Why Does What a Cow Eat Matter?

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Growing up, our family would pack up every spring break and head to the mountains to go skiing. We would leave early in the morning from the north Texas suburb outside of Dallas where we lived and drive to Amarillo – a town in the Texas panhandle.

Outside of Amarillo – which happens to be the home of the free 72 ounce steak (if you can somehow manage to eat the entire thing with all the sides in the matter of an hour) – there was always the unmistakable, pungent odor of concentrated animal feed operations, or CAFOs (in English: feedlots).

Much study has gone into the effect of the way we farm cattle in this country, and few of the results seem to be positive. Many have made the claim that keeping cows in feedlots is an inhumane activity. Cows don’t necessarily mind the feedlots; they are herd animals and like the close proximity of other cows. However, feedlots are a disaster, ecologically speaking, and the conditions are less than optimal for the cattle, from a health perspective. Because of the risk of disease, cows are routinely given antibiotics. It is also in this setting that they are fed a diet rich in corn.

Biologically speaking, this is probably the biggest problem with feedlots. Cows belong to a subset of animals called ruminants. Ruminants’ stomachs are specifically equipped to digest grass. Subsequently, this is the optimal diet for ruminants. This is the diet their bodies are designed to run on.

Imagine if you only ate candy for weeks on end. How would you likely feel? What would the implications on your health be? On your blood sugar? On your teeth? Probably not terribly good. This is because your body isn’t equipped to optimally run on candy. This is a good way to think about how cows are fed; if a cow is fed a diet that isn’t its optimal diet, it will not achieve optimal health. And unhealthy animals will not yield healthy meat.

From a biological perspective, cows fed grass have a much higher proportion of omega 3 fat to omega 6 fat. Everyone knows the benefits of omega 3, but not everyone knows that a diet rich in omega 6 in relation to omega 3 promotes inflammation in the body. Grass fed cows also have a higher amount of beta carotene in their fat; their fat will often appear orange in color. Their fat and their meat will also be higher in vitamins and trace minerals than conventionally grown beef.

Furthermore, cows given antibiotics and exposed to mycotoxins store those poisons in their meat, passing them down the food chain.

Red meat has been implicated in a number of diseases; wouldn’t it be interesting to find out that the way we raise our meat – not the meat, itself – is responsible for our ill health?

While on Phase 1 or 2, it is important to try to eat grass fed beef instead of conventionally raised beef as often as possible.

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