Red Meat You Can Eat

Tuesday, 06 March 2012 09:00 AM

“Eat less red meat” is a recurring health message but it ignores the fact that all beef is not created equal. That’s a shame because it can leave you feeling as though all beef is off limits. In fact, some types are healthier than others, and knowing which is which makes it a lot easier to enjoy beef without guilt.

The nutritional quality of beef is determined by what cows eat, whether or not they take drugs, and the degree to which they live an active lifestyle. Yes, cows are a lot like people.

Bad Cow Food
What you are about to read isn’t appetizing, but it happens to be common practice.

Most American cows are raised like freakishly huge body builders, the ones that look like a walking testament to steroids. But unlike the body builders, the cows eat a diet that is also designed to make them fat. Prime beef, after all, is prized for its fatty marbling.

Corn is the key food that fattens cows. Most American cows also receive growth hormones to make them bigger and fatter at a faster rate. Those hormones likely have the same effect on people who eat the beef but even if they didn’t, fatter beef contains more unhealthy calories that don’t do a body good.

Corn-fed cows have another problem: They get sick because their bodies aren’t designed to digest corn as well as grasses. To combat the problem, their feed contains antibiotics to prevent disease. The drugs act as another growth promoter and contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans.

In addition, cows raised on traditional industrial farms don’t get much exercise because they’re kept in pens. These tight quarters increase the animals’ body fat and make it easier for disease to spread, creating another reason for antibiotics.

Keep in mind that many countries don’t use the same methods to produce beef. Europe, for example, doesn’t allow hormones to be given to cows. And in the United States, there is a growing demand for healthier options.

Good Cow Food
Cows are designed to eat grass and wander around a pasture, just like the cute ones in cheese commercials. Grass and pasture keep cows healthy without drugs. It takes them longer to mature but they produce a nutritionally superior food.

The advantages of grass-fed beef have been documented by various researchers. A three-year study of beef samples, by the U.S. Agricultural Research Service in collaboration with several universities in the Eastern states, found that compared to corn-fed, grass-fed beef contained:

• Four times as much vitamin E
• Less than half the total fat
• Less than half the saturated fat
• Nearly twice as much healthy omega-3 fat (the type found in fish)
• Nearly twice as much conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), another healthy fat

In animal and test-tube studies, CLA has been found to promote a leaner body, and it is a popular weight-loss supplement. Although the amount of CLA in a portion of grass-fed beef is relatively small, the cumulative effect of this and other healthy fats, combined with less saturated fat and fewer calories, makes the grass-fed meat a better choice for weight loss and overall health.

Taste Challenges
Grass-fed beef isn�t always appreciated by American taste buds. Some people find it too gamey or too tough. And, unlike traditional beef, grass fed varieties don�t all taste the same because they come from different breeds of cows and the grass they eat varies somewhat, depending on farm locations and practices.

Farmers who feed grass to their cows also let the animals roam rather than raising them in pens. This combination of diet and exercise plus lack of hormones and antibiotics to promote growth results in leaner cows. Their muscles aren�t marbled with fat, so there�s no such thing as prime grass-fed beef.

Preparing the meat also plays a big part. Grass-fed beef requires about 30-percent less cooking time, and recipes have to be adjusted.

Bottom line: If a marbled, fatty steak is the only type you like, a grass-fed one is unlikely to please your palate. However, there are other ways to enjoy and benefit from this healthier beef:

� Choose ground grass-fed beef for burgers. To compensate for lack of fat, mix caramelized onions into the meat before grilling.
� Use grass-fed beef in recipes that require slow cooking in liquid, such as stews.
� Use it in recipes that require stir frying or marinating meat.
� If you try it once and don�t like it, experiment with a few different suppliers.

Grass-fed beef costs more than the regular stuff and is not as easy to find in stores, but its popularity is growing. More high-end restaurants are adding it to their menus and some discount superstores are making it available.

If you don�t see grass-fed beef in your neighborhood, you can always buy it from farmers who sell direct to consumers. For a listing of sources, check out Eatwild.com and producers listed at AmericanGrassfed.org.

If you�ve never eaten grass fed beef, it will be a new experience. Consider it a dining adventure.

© HealthDay

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“Eat less red meat” is a recurring health message but it ignores the fact that all beef is not created equal. That’s a shame because it can leave you feeling as though all beef is off limits. In fact, some types are healthier than others, and knowing which is which makes it a lot easier to enjoy be
Tuesday, 06 March 2012 09:00 AM
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