Grass Fed Beef Safety
Grass Fed Beef & Safety - Why is Grass Fed Safer?
Is there a cleaner
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
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:
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),
cereal grain crops in the vegetative
Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must
have continuous access to pasture during the growing
baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other
roughage sources may also be included as acceptable feed
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
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
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
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
Evans, a California ranger who offers excellent insight
into its health benefits, its nutritional properties,
and its positive impact on the environment.
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
your Local Farmer
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.
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- The meat goes to the supermarket, and you can't
see or smell the E. coli bacteria.
- 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).
- 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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
- 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
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.