Guest Post by Bastyr Nutrition Studies Student Amber Lagerwey

Aside from ethical and religious reasons, there appear to be many reasons these days to not eat animal products, particularly when it comes to health. The associations between many chronic diseases are being studied intensively, particularly regarding red meat as a main player in the increased rates of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in the United States.  Why wouldn’t we be moved to exclude it, or all animal products, from our diet in the name of health? Yet, animals have nourished the world’s inhabitants for thousands of years. How is it that animals which once provided for our ancestors are now killing us?

The animals our ancestors consumed are drastically different than what we Americans conventionally consume today.  Our ancestors hunted wild game or raised livestock that grazed on their natural grasses and insects. Grass, plants, sun and air, this is what our ancestors consumed when they ate meat, eggs, or dairy. Today, to keep up with consumer demand while cutting costs, our animals are no longer free roaming but are instead raised in Concentrated Feeding Operations. In these CFO’s, our future food is crammed into unnaturally tight indoor spaces and are fed a diet predominately consisting of processed corn, which accounts for 90% of total feed grain production and use. This corn is what helps to deliver that delicious marbled flavor that carnivores love so much. However, these conditions are so unnatural that over 80% of antibiotics produced in the United States are used for livestock as a requirement to keep the animals from dying before reaching slaughter weight. Hormones help speed the addition of bulk, allowing conventionally raised cattle to go to market a full year earlier than pastured. What are we consuming when we eat our “game”, their eggs, or drink their milk? Corn, antibiotics, and illness.

In contrast to conventional livestock, those pasture raised on small organic farms are found to have very different nutritional profiles.  Not only is pastured meat lower in cholesterol and fat, it is also higher in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, fat soluble vitamins A and E, as well as the cancer fighting antioxidants glutathione and superoxide dismutase. However, the developed taste of Americans make the palpability of grass-fed meat unappealing to most. Pastured dairy cows give milk that is rich in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a fatty acid that is known for its anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.  In fact, exclusively grass fed milk contains 3 to 5 times more CLA than grain fed livestock. Not surprisingly, those evil eggs become lower in cholesterol and higher in vitamins A, E, and D, and omega-3 fatty acids when pastured.  Organic farms also offer the benefit of being 100% antibiotic and hormone free.

With all the benefits found in consuming organic pastured animal sources, is it really wise to demonize the food but not our food system? When it comes to our health, we should be mindful that we will only reap what we sow.

  

1.) Mcafee, A. J., and E. M. Mcsorley. “Red Meat from Animals Offered a Grass Diet Increases Plasma and Platelet N-3 PUFA in Healthy Consumers.” British Journal of Nutrition 105.01 (2011): 80-89. Web.

 http://search.proquest.com/docview/840584669?accountid=1173

 

2.) Fagan, Zara. “Grass Fed Beef Nutrition Information versus Grain Fed Beef.” Sharing the Science of Natural Health. Zara Fagen, PhD, ND, 10 Jan. 2012. Web.

http://www.scienceofnaturalhealth.com/grass-fed-beef-nutrition.html

 

3.) Eat Wild: Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Products

http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm

 

4.) Livestrong: Nutrition of Grass-Fed Beef vs. Corn-Fed Beef

http://www.livestrong.com/article/529194-nutrition-of-grass-fed-beef-vs-corn-fed-beef/

 

5.) PCC Pastured Eggs

http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/nutrition/ask/pastured_eggs.html

 

6.) Cooking Light: Grass-Fed Beef versus Grain-Fed Beef

http://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/resources/grass-fed-beef-grain-fed-beef-00412000070712/

 

7.) What is CLA?

http://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Conjugated-Linoleic-Acid.aspx