear tags) the supplementation that occurs including the amount, the frequency, and the supplements provided.

At first glance, the grass fed label appears to be the holy grail of labels. Who wouldn’t want to eat meat from an animal with grass as his ONLY diet entire life? This comes with one caveat. Grass fed standards are voluntary. If you actually wanted to know if your product is grass fed, you would also have to look for the USDA Process Verified Label.

Another problem with the grass fed standard is that the growing season is interpreted differently between the ranching stations. Animals could be kept indoors for a long time and off the pasture even when grass is growing. Plus, this label does not mean antibiotics and hormones are not being used to feed animals. All in all, the grass fed label is not a guarantee of organic, grass fed meat.

As with all things, labels are certifications that have to be purchased by farmers from the USDA. The USDA regulation system requires farmers to pay for expensive certification fees, so many small farmers that are using exceptional methods of raising livestock cannot afford the USDA grass fed label.

Grass Fed Meat - Why is it a Big Deal?

Grass fed meat blows grain fed beef out of the water. Grass fed meat should take precedence over organic, since most grass fed beef is also considered organic. Grass fed meat comes from a healthier ecosystem and is indicative of animals raised humanely. Plus, its health benefits are unlimited. Grass fed beer is less fatty than regular beef and is loaded with high amounts of conjugated linoleic acid, which is a fatty acid. Grass fed animals are known to have up to five times the amount of CLA than grain fed animals.

CLA has been touted all over the news for its excellent health benefits. Among them are cancer and diabetes fighting properties, weight loss, an increase in metabolism (essential for normal thyroid function), safe cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and a stronger immune system. An excellent resource to learn about grass fed beef is the article "Better Beef" by Dave Evans, a California ranger who offers excellent insight into its health benefits, its nutritional properties, and its positive impact on the environment.

Remember that grass fed meat is superior to certified organic meat because most organic beef is given organic corn to eat, which is associated with a lot of the health problems beef is known for. Organic, grass fed beef is the way to go.

Consult with your Local Farmer

Donīt worry about the certified grass fed label on grass fed meat to dictate whether or not you are receiving health benefits from the beef you eat. To avoid labeling confusion, consult with a local farmer (farmers markets are an excellent resource) or agriculture programs in your area to find out which products are raised in pasture without being fed antibiotics or hormones.

Meat Safety Tips:

You are still trying to convince yourself that your ordinary meat from any supermarket is safe for you and your family to eat, right? No one can really say for sure if the three pounds of roast beef you have sitting in the refrigerator are going to make you sick.

Regardless of whether you have natural and delicious grass fed beef or ordinary super market beef sausage to cook, remember these tips:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw or undercooked meat.
  • Make sure to cook your meat long enough (steaks that are still bleeding put you at risk).
  • Don't forget to use a meat thermometer on your meats to ensure that they are cooked at a high enough temperature to kill bacteria.
  • Don't leave your meat out on the counter to defrost.
  • Remember, if you aren't going to use it within a day or two, freeze the uncooked meat now.
  • Taste testing meat that was left out overnight (or longer for two hours) to see if it has gone bad yet is a bad idea. Don't risk getting sick, just throw it out.
  • Wash all knives and cutting boards with a bleach and water solution after cutting raw meat and before cutting anything else.



By following these tips, you can help reduce the amount of food borne illness from your meats, and hopefully keep your family safe.

Does My Meat Have E. Coli? Yes, it does.

This isn't meant to scare you, but your meat from the supermarket has E. coli  (Escherichia coli). In fact, all meat does. There are thousands of E. coli bacteria in your intestines right now. Don't worry, they usually aren't harmful to you.

Let's talk about the steps of E. coli contamination and find out how it can be bad for you.

  1. Your body naturally has E. coli in it. It helps keep you alive, and you help keep it alive. Don't worry about this type of E. coli, because it isn't going to kill you.
  2. Beef animals also have E. coli in their stomachs. It's a different strain, and it isn't safe for humans. When an animal is slaughtered, the E. coli in its stomach and intestines is often mixed in with the meat during the meat processing.
  3. The meat goes to the supermarket, and you can't see or smell the E. coli bacteria.
  4. Here is where you have to be careful. If you don't cook your meat to a high enough temperature for long enough, the E. coli bacteria won't be killed off. You risk getting very sick (and if you are elderly, a small child or have a compromised immune system, you risk very serious illness and a chance of dying).
  5. Your body usually can naturally fight off a few of the bad E. coli bacteria if they get into your system, and you won't even notice they were there. If the meat contains many of the bad E. coli bacteria, you won't be so lucky.

How do I know if I have E. coli?

E. coli is not a pretty illness to have. It is estimated that every year in the United States alone, 70,000 people become ill and 60 of those will die from dangerous strains of E. coli bacteria. If you get a nasty strain of the E. coli bacteria, you may confuse it with the flu or other illness. Here are some of the symptoms of E. coli. You may experience some or all of the following:

  • Stomach cramps.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Fever..

These symptoms may last from 5 to 10 days. Sometimes however there are some serious complications that arise. Kidney failure and severe dehydration can result if you don't take care of yourself and get medical attention.

How does Grass Fed Beef Reduce the Risk of E. coli?

Grass fed beef naturally contains less of the bad E. coli bacteria. Why? Because their diet is different from typical grain raised cattle. Grain raised cattle are raised on a pretty unnatural and unhealthy diet of grains, proteins and garbage. Their stomachs have to produce a lot more acids to break down these foods than cattle raised on grass or hay.

We already know that E. coli lives naturally in the stomach and intestines, so this shouldn't be a problem, right? Well, it does become a problem when the extra stomach acids come along. The E. coli in cattle like to live in a neutral pH environment, so at first the acid kills the E. coli, but soon the bacteria gets smarter, and start to become resistant to the stomach acids. In other words, the surviving bacteria mutate and become acid loving. This will soon become the dangerous type of E. coli, because if we ingest this type of bacteria, it won't be killed off by our stomach acids.

The healthy diet of natural American grass fed cattle ensures that nature stays in check, and that the E. coli bacteria don't turn into a dangerous strain. There is always going to be bacteria in meat, because bacteria help to keep the animal healthy. The difference is do you want bacteria in your meat that is already resistant to a cattle's stomach acids or do you want them to be natural and unchanged?

Why so much E. coli?

Why are there so much more E. coli bacteria in grain fed cattle? Because there are E. coli on the animal when they come into the slaughter house. Not only is it in their intestines, but it is also on the outside of their body. Grain fed animals stand in manure all day long in close quarters, and when the go to the slaughter house they are not as clean as grass fed or pasture raised beef animals. Grass fed beef cattle are very clean compared to grain fed animals, because they have more room to roam, and don't have to stand in manure all day.

E. coli is not the only one… the Campylobacter bacteria

There are other dangers of eating grain fed beef. One of these dangers is a serious bacteria: campylobacter.

  • 58% of cattle living on the feedlot carried campylobacter, while only 2% of pasture raised beef animals had it.
  • Like E. coli, campylobacter is a food borne disease, and can be prevented by cooking the meat to a hot enough temperature.
  • The symptoms begin two to ten days after eating the infected meat.
  • Symptoms include nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, headache, and muscle pain.

If you want to protect your intestinal tract from E. Coli and other harmful organisms we recommend a powerful full-spectrum probiotic called Fundamental Probiotic.


The Hidden Cost

There is no question, that grass fed beef is a safer alternative. The choice is yours. It seems more expensive, but there are hidden costs associated with not eating pasture raised meats. These costs include poor health, environmental damage, higher cost of oil, corn and health care.


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