Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Products
Meat, eggs, and dairy products from pastured animals are
ideal for your health. Compared with commercial products, they offer you more "good" fats,
and fewer "bad" fats. They are richer in antioxidants; including
vitamins E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Furthermore, they do not contain
traces of added hormones, antibiotics or other drugs.
Below is a summary of these important benefits. Following
the summary is a list of news bulletins that provide additional reasons for
finding a local provider of grass-fed food.
of Important Health Benefits of Grassfed Meats, Eggs and Dairy
Lower in Fat and Calories. There are
a number of nutritional differences between the meat of pasture-raised
and feedlot-raised animals. To begin with, meat from grass-fed cattle,
sheep, and bison is lower in total fat. If the meat is very lean, it
can have one third as much fat as a similar cut from a grain-fed animal.
In fact, as you can see by the graph below, grass-fed beef can have
the same amount of fat as skinless chicken breast, wild deer, or elk.
Research shows that lean beef actually lowers your "bad"
LDL cholesterol levels.
J. Animal Sci 80(5):1202-11.
from grass-fed animals is lower in fat than meat from grain-fed animals,
it is also lower in calories. (Fat has 9 calories per gram, compared
with only 4 calories for protein and carbohydrates. The greater the
fat content, the greater the number of calories.) As an example, a
6-ounce steak from a grass-finished steer can have 100 fewer calories
than a 6-ounce steak from a grain-fed steer. If you eat a typical amount
of beef (66.5 pounds a year), switching to lean grassfed beef will
save you 17,733 calories a year—without requiring any willpower
or change in your eating habits. If everything else in your diet remains
constant, you'll lose about six pounds a year. If all Americans switched
to grassfed meat, our national epidemic of obesity might diminish.
In the past few
years, producers of grass-fed beef have been looking for ways to increase
the amount of marbling in the meat so that consumers will have a more
familiar product. But even these fatter cuts of grass-fed beef are
lower in fat and calories than beef from grain-fed cattle.
Extra Omega-3s. Meat
from grass-fed animals has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids
than meat from grain- fed animals. Omega-3s are called "good fats"
because they play a vital role in every cell and system in your body.
For example, of all the fats, they are the most heart-friendly. People
who have ample amounts of omega-3s in their diet are less likely to have
high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat. Remarkably, they are 50
percent less likely to suffer a heart attack. Omega-3s
are essential for your brain as well. People with a diet rich in omega-3s
are less likely to suffer from depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit
disorder (hyperactivity), or Alzheimer's disease.
Another benefit of omega-3s is that
they may reduce your risk of cancer. In animal studies, these essential
fats have slowed the growth of a wide array of cancers and also kept
them from spreading. Although the human research
is in its infancy, researchers have shown that omega-3s can slow or even
reverse the extreme weight loss that accompanies advanced cancer and
also hasten recovery from surgery.[6,7]
Omega-3s are most abundant in seafood
and certain nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds and walnuts, but they are
also found in animals raised on pasture. The reason is simple. Omega-3s
are formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves and algae. Sixty percent
of the fatty acids in grass are omega-3s. When cattle are taken off omega-3
rich grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on omega-3 poor grain,
they begin losing their store of this beneficial fat. Each day that an
animal spends in the feedlot, its supply of omega-3s is diminished.
The graph below illustrates this steady decline.
Data from: J Animal Sci (1993)
When chickens are housed indoors and
deprived of greens, their meat and eggs also become artificially low
in omega-3s. Eggs from pastured hens can contain as much as 10 times
more omega-3s than eggs from factory hens.
It has been estimated that only 40 percent
of Americans consume an adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids. Twenty
percent have blood levels so low that they cannot be detected.
Switching to the meat, milk, and dairy products of grass-fed animals
is one way to restore this vital nutrient to your diet.
The CLA Bonus. Meat
and dairy products from grass-fed ruminants are the richest known source
of another type of good fat called "conjugated
linoleic acid" or CLA. When ruminants are raised on fresh pasture
alone, their products contain from three to five times more CLA than
products from animals fed conventional diets. (A
steak from the most marbled grass-fed animals will have the most CLA
,as much of the CLA is stored in fat cells.)
CLA may be one of our most potent defenses
against cancer. In laboratory animals, a very small percentage of CLA—a
mere 0.1 percent of total calories—greatly reduced tumor growth.
 There is new evidence that CLA may also reduce
cancer risk in humans. In a Finnish study, women who had the highest
levels of CLA in their diet, had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer
than those with the lowest levels. Switching from grain-fed to grassfed
meat and dairy products places women in this lowest risk category.13
Researcher Tilak Dhiman from Utah State University estimates that you
may be able to lower your risk of cancer simply by eating the following
grassfed products each day: one glass of whole milk, one ounce of cheese,
and one serving of meat. You would have to eat five times that amount
of grain-fed meat and dairy products to get the same level of protection.
Vitamin E. In addition
to being higher in omega-3s and CLA, meat from grassfed animals is also
higher in vitamin E. The graph below shows vitamin E levels in meat from:
1) feedlot cattle, 2) feedlot cattle given high doses of synthetic vitamin
E (1,000 IU per day), and 3) cattle raised on fresh pasture with no added
supplements. The meat from the pastured cattle is four times higher in
vitamin E than the meat from the feedlot cattle and, interestingly, almost
twice as high as the meat from the feedlot cattle given vitamin E supplements. [14#]
In humans, vitamin E is linked with a lower risk of heart disease and
cancer. This potent antioxidant may also have anti-aging properties.
Most Americans are deficient in vitamin E.
Data from: Smith, G.C. "Dietary
supplementation of vitamin E to cattle to improve shelf life and case
life of beef for domestic and international markets."
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1171
here to read Super Healthy Milk, an article about the health
benefits of dairy products from grass-fed animals.
Summary References— See
bottom of page
Nearly half of US meat and poultry likely contaminated
Almost half the meat and poultry sold in the US is likely
to be contaminated by highly dangerous bacteria, according to research published
this month (April 2011) in the scientific journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The study estimates that 47 percent of the meat and poultry
on US supermarket shelves contains the bacteria staphylococcus aureus ("Staph").
It is not, however, among the four bacteria—Salmonella, Campylobacter,
E. coli, and Enterococcus—routinely tested in meat by the
The researchers tested 136 samples from 80 brands of beef,
pork, chicken and turkey, purchased from 26 grocery stores in five major US
cities. DNA tests from staph-infected samples suggest that the farm animals
themselves were the major source of contamination. "Densely-stocked industrial
farms, where food animals are steadily fed low doses of antibiotics... [are]
ideal breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria that move from animals to
humans," according to the report.
The bacteria is not only linked to a number of human diseases,
but is also resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics. Lance B. Price,
Ph. D., senior author of the study, stated that “The fact that drug-resistant
S. aureus was so prevalent, and likely came from the food animals themselves,
is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal
"Antibiotics are the most important drugs that we
have to treat Staph infections; but when Staph are resistant to three, four,
five or even nine different antibiotics -- like we saw in this study -- that
leaves physicians few options," Price said. Click
here to read more
Grass-fed meats improve fat levels
Eating moderate amounts of grass-fed meat for only 4 weeks
will give you healthier levels of essential fats, according to a 2011 study
in the British Journal of Nutrition.
The British research showed that healthy volunteers who
ate grass-fed meat increased their blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and
decreased their level of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. These changes
are linked with a lower risk of a host of disorders, including cancer, cardiovascular
disease, depression, and inflammatory disease.
Interestingly, volunteers who consumed conventional, grain-fed
meat ended up with lower levels of omega-3s and higher levels
of omega-6s than they had at the beginning of the study, suggesting that eating
conventional meat had been detrimental to their health.
British Journal of Nutrition (2011) Red meat from
animals offered a grass diet increases plasma and platelet N-3 PUFA in healthy
consumers. Volume 105, pages 80-89.
ALA keeps breast cancer away
The meat and dairy products of animals raised on pasture
are higher in omega-3s than animals raised in factory farms. The most abundant
omega-3 in pastured products is called “alpha-linolenic acid” or
ALA. A study of breast cancer survivors revealed that the women with
the most ALA in their tissues—and therefore the most ALA in their diets—were
one fourth as likely to have their cancers return as women with the least amount.
Most women who die from breast cancer die from a tumor that has metastasized,
not from the original tumor. This is yet another reason to eat cheese, milk,
and meat from pastured animals.
British Journal of Cancer, 1994. Volume 70 pages
How much arsenic did you eat for Thanksgiving?
Since the 1960s, large-scale poultry producers have added
arsenic to their poultry feed. Although inorganic arsenic is a toxin, small
amounts speed the growth of the birds, make their breast meat pinker, and kill
certain bacteria. Is this practice harmful for humans? Chronic exposure to
high levels of arsenic has been linked with cancer, heart disease, diabetes
and a decline in brain function. But as long as poultry meat has fewer than
0.5 parts of arsenic per million, the USDA has decreed that it is safe to eat.
That ruling, set in the 1950s, must be revised. Within
the past few years, studies show that arsenic is a more potent cancer promoter
than first believed. It has to do with its effect on blood vessels. The reason
that arsenic makes white meat pinker is that it increases the growth of blood
vessels in the meat. The more blood, the pinker the color. That process, called “angiogenesis” also
plays a key role in cancer promotion. Cancer cells cannot speed up their growth
without the creation of new blood vessels to fuel them with nutrients. Arsenic
does the trick, according to a study published in the journal Environmental
Health Perspectives. (Citation below.)
The European Union banned the use of arsenic in poultry
production in 1999. Several large U.S. producers have stopped the practice
on their own, including Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms. Arsenic should be banned
in all animal feed. Organic poultry and the poultry raised by Eatwild
Producers are free of arsenic and other potentially harmful chemicals.
Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 116, number 4,
“Omega-6 is like a fat producing bomb...”
So said French researcher Gerard Ailhaud,
commenting on the results of a new study showing that mice
fed the amount of omega-6 fatty acids present in the modern western diet grow
fatter and fatter with each succeeding generation. In the picture shown, the
mouse on the left was raised on the high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and
low levels of omega-3 fatty acids typical of the American diet. In addition
to being grossly overweight, it has the warning signs of diabetes. The healthy
mouse on the right was raised on standard mouse chow. The two mice got equal
amounts of exercise. The mice are the fourth generation to be raised on the
two types of diet.
Omega-6 fatty acids are essential for health, but the amount
consumed by most Americans increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, inflammatory
diseases, and cancer. Omega-6s are most abundant in vegetable oils such as
corn oil, safflower oil, and cottonseed oils. (Olive oil is low in omega- 6
fatty acids.) Few people realize that grain-fed animals are also a major source
of omega-6s. Meat and dairy products from animals fed a high-grain diet, which
is the typical feedlot diet, have up to ten times more omega-6s than products
from animals raised on their natural diet of pasture.
This study suggests that if we switch to food with a healthy
balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, we will be leaner and healthier,
and so will our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
Massiera, F; Barbry, P; Guesnet, P; Joly,
A; Luquet, S; Brest,, CM; Mohsen-Kanson, T; Amri, E and G. Ailhaud. A
Western-like fat diet is sufficient to induce a gradual enhancement in fat
mass over generations. Journal of Lipid Research. August 2010. Volume
51, pages 2352-2361.
Take care of your heart! Eat whole milk dairy products
from grass-fed cows.
For decades, we’ve been told that eating full-fat
dairy products increases the risk of heart attack. Now, a study from the Journal
of Clinical Nutrition says that the more full-fat dairy products
people consume, the lower their risk of heart attack---provided the cows
The reason grass-fed milk is protective is that it has
up to five times more conjugated linoleic acid or CLA. CLA is a healthy fat
found in the meat and milk of grazing animals. People who eat grass-fed dairy
products absorb the CLA and store it in their tissues. In this new study of
over 3,500 people, those with the highest levels of CLA in their tissues had
a fifty percent lower risk of heart attack than those with the lowest
levels. Keeping Bossy on grass could prevent more heart attacks than putting
people on expensive pharmaceutical drugs with all their troubling side effects.
Smit, Liesbeth A, Ana Baylin, and Hannia Campos. 2010.
Conjugated linoleic acid in adipose tissue and risk of myocardial infarction. The
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Published ahead of print,
May 12, 2010.
New term you need to know: “by-product feedstuffs”
Fresh pasture and dried grasses are the natural diet of
all ruminant animals. In factory farms, animals are switched to an unnatural
diet based on corn and soy. But corn and soy are not the only ingredients in
their “balanced rations.” Many large-scale dairy farmers and feedlot
operators save money by feeding the cows “by-product feedstuffs” as
well. In general, this means waste products from the manufacture of human food.
In particular, it can mean sterilized city garbage, candy, bubble gum, floor
sweepings from plants that manufacture animal food, bakery, potato wastes or
a scientific blend of pasta and candy.
Here are some of the “by-product feedstuffs commonly
used in dairy cattle diets in the Upper Midwest.”*
- Candy. Candy products are available through a
number of distributors and sometimes directly from smaller plants… They
are sometimes fed in their wrappers…. Candies, such as cull gummy
bears, lemon drops or gum drops are high in sugar content.
- Bakery Wastes. Stale bread and other pastry products
from stores or bakeries can be fed to dairy cattle in limited amounts. These
products are sometimes fed as received without drying or even removal of
- Potato Waste is available in potato processing
areas, and includes cull potatoes, French fries and potato chips. Cull fresh
potatoes that are not frozen, rotten, or sprouted can be fed to cows either
whole or chopped. Potato waste straight from a processing plant may contain
varying amounts of inedible or rotten potatoes. French fries and chips contain
fats or oils from frying operations.
- Starch. Unheated starch is available from some
candy manufacturers and sometimes may contain pieces of candy.
- Pasta is available from pasta plants and some
ingredient distributors as straight pasta or in blends with other ingredients,
such as candy.
*This list is excerpted from “By-Product Feedstuffs
in Dairy Cattle Diets in the Upper Midwest,” published in 2008 by the
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin at
Life on the Pharm
People who are exposed to farm chemicals have a much greater
rate of Parkinson’s Disease, according to recent studies. Whether they
are farm workers who are applying the chemicals or people who happen to live
nearby, exposure to chemicals such as paraquat or the fungicide “maneb” increases
the risk of Parkinsonism by 75 percent. There is no cure for this progressive
disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement, mood, and behavior.
Buying food that’s pesticide-free is good for you
and for people in farming communities.
(Beate Ritz, et al. 2009. Parkinson’s Disease Residential
Exposure to Maneb and Paraquat from Agricultural Applications in the Central
Valley of California. American Journal of Epidemiology. 169 (8): 919)
Score Ten for Grass-Fed Beef
Grass-fed beef is better for human health than grain-fed
beef in ten different ways, according to the most comprehensive analysis to
date. The 2009 study was a joint effort between the USDA and researchers at
Clemson University in South Carolina. Compared with grain-fed beef, grass-fed
- Lower in total fat
- Higher in beta-carotene
- Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
- Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin
- Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
- Higher in total omega-3s
- A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids
(1.65 vs 4.84)
- Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter
- Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into
- Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease
S.K. Duckett et al, Journal of Animal Science,
(published online) June 2009, “Effects
of winter stocker growth rate and finishing system on: III. Tissue proximate,
fatty acid, vitamin and cholesterol content.”
Eggs from pastured hens are far richer in vitamin D
Eggs from hens raised outdoors on pasture
have from three to six times more vitamin
D than eggs from hens raised in confinement. Pastured hens are exposed
to direct sunlight, which their bodies convert to vitamin D and then pass on
to the eggs.
Vitamin D is best known for its role in building
strong bones. New research shows that it can also enhance the immune system,
improve mood, reduce blood pressure, combat cancer, and reduce the risk of
some autoimmune disorders.
This latest good news about eggs comes from a study just
released by Mother
Earth News, a magazine that plays a leading role in promoting health-enhancing,
natural foods. The editors found that eating just two eggs will give you from
63-126% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D.
Note that this benefit comes only from hens that are free
to graze fresh greens, eat bugs, and bask in the sun. Most of the eggs sold
in the supermarket do not meet this criterion. Even though the label says that
the eggs are “certified organic” or come from “uncaged” or “free-range” hens
or from hens fed an “all-vegetarian” diet, this is no guarantee
that the hens had access to the outdoors or pasture.
Look for eggs from “pastured” hens. You are
most likely to find these superior eggs at farmer’s markets or natural
Better yet, purchase them directly from your local farmer.
Click on the following link, then scroll down to the yellow map of the United
States. Click on your state. Find
eggs from pastured hens on eatwild.com
The European Union refuses to buy U.S. chicken
Few people realize that the European Union has banned the
import of all US poultry since 1997. This month, EU agriculture ministers voted
to continue the ban despite aggressive pressure from the United States. The
issue? The standard practice in the US poultry industry is to wash the
carcasses in chlorinated water to kill bacteria.
European health authorities are not convinced that it’s
safe to ingest the small amounts of chlorine that remain on the meat and concluded
that lifting the ban would “threaten the community’s entire set
of food production standards.”
John Bowis from the UK was more outspoken. He told reporters
that “lifting the ban would be “outrageous” and would degrade
EU citizens to the status of “guinea pigs.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of US citizens are unwittingly
playing that role.
“EU Ban Remains on US Chickens” December
19, 2008, Meatprocess.com
Healthy Eggs: What We Knew in 1932
In the 1930s, scientists and food producers were creating
the first plans to take poultry off family farms and raise them in confinement.
To enact their plans, they needed to create “feed rations” that
would keep the birds alive and productive even though they were denied their
natural diet of greens, seeds, and insects. It was a time of trial and error.
In a 1932 experiment conducted by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, breeding hens were taken off pasture and fed a wide variety of
feed ingredients. When the birds were fed a diet that was exclusively soy or
corn or wheat or cottonseed meal, the chickens didn’t lay eggs or the
chicks that developed from the eggs had a high rate of mortality and disease.
But when birds were fed these same inadequate diets and
put back on pasture, their eggs were perfectly normal. The pasture grasses
and the bugs made up for whatever was missing in each of the highly restrictive
“The effect of diet on egg composition.” Journal
of Nutrition 6(3) 225-242. 1933.
How Spreadable is Your Butter?
Take a cube of butter from your refrigerator, slice it
with a knife, and spread it on a slice of bread. Did it coat the bread evenly
or did it remain in hard lumps? Researchers have determined that the easier
butter spreads, the better it is for your health.
Why is this? The firmness of butter depends on its ratio
of saturated and unsaturated fat. At refrigerator temperatures, saturated fat
is hard and unsaturated fat is soft, or even liquid. Therefore, butter that
is relatively easy to spread has less saturated, artery-clogging fat and more
(healthier) unsaturated fat.
In addition, a 2006 study shows that the softer the butter,
the more fresh pasture in the cow’s diet. Cows that get all their nutrients
from grass have the softest butterfat of all. Butter from grass-fed cows also
has more cancer-fighting CLA, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids
than butter from cows raised in factory farms or that have limited access to
(For more information about the benefits of dairy products
from grass-fed cows, read Jo Robinson’s essay, Super
Healthy Milk. To find a local farmer who raises cows on grass, go to our Eatwild
Directory of Farms and Ranches.)
Journal of Dairy Science, 2006. 89:1956–1969. “The
Linear Relationship between the Proportion of Fresh Grass in the Cow Diet,
Milk Fatty Acid Composition, and Butter Properties” [Note: this study
is available free of charge at the Journal
of Dairy Science website.]
Be a “Meat and Spinach” or a “Meat and
Red Wine” Kind of Guy
red meat—but not white meat or fish—is linked with a moderately
increased risk of colon cancer. Why is that? Some experts believe that the
amount of iron in the food, specifically, a type of iron called “heme” iron,
is part of the problem. Red meat has considerably more heme iron than its paler
counterparts. Iron is essential for survival, but heme iron can irritate the
lining of the colon and set up the preconditions for cancer. Another possible
link with red meat and cancer is the amount of oxidized fat in the meat. You
create oxidized fat when you grill meat, sear it, or cook it above medium rare.
Do you have to cut back on grilled sirloin steak and lamb
chops to lower your risk of colon cancer? Perhaps not. Eating foods high in
antioxidants along with the meat could do the trick. Research shows
that antioxidants have the potential to neutralize the ill effects of both
the iron and the oxidized fat. For example, a 2005 study showed that eating
spinach along with red meat eliminated all irritation of the colon. Now a 2008
study reveals that drinking a glass of red wine with your meal could do the
same thing. It is likely that other foods high in antioxidants will offer
Does eating grass-fed meat also reduce your risk of colon
cancer? Meat from pastured animals has more antioxidants than feedlot
meat, so it is a distinct possibility. To date, no one has studied this hypothesis.
Gorelik, S., M. Ligumsky, et al. (2008). "The
Stomach as a ‘Bioreactor’: When Red Meat Meets Red Wine." J Agric
De Vogel, J., Denise Jonker-Termont et al. (2005). “Green
vegetables, red meat and colon cancer: chlorophyll prevents the cytotoxic and
hyperproliferative effects of haem in rat colon.” Carcinogenesis.
Grass-fed Beef Clearly Superior,
Says New German and Canadian study
Yet another study shows that grass-fed meat is nutritionally
superior to feedlot meat. This newest study examined the differences in fat
content between four breeds of cattle that were either 1) raised on pasture
or 2) given grain and other feedstuff in a feedlot.
As in previous research, the results showed that meat from
cattle raised on pasture had much healthier fats. The researchers concluded
that grass-fed meat is “clearly superior” and “remarkably
beneficial.” They stated that grass-fed meat “should be
promoted as an important part of a healthy balanced diet.” Read
the study summary.
(Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, June
Free Range Eggs Nutritionally Superior
As it turns out, all those choices of eggs at your supermarket
aren't providing you much of a choice at all.
Recent tests conducted by Mother Earth News magazine
have shown once again that eggs from chickens that range freely on pasture
provide clear nutritional benefits over eggs from confinement operations.
Mother Earth News collected samples from 14 pastured
flocks across the country and had them tested at an accredited laboratory.
The results were compared to official US Department of Agriculture data for
commercial eggs. Results showed the pastured eggs contained an amazing:
- 1/3 less cholesterol than commercial eggs
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 7 times more beta carotene
Full results of the tests are available in the October/November
2007 issue of Mother Earth News, or on their website at http://www.MotherEarthNews.com/eggs.
Check Eatwild's Pastured
Products Directory to find free-range eggs near you.
Lambs raised on pasture are higher
in protein, lower in fat
A team of scientists from the USDA compared grassfed lambs
with lambs fed grain in a feedlot. They found that "lambs grazing pasture
had 14% less fat and about 8% more protein compared to grain-fed lamb." The
researchers acknowledged that "consumer desires for healthier meats have
shifted the emphasis to leaner, trimmer carcasses.."
and that raising more sheep on pasture will "benefit our economy by reducing
reliance upon expensive grain supplements..." For more information, refer
Orchardgrass-white Clover Pasture: Nutritive Value Of Herbage And Lamb Performance.
Why Grassfed Cheese Is Better
Cheese from grassfed cows is more than four times richer
in conjugated linoleic acid—a cancer-fighting, fat-reducing fat—than
cheese from standard, grain-fed cows. (Dhiman, T.R., "Conjugated linoleic
acid: a food for cancer prevention." Proceedings from the 2000 Intermountain
Nutrition Conference, pages 103-121.)
Why Grassfed Butter Is Better
Because living grass is richer in vitamins E, A, and beta-carotene
than stored hay or standard dairy diets, butter from dairy cows grazing on
fresh pasture is also richer in these important nutrients. The naturally golden
color of grassfed butter is a clear indication of its superior nutritional
value. (Searles, SK et al, "Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and Carotene
Contents of Alberta Butter." Journal of Diary Science, 53(2) 150-154.)
Two new studies suggest that
grassfed meat and dairy products may reduce the risk of breast cancer
CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is
a cancer-fighting fat that is most abundant in grassfed products. Two new European
studies link a diet high in CLA with a lower risk of breast cancer. In Finland,
researchers measured CLA levels in the serum of women with and without breast
cancer. Those women with the most CLA had a significantly lower risk of the
disease. Meanwhile, French researchers measured CLA levels in the breast tissues
of 360 women. Once again, the women with the most CLA had the lowest risk of
cancer. In fact, the women with the most CLA had a staggering 74% lower risk
of breast cancer than the women with the least CLA.
The most natural and effective way to increase your intake
of CLA is to eat the meat and dairy products of grassfed animals.
(A. Aro et al, Kuopio University,
Finland; Bougnoux, P, Lavillonniere F, Riboli E. "Inverse relation between
CLA in adipose breast tissue and risk of breast cancer. A case-control study
in France." Inform 10;5:S43,
Eggs from free-range hens are higher
in folic acid and vitamin B12
Now there's another good reason to purchase eggs from pastured
poultry farmers: you may be getting more folic acid and vitamin B12, two very
important vitamins. This information comes from a British study published in
1974. At the time, British consumers were concerned about the trend toward
factory farming. Specifically, they thought factory eggs might not be as nutritious
as eggs from free-ranging birds. An elaborate study confirmed their suspicions.
The eggs from free-range hens contained significantly more folic acid and vitamin
B12, as you can see by the graph below.
The researchers also looked for differences in the fatty
acid content of the eggs but did not find any. Now we know why. In the 1970s,
little was known about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, so the researchers
didn't even bother to look for them in the eggs.
(A. Tolan et al, "Studies
on the Composition of Food, The chemical composition of eggs produced under
battery, deep litter and free-range conditions." Br.
J. Nutrition, (1974) 31:185.)
The more milk a cow produces, the
more dilute the vitamin content of her milk
The goal of the commercial dairy industry is to coax the
maximum amount of milk out of each cow through a high-tech combination of selective
breeding, confinement housing, synthetic hormones, and a high-energy grain
diet. It has succeeded admirably. Today's super cows produce as much as 17,000
pounds of milk per cycle—20 times more milk than a cow needs to sustain
a healthy calf. Unfortunately for consumers, the cow transfers a set amount
of vitamins to her milk, and the greater her milk volume, the more dilute the
vitamin content of the milk, especially vitamins E and beta-carotene. According
to the journal article cited below,
"It follows that continuing breeding and management systems that focus
solely on increasing milk and milk fat yield will result in a steady dilution
in the milk fat of these vitamins and antioxidants..."
Dairy cows raised on pasture and free of hormone implants
produce less milk than commercial cows, but the milk is therefore richer in
vitamin content. This is one of those times when less is more.
(Jensen, S. K. "Quantitative
secretion and maximal secretion capacity of retinol, beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol
into cows' milk." J Dairy Res 66,
no. 4 (1999): 511-22. )
Milk from grassfed cows has hidden
Until recently, all of the experiments demonstrating the
cancer-fighting properties of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) have
used synthetic CLA. To see whether the CLA that occurs naturally in cow's milk
has similar cancer-fighting properties, researchers recently compared the two.
They fed one group of rats butter that was high in CLA and fed another group
of rats an equivalent amount of synthetic CLA. As one would expect, the natural
CLA proved to be just as effective in blocking tumor growth as the man-made
variety. (In both cases, cancer yield was reduced by about 50 percent.) However,
the high CLA butter had an added benefit: the rats eating the butter accumulated
even more CLA in their tissues than the rats fed an equivalent amount of synthetic
CLA. The reason? Researchers believe that the rats were converting another
"good" fat found in the butter, trans-vaccenic acid or TVA, into
CLA, giving them a second helping of this cancer-fighting fat. (Click here
for more information about TVA.)
(Ip, C., S. Banni, et al. (1999). "Conjugated
Linoleic Acid-Enriched Butter Fat Alters Mammary Gland Morphogenesis and
Reduces Cancer Risk in Rats." J Nutr 129(12):
New Zealanders try to satisfy
Japanese market and lose valuable nutrients
Japanese importers place a premium on beef with ultra-white
fat, which is difficult for New Zealand ranchers to achieve because they fatten
their cattle on pasture. (Grass is rich in the antioxidant vitamin beta-carotene,
which lends a healthy, creamy color to meat fat.) In a recent experiment, New
Zealand researchers experimented with taking cattle off pasture and fattening
them American-style on grain. Because grain is more expensive in New Zealand
than it is in the States, grain-feeding was limited to less than 2 months.
The experiment failed. The fat color did not change appreciably, even though
serum levels of beta-carotene dropped 97 percent. What's more, 1) the animals
weighed less than animals that were allowed to stay on pasture, 2) their meat
was tougher, and 3) the meat lost more moisture when cooked.
The scientists concluded that animals need to be fed grain
for a longer period of time to use up all the beta-carotene stored in the fat.
Also, longer grain-feeding is required to overcome the initial weight loss
of cattle that are switched from pasture to a feedlot diet. The increased toughness
was unexpected and without explanation.
("Short-term Grain Feeding and its Effect on Carcass
and Meat Quality." Proceedings of the New Zealand Grasslands Association
1997. 57:275-277. )
Pastured Poultry Get a Bounty
of Vitamin E from Grass
Standard poultry feed is supplemented with small amounts
of vitamin E. But as you can see by the graph below, it doesn't come close
to the bounty of vitamin E that chickens glean from fresh pasture. This vitamin
E gets passed on to the consumer. An egg from a pastured hen has 30 percent
more vitamin E than the kind you buy in the supermarket.
(Lopez-Bote et al, "Effect
of free-range feeding on omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-tocopherol content
and oxidative stability of eggs." Animal Feed
Science and Technology, 1998. 72:33-40.)
Grassfed meat has a similar fat
profile to wild game
When cattle are free to forage on their natural diet of
grass, their meat is almost as lean as wild game. The graph below shows that
grassfed beef has an overall fat content similar to antelope, deer, and elk.
This second graph shows that grain-fed beef has a much
higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids than wild game or grass-fed
beef. A high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids has been linked with an
increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergies, depression, obesity,
and auto-immune disorders. (Simopoulos and Robinson, The Omega Diet,
published by HarperCollins in 1999.) A ratio of four or lower is considered
ideal. The ratio in grain-fed beef is more than 14 to 1. In grassfed beef,
it is approximately two to one.
(Data for both graphs comes from G.J.
Miller, "Lipids in Wild Ruminant Animals and Steers." J.
of Food Quality, 9:331-343, 1986.)
Feedlot cattle fattened on stale
Some commercial feedlots feed stale candy to cattle in
an effort to reduce costs. According to a recent review, milk chocolate and
candy "are often economical sources of nutrients, particularly fat. They
may be high in sugar and/or fat content. Milk chocolate and candy may contain
48% and 22% fat, respectively. They are sometimes fed in their wrappers. Candies,
such as cull gummy bears, lemon drops, or gum drops are high in sugar content." The
article recommends that
"upper feeding limits for candy or candy blends and chocolate are 5 and
2 lb. per cow per day, respectively."
As long as beef producers are not accountable for the ultimate
nutritional value of the meat, they will continue to formulate feedlot diets
on a least cost basis and American consumers will continue to eat meat that
is artificially high in fat and low in vitamin E, beta carotene, omega-3 fatty
acids, and CLA.
Feedstuffs in Dairy Cattle Diets in the Upper Midwest."
Randy D. Shaver, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Extension Nutritionist, Department of Dairy Science,
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin)
Beef and buffalo jerky fit well into a busy lifestyle.
Jerky needs no refrigeration and can be easily tucked into a pocket, purse,
or lunch bag to provide a satisfying, high-protein snack. When the jerky is
made from the meat of grassfed animals, you're also getting superior nutritional
value and no questionable additives.
If you're purchasing grassfed meat in quantity, consider
making your own jerky. Be aware, however, that most traditional recipes do
not specify the high temperatures necessary to eliminate the risk of E. coli and
other pathogenic organisms. To solve the problem, food scientists from Colorado
State University Cooperative Extension developed recipes for
making safe jerky at home. Find their recipes: here.
No time to make jerky? Order it ready made from one of
five different suppliers in the Eat Wild Pastured
Products Directory (Click on the directory and then use your browser to
search in the page for the word "jerky.")
Feed them grass, not grease!
In yet another short-sighted experiment, researchers at
Washington State University are feeding recycled restaurant grease to feedlot
cattle in an attempt to raise the CLA levels of their
meat. Although grease will indeed enhance CLA levels, it cannot compete with
grass when the total nutritional value of the meat is taken into consideration.
Meat from cattle raised on grass and legumes is not only five times higher
in CLA than meat from feedlot cattle, it is also higher in vitamin E, beta
carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids. Also, restaurant grease is high in a type
of fat called "linoleic acid"
or LA that is known to stimulate tumor growth.
Although grease-fed cattle will have more of the cancer-fighting CLA, they
will also have higher levels of the cancer-promoting LA, perhaps canceling
out the anticipated benefits.
Comments: As long as researchers
focus on artificial ways to raise CLA levels in
animals, we will continue to have beef that is nutritionally inferior in other
areas. We will also be plagued with all the problems linked with the feedlot
industry including nutrient leaching, odor, diseased animals, and the indiscriminate
use of growth promoting hormones and antibiotics.
Grassfed bison —
the original "Happy Meal?"
Martin Marchello at the Carrington Research Extension Center
has found that grassfed bison have as much as four times more selenium (an
essential trace mineral) than grainfed bison. Eating just three ounces of grassfed
bison, for example, can give you over 100 mcg. of selenium, which is several
times the daily minimum requirement.
Most of the selenium research has focused on its potential
to reduce the risk of cancer, but a 1990 study found that selenium also promotes
a sunnier disposition! In this study, volunteers were given either 100 micrograms
of selenium or a sugar pill. Those who were given the selenium noticed an improved
mood in just two weeks. Eating a small portion of grassfed bison on a daily
basis should produce the same results.
(Benton, D. and R. Cook (1990).
"Selenium supplementation improves mood in a double-blind crossover trial." Psychopharmacology 102(4):
New findings on CLA clarify
the benefits of meat and dairy products
Conjugated linoleic acid or CLA has
demonstrated a multitude of benefits in animal studies, including fat reduction,
increase in lean muscle mass, reduced risk of diabetes, reversal of arteriosclerosis,
and a marked reduction in tumor growth.
Many people do not realize, however, that there are 16
different types of CLA, each with a slightly different molecular shape. New
research reveals that each type of CLA has a different set of benefits. The
type of CLA most abundant in meat and dairy products (referred to by chemists
as "cis-9, trans-11, CLA") appears to be the champion cancer fighter.
Compared with another common type of CLA (trans 10, cis 12, CLA) it was a third
more effective in blocking the growth of human cancer cells. (78% versus 58%
But the type of CLA found in meat and dairy products does not appear
to reduce fat or increase lean muscle mass in humans. (That property is linked
with trans 10, cis 12, CLA)
It will be some time before researchers match each type
of CLA with its particular benefits.
(Information gleaned from abstracts
presented at the 91st American Oil Chemists Society April 25-28, 2000 annual
meeting. Special supplement to Inform, vol 11,
no 5, 2000)
French cheese has more CLA
than ordinary American cheese
French cheeses are among the most carefully crafted and
coveted in the world. Now there's another reason to seek them out: they're
especially high in cancer-fighting CLA . A 1998 survey found that CLA levels
in French cheese range from 5.3 to 15.8 mg/g of fat. American cheese from conventional
dairies has half this amount, with levels ranging from 2.9 to 7.1. The reason?
Typically, American dairies raise their cows in confinement and feed them a
grain-based diet. French dairies are more likely to raise their cows on pasture,
resulting in naturally high levels of CLA
Fortunately, cheese from American pasture-based dairies
has the same CLA advantage as French cheese. Search the Eat
Wild Pastured Products Directory for cheese suppliers and treat yourself
to an extra helping of CLA.
(JAOCS 75, 343352 (1998))
TVA — yet another good fat in
Evidence is mounting that dairy products from grassfed
cows supply yet another "good" fat to our diet---trans-vaccenic acid
or TVA. Technically, TVA is classified as a "trans-fatty acid,"
a type of fat nutritionists tell us to avoid. But TVA appears to behave differently
from the man-made fat that comes from the hydrogenization of vegetable oil.
Unlike the trans-fatty acids found in fast foods and margarine, TVA is not
linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and may help inhibit
tumor growth and obesity.
Interestingly, TVA may perform these feats by being converted
into CLA in our own bodies. In fact, dairy scientist David Schingoethe from
South Dakota State University suggests that eating diary foods high in TVA
may be a more effective way to increase CLA levels than ingesting CLA itself.
Schingoethe and colleagues are experimenting with increasing
TVA in dairy cows by feeding them fish meal and soybeans. But raising cows
on fresh pasture and withholding all grain may prove just as effective. In
fact, grassfed cows produce milk that is naturally high in both CLA and TVA,
a potentially lifesaving combination. Stay tuned!
(To learn more, read "Making
Milk Better," by Jamie Lammers.)
The Irish are making the most of
their "unfair" advantage
Milk from grassfed Irish cows is 2–3 times higher
in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than milk from grainfed
American cows. Experiments are underway in Ireland to increase this CLA advantage.
Recent experiments show that feeding oilseeds to grassfed dairy cows boosts
their CLA production even more. Rapeseeds (the seeds that make canola oil)
increase the CLA content of the milk an extra 60%. (To read more, refer to "Milk
and Dairy Products for Better Human Health," by D. McDonagh, et al.)
The Irish get added health benefits from their grassfed
beef as well, according to a soon-to-be-published study. Compared with animals
fed supplemental grain, meat from cattle raised on pasture alone was lower
in saturated fat, but higher in the "good fats," including monounsaturated
fats, omega-3 fats, and CLA. Commented the researchers,
"These data indicate that many Irish beef producers, due to their grass-based
production systems, have a natural advantage in producing beef that is more
beneficial to human health than beef produced from concentrate-based systems."
(For study details, refer to R&H
Hall Technical Bulletin Issue No. 4 ~1999)
(French, P., Stanton, C., Lawless,
F., O'Riordan, E.G., Monahan, F., Caffrey, P.J. and Moloney, A.P. 1999a.
Fatty acid composition, including conjugated linoleic acid, of intra-muscular
fat from steers offered grazed grass, grass silage or concentrate-based diets. Journal
of Animal Science. Submitted)
The deadliest form of E. Coli is
more common than originally thought. Fortunately, grassfed animals are much
less likely to transmit the disease.
A study in the March 28th, 2000 issue of the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences reports that
as many as one out of every three cattle may play host to the deadliest strain
of E. coli bacteria ( 0157:H) This is ten times
higher than earlier estimates.
As explained in more detail in Why
Grassfed Is Best!, feeding cattle their natural diet of grass instead
of grain greatly reduces the risk of disease transmission. Why? First, it
keeps the overall bacteria count low. Second, it prevents the bacteria from
becoming acid resistant. Acid-resistant bacteria are far more likely to survive
the acidity of our normal digestive juices and cause disease. The first graph
below illustrates the absolute numbers of E. coli bacteria
found in grassfed versus grainfed animals. The second graph shows how many
of the bacteria are likely to withstand our gastric juices. (Note: Grassfed
animals have so few acid-resistant bacteria that the number fails to register
on the scale of the graph.)
One of the lead researchers on the project, USDA microbiologist
James Russell, told a reporter for Science Magazine,
"We were absolutely shocked by the difference. WE never found an animal
that didn't agree with the trend."
You should still take the normal precautions when handling
and cooking grassfed meat, however. As few as ten E. coli bacteria
can cause disease in people with weakened immune systems.
(Diez-Gonzalez, F., et al.
(1998). "Grain-feeding and the dissemination of acid-resistant Escherichia
coli from Cattle." Science 281,
Consumers are searching for
Pastured poultry producers take heart: Consumers are finally
getting the message that some eggs are better than others. In 1999, sales were
up 50% for "all natural" eggs and 37.5% for
"organic" eggs, according to Alan Andrews, an industry analyst. The
fact that specialty eggs cost about twice as much as ordinary eggs ($2.20 versus
$1.09 a dozen) has not been a deterrent. Andrews predicts that "this segment
will see accelerated growth in 2000 and may hit 50MM units."
Fresh Eggs: Which Came First, Increased Consumption or Increased Sales?"
by Alan Andrews, Pactiv Corporation.)
Switching to grassfed products
helps balance the essential fats in your diet
There are two types of fats that are essential for your
health—omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The typical western diet is overloaded
with omega-6 fatty acids and deficient in omega-3s, upsetting a critical balance.
Look at the graph below and you will see that fresh pasture has two times more
omega-3 than omega-6 fatty acids. Grain and soy, on the other hand, have far
more omega-6s than omega-3s.
Therefore, when you switch to grassfed products, you are
helping to correct the gross imbalance in the western diet. Eating a balanced
ratio of essential fatty acids is linked with a lower risk of cancer, heart
disease, diabetes, obesity, and mental disorders. (To learn more about this
essential balance, read The Omega Diet by Simopoulos
and Robinson, HarperCollins 1999.)
( US Dairy Forage Research Center, 1995
Some types of cheese have more
CLA than others
The way that cheese is made influences its CLA (conjugated
linoleic acid) content. In general, the longer cheese is aged, the lower the
CLA. Thus, hard cheeses such as Parmesan and Romano tend to have less CLA than
softer cheeses such as cream cheese, cottage cheese, feta, farmer's cheese,
ricotta, and Brie. In addition, cheese that is aged through "bacterial
surface ripening" (Brick and Muenster) has more CLA than cheese that does
not go through this process. Finally, a serving of high-fat cheese will have
more CLA than a similar serving of low-fat cheese. (The CLA is measured in
terms of grams of CLA per gram of total fat; the more total grams of fat in
a serving of cheese, the more CLA it will have Reduced fat swiss is an anomaly,
for unknown reasons..)
The table below shows CLA levels in cheese purchased at
a grocery store in 1992. In all likelihood, the milk came from confinement
dairy operations. If the milk had come from grassfed animals, the CLA content
would have been five times higher.
|TYPE OF CHEESE
||CLA (mg/gram of fat)
|Reduced Fat Swiss
(Chin et al, "Dietary
Sources of Conjugated Dienic Isomers of Linoleic Acid, a Newly Recognized
Class of Anticarcinogens." J. of Food
Composition and Analysis 5:185-197 1992)
Switching from grainfed to
grassfed meat is a healthy, natural way to lose weight
Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United
States, with one out of every two adults burdened by excess weight. To help
trim the fat, Procter and Gamble has given us Olestra, "the no-fat cooking
oil with the full-fat flavor." There are a couple of problems with Olestra.
First, it cuts down on your body's absorption of beta-carotene and vitamin
E. Second, it can cause "bloating, cramping, nausea, and loose stools
Nature has given us a healthier alternative to weight control—eat
meat from animals raised on fresh pasture. Meat from grassfed animals has about
half the fat as meat from grainfed animals and significantly fewer calories.
It also gives you a bonus supply of vitamins E, A, D, and beta-carotene.
(Burton P. Koonsvitsky et al, "Olestra
Affects Serum Concentrations of Alpha-Tocopherol and Carotenoids" J
of Nutrition, Vol. 127 No. 8 August 1997, pp. 1636S-1645S)
Chefs from fine restaurants pay
a premium for grassfed poultry and meat
If people haven't tasted grassfed meat, they wonder how
it's going to taste. "Terrific!" say a growing number of chefs. Kerry
Engel, a rural development specialist, surveyed executive chefs from six, high-end
hotels, restaurants and catering businesses. He reports that "a few meat
products that the chefs specifically inquired about include free-range poultry
and grassfed meats and ducks. They're especially interested in unusual, exciting
and new specialty products."
He found that the chefs were also committed to supporting local farmers.
"They'll pay 10 per cent more for regional products if the supply meets
Help spread the word. Ask for grassfed (range-fed) meat
the next time you're dining out!
Grassfed lambs have more lutein
The more that nutritionists learn about naturally occurring
antioxidants, the more they like lutein. Lutein is closely related to beta-carotene,
but is absorbed more readily. Lutein reduces the risk of macular degeneration
(a leading cause of blindness) and may also help prevent breast and colon cancer.
Meat from sheep raised on pasture has twice as much lutein
as meat from grain-fed sheep—yet another nutritional advantage of raising
(Kruggel, W.G., "Influence of
sex and diet on lutein in lamb fat." J of Animal
Science 54: 970-975, 1982.)
Not so fast, FDA!
In 1993, when the Food and Drug Agency approved the use
of synthetic hormones to increase milk production in dairy cows, the FDA assured
a worried public that recombinant bST would not diminish the nutritional value
of the milk. In an interview, Commissioner David A. Kessler, M.D., stated that "there
is virtually no difference in milk from treated and untreated cows. In fact,
it's not possible using current scientific techniques to tell them apart."
Seven years later, there is new evidence that synthetic
hormones reduce levels of conjugated linoleic acid or CLA in beef, depriving
consumers of a naturally occurring and potentially lifesaving substance. It
is not known at this time whether bST has a similar effect on milk products.
Nonetheless, this is yet another example of researchers altering a natural
product before fully understanding its many benefits.
(Fritsche S, Rumsey TS, Yurawecz MP, Ku
Y, Fritsche J. “Influence of growth promoting implants on fatty acid
composition including conjugated linoleic acid isomers in beef fat. Eur.
Food Res. Technol. 212:621-629 (2001))
Afternoon hay may be better
than morning hay, but fresh grass is best!
Nothing beats fresh pasture for nutritional value. Once
the grass is cut and dried, there is a dramatic decline in vital nutrients,
including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and the carotenes (beta-carotene
and related antioxidant vitamins.) The graph below shows the difference in
carotene content between fresh Bermuda grass and the same grass that has been
In the winter months or other times of year when the grass
is dormant, even grassfarmers must rely on stored forages such as hay. But,
typically, the animals are harvested in the early fall when the animals are
fresh from green pasture. This insures that their meat will have its full allotment
of health-enhancing vitamins. Feedlot animals never eat living grass.
(Bailey, C.A. and B.H. Chen,
"Research Note: Carotene and Zanthophyll Changes During Growth and Processing
of Turf Burmudagrass." Poultry Science, 1988.
Egg yolks are the richest known
source of lutein and zeaxanthin, essential vitamins not found in your multi-vitamin
Eggs are gaining new respect from nutritionists, partly
for their abundance of two carotenes --- lutein and zeaxanthin. These antioxidant
vitamins are essential for the protection of the macula, an area of the retina
that provides our best central vision. Eggs are the richest known source. "Macular
degeneration," the term for damage to this area of the retina, is the
leading cause of blindness in people over 55 years of age. Lutein and zeaxanthin
protect the macula from the destructive effects of light. The deeper the yellow-orange
color of yolks, the more lutein and zeaxanthin they contain and the more eye-protection
There is also new evidence linking lutein and zeaxanthin
with a lower risk of colon cancer. According to a recent study, "Of all
the carotenoids investigated, only lutein and zeaxanthin showed a protective
effect against colon cancer, with an enhanced effect in younger people."
(Slattery, M. L., Benson, J., Curtin,
K., Ma, K. N., Schaeffer, D., and Potter, J. D. (2000). Am
J Clin Nutr 71, 575-82.)
Grassfed products supply
much needed vitamin E
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control recently
determined the vitamin E status of 16,000 American men and women. Twenty-percent
per cent of white Americans, 41 per cent of African Americans, and 28 per cent
of Mexican Americans were deficient in vitamin E. Vitamin E deficiencies have
been linked with diabetes, immune disorders, AIDS, muscle damage in exercise,
Parkinson's disease, eye diseases, and lung and liver diseases. As you can
see by several of the posts below, switching to the products of animals raised
on grass (which is far richer in vitamin E than grain) would help prevent this
widespread deficiency. (Ford, Earl S. and Sowell, Anne. "Serum alpha-tocopherol
status in the United States population: findings from the Third National Health
and Nutrition Examination Survey." American Journal
of Epidemiology, Vol. 150, August 1, 1999, pp. 290-300.)
promulgate the myth that eggs from pastured poultry are no better than supermarket
Many people turn to internet websites for their health
information, and few sites are as highly regarded as the Mayo Clinic Health
Oasis site which professes to offer "Reliable information for a healthier
life." (http://www.mayohealth.org/index.htm) In a recent posting, the
Mayo Clinic experts proclaimed, "Whether hens are raised free-range or
in cages has no effect on the nutrients in the eggs they lay,"
and, then later on in the same article, "Feed and yolk color don't alter
the nutritive content of the egg."
The experts should be more thorough in their research.
As you will see by the posts below and by reading Why
Grassfed Is Best!, eggs from pastured poultry are higher in omega-3
fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin A. Meanwhile, they are lower in total fat,
saturated fat, and cholesterol. In addition, there is a direct relationship
between feed, yolk color, and the nutrient content of the egg. The more orange
the yolk, the higher the level of health-enhancing carotenoids. Compared to
supermarket eggs, eggs from pastured poultry are a vivid yellow/orange—proof
of a richer store of disease-fighting carotenes.
(Bornstein, S. and I. Bartov (1966). "Studies
on egg yolk pigmentation. I. A comparison between visual scoring of yolk
color and colorimetric assay of yolk carotenoids." Poult
Sci 45(2): 287-96.)
How researchers determine
what we eat
When animals are removed from their natural habitat, they
are at the mercy of humans for everything they eat. Regrettably, very little
research is aimed at recreating what the animals would normally glean in the
wild. Instead, the goal is to create the lowest cost diet that will maintain
the highest possible production levels. This "least cost production" mentality
will prevail as long as consumers remain ignorant of the many compromises involved.
For example, a team of researchers determined that
"the vitamin E requirement norm of laying hens for consumer egg production
is achieved at a vitamin E content of 7 mg/kg laying hen feed. The supplement
of synthetic antioxidant is unnecessary." By contrast, pastured poultry
have the luxury of foraging for greens that have as much as 200 mg/kg of vitamin
E. This extra helping of vitamin E may not increase egg production, but it
does yield healthier eggs for the consumer. Savvy consumers are becoming more
aware of these invisible differences.
(Richter, G., I. Rodel, et al.
(1985). "Evaluation of laying-hen feed with varied vitamin E and antioxidant
supplementation.." Arch Tierernahr 35(10):
TLC increases meat tenderness
Many people assume that the degree of marbling in meat
is a major determinant of tenderness. Not so. Marbling accounts for only 10
percent of the variability in tenderness. There are numerous other factors
involved, including the amount of stress animals are subjected to prior to
slaughter. Researchers in New Zealand and Australia report that beef is consistently
on the tender end of the scale when pre-slaughter stress is minimized, regardless
of breed. Read
"The Meat Tenderness Debate."
Eggs from pastured layers are
higher in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E
In a recent study, one group of chickens was confined indoors
(the conventional system) and another was allowed to free-range. Both groups
were fed the same commercial mixed diet. The chickens that were able to add
grass to the menu produced eggs that that were higher in omega-3s and alpha-tocopherol
(vitamin E.) Both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E have been linked with lower
rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease in humans. (Lopez-Bote et al, "Effect
of free-range feeding on omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-tocopherol content and
oxidative stability of eggs." Animal Feed Science
and Technology, 1998. 72:33-40.)
Red clover increases CLA levels
in the milk of grassfed dairy cows
The type of grasses and legumes growing in a pasture can
influence the amount of CLA in cow's milk. When dairy cows grazed pasture that
contained 20 percent red clover, they produced 50 percent more cancer-fighting,
fat-busting CLA than cows that grazed on grasses alone. (Search for the study
titled, "Paddocks containing red clover compared to all grass paddocks
support high CLA levels in milk.")
Milk from cows that graze on intensively
managed pasture has fewer undesirable bacteria
Management Intensive Grazing or "MIG" is the
practice of shifting livestock from paddock to paddock on a frequent basis
to enhance the yield and quality of the pasture. Milk from cows raised under
this system was found to be lower in bacterial count than milk from cows raised
in standard confinement dairies. (Goldberg, J. J., E. E. Wildman, et al. (1992). "The
influence of intensively managed rotational grazing, traditional continuous
grazing, and confinement housing on bulk tank milk quality and udder health."
(J Dairy Sci 75(1): 96-104).
Cattle are smart grazers
Canadian researchers compared the nutrient value of randomly
selected grass clippings with the grass the cattle themselves selected. Invariably,
the cattle selected grass that was higher in protein and mineral content. Judging
by their results, the researchers cautioned that a standard analysis of pasture
grasses is likely to underestimate the actual amount of nutrients that cattle
glean from the pasture. (J. D. Poppet al, "Nutrient selection by cattle
from grass and grass/legume pastures."
of Animal Science 79 (3) 391-5. September
Pastured pigs are vitamin
enriched — naturally
Pigs raised on pasture have 300 percent more vitamin E
and 74 percent more selenium (a vital antioxidant) in their milk than pigs
raised in confinement, according to Don C. Mahan Professor of Animal Sciences
at Ohio State University. This bounty of nutrients promotes healthier litters,
shorter farrowing times, and good milk let down. The pigs' meat is enriched
with vitamins as well. Fortifying the pigs' diet with synthetic vitamins, the
standard practice in confinement operations, does not achieve the same results
because the artificial vitamins are more poorly absorbed.
(Mutetikka, D.B., and D.C. Mahan, 1993.
Effect of pasture, confinement, and diet fortification with vitamin E and
selenium on reproducing gilts and their progeny. J. Anim. Sci. 71:3211.)
Consumers will pay more for
omega-3 enriched eggs
In a survey of 500 Texans, 60% were willing to pay $1.00
more per dozen if the eggs were rich in omega-3s. Eggs from pastured hens have
2 to 20 times more omega-3s. (The amount varies depending on the quality of
the pasture and the omega-3 content of the supplemental feed.)
(Elswyk, M.E. et al, "Poultry-based
alternatives for enhancing the omega-3 fatty acids content of American diets." World
Rev Nutr Diet, 1998. 83:102-115.)
The excess fat on grain-fed cattle
costs the meat industry billions of dollars a year
To achieve marbled beef, feedlot cattle are fed a high-grain
diet. This results in a significant amount of external fat that has to be trimmed
away. Consumers trim away yet more fat when they bring the meat home. In 1973,
the cost of "producing, shipping, and trimming the excess fat on beef
alone was more than $2 billion."
One wonders how much is spent on this superfluous fat today.
(Pierce, John C., "The Federal Grading
System for Animal Products.)
Wild turkeys thrive on grass,
bugs, berries, seeds, and nuts
Turkeys raised on pasture have a diet that resembles their
original diet. Zoologists studying wild turkeys found that "the youngsters
instinctively peck at moving things - which are usually protein-rich bugs or
larvae." While adult turkeys "prefer grass and other plant leaves,
along with berries and bugs." For more information, read "Turkeys'
Success Won't Trigger A Grouse Egress."
Sheep are the CLA winners
Dr. Gerhard Jahreis from the Institut Ernaehrung und Umwelt
in Germany has studied the CLA content of human milk and milk from a variety
of animals. He reports that horses have the lowest CLA content and sheep the
highest. Human milk is in the middle. (Mare's milk <
sow's milk < human milk < goat's milk < cow's milk < ewe's milk.)
There are fewer than 100 sheep dairy farms in the United
States (we imported 66 million pounds of sheep's milk cheese in 1994, valued
at $118 million.) With this new finding about CLA, perhaps more US farmers
will consider milking sheep.
(Jahreis, G. et al, The potential
anticarcinogenic conjugated linoleic acid in milk of different species: cow,
goat, ewe, sow, mare, woman." Nutr Res 1999. 19:1541-9.)
Eating eggs does not appear
to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke
Cutting back on egg consumption has been widely recommended
as a way to lower blood cholesterol levels and prevent coronary heart disease.
Is this valid advice? Recently, researchers took a close look at the egg-eating
habits and heart health of 118,000 men and women. The scientists reported that "we
found no evidence of an overall significant association between egg consumption
and risk of CHD [coronary heart disease] in either men or women." In fact,
they found that people who ate from 5 to 6 eggs per week had a lower risk of
heart disease than those who ate less than one egg per week.
One wonders what the scientists would find if they looked
at the heart health of those lucky people who eat eggs from pastured hens?
(Hu, F. B., M. J. Stampfer, et al. (1999). "A
prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in
men and women." JAMA 281(15): 1387-94.)
the consumer revolt against hormone-implanted meat
Sometimes it helps to look at an issue from the other side
of the fence. Here's a paragraph excerpted from an on-line publication of the
beef industry about the economic benefits of implanted synthetic hormones. "'There's
probably nothing else we can do chute-side with a critter that is as economically
important as a quality implant job,' says Gerry Kuhl, extension feedlot specialist
at Kansas State University (KSU). For round-numbers perspective, Kuhl explains
implanting calves adds 15-25 lbs. to weaning weight. A single implant in the
stocker pasture is worth 15-40 lbs., while implants in the feedlot routinely
serve up an extra 30-40 lbs. ... 'That's a response we can't afford to ignore,
given the narrowing profit margins," says Kuhl.'"
Grassfarmers have a refreshingly different approach to
encouraging growth in their livestock. Rather than implant their animals with
hormones, they plant their fields with high quality forage. As in nature, the
richness of the environment—not drugs—determines the growth rate
of grassfed animals.
Grassfed animal products
have a bonus supply of vitamin E
The chart below shows the relative amounts of vitamin E
in corn and grass. As you can see, when animals are raised on fresh pasture,
they get considerably more of this important vitamin. When consumers choose
grassfed products, they, too get an extra helping of this immune-boosting,
age-defying antioxidant. To learn more, read "Vitamin
E Requirements for Protection of Dairy Cows Against Infections at Parturition."
Soft cheese has more CLA than
All cheese made from the milk of grassfed cows is rich
in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). However, the cheese making process itself
can increase or decrease this amount. In a comprehensive survey, the highest
amounts of CLA were found in soft cheeses aged approximately three months.
Longer aging periods reduced this highly desirable fat.
(Chin, S. F. et al (1992)). "Dietary Sources
of Conjugated Dienoic Isomers of Linoleic Acid, a Newly Recognized Class of
Anticarcinogens." J of Food Composition 5: 185-97.)
Finishing lambs on pasture
cuts costs and enhances the quality of the meat
According to this North Carolina study, lambs raised on
alfalfa pasture had "higher carcass weight average dressing percentage,
yield grade and carcass value (P<<.05) than those fed on the grain-based
ration. . . The high quality carcasses were produced at a much reduced cost
as compared to traditional feeding management." All told, the net return
for the lambs raised on pasture was $15.97/head higher. For more details, read Use
Of Alfalfa Pasture For Finishing Lambs.
In a second grazing experiment, meat from lambs finished
on pasture had 14 percent less fat and 8 percent more protein than grain-fed
here for details of this study.
Turkeys make CLA, too
CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is highest in products from
grazing animals on a diet of fresh pasture, and it is very low in non-ruminants
such as chickens and pigs. But turkeys appear to be an exception, having about
2.5 mg of CLA per gram of fat. (For comparison, chickens have 0.9 and pigs
0.6 mg. per gram of fat.) To date, no one has tested the CLA content of turkeys
raised on pasture rather than in confinement, an experiment that begs to be
done. It is possible that turkeys with a significant amount of greens in their
diet will have even more CLA.
(Chin, S. F. et al. (1992)).
"Dietary Sources of Conjugated Dienoic Isomers of Linoleic Acid, a Newly
Recognized Class of Anticarcinogens)
Cows that graze on "ecologically
managed" pasture may have more CLA
Raising dairy cows on fresh pasture instead of a standard
dairy diet increases the CLA content of their milk five-fold. Now there is
some evidence that grazing on organic pasture may boost the CLA even further.
In a study conducted in Germany, cows on organic pasture had almost twice as
much CLA as those grazing on a nearby, non-organic farm. More research is needed.
(Jahreis, G. et al. (1997).
"Conjugated linoleic acid in milk fat: high variation depending on production
system." Nutrition Research 17(9): 1479-1484.)
Finishing cattle on fresh
pasture increases the omega-3s in their meat more than fishmeal
Researchers have been laboring diligently to try to increase
the omega-3 content of beef. In a 1998 study, letting cattle forage on fresh
pasture alone resulted in higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than feeding
them a diet that contained 10% fishmeal for 168 days.
For more information, see: I.B. Mandell et al, The
Return of Omega-3 Fatty Acids into the Food Supply, World Rev Nutr Diet, 83:144-59,
Once again, Nature's original plan is proving to be the
Raising pigs on pasture reduces
the risk of fostering antibiotic-resistant bacteria
A herd of pigs that had not been exposed to antibiotics
for 126 months was divided into two groups and either housed on pasture or
in standard indoor units. Over a 20-month period, fecal coliforms from both
groups of pigs were tested for resistance to standard antibiotics. Samples
taken from the pastured pigs were far less likely to be antibiotic resistant.
data from this study suggest that exposure to antibiotics is not the only factor
that influences the prevalence of bacteria that are resistant to single and
multiple antibiotics in the feces of domestic animals and that considerable
research is needed to define the factors influencing antibiotic resistance
in fecal bacteria."
Langlois, B. E., K. A. Dawson, et al. (1988). "Effect
of age and housing location on antibiotic resistance of fecal coliforms from
pigs in a non-antibiotic-exposed herd."
Appl Environ Microbiol 54(6): 1341-4.
Meat from grassfed cattle is four
times higher in vitamin E
In addition to being higher in omega-3s, CLA, and beta-carotene,
grassfed beef is much higher in vitamin E. The graph below shows vitamin E
levels in meat from: 1) feedlot cattle, 2) feedlot cattle given high dose supplements
of vitamin E (1,000 IU per day), and 3) cattle raised on fresh pasture with
no added supplements.
The meat from the pastured cattle is four times higher
in vitamin E than the meat from the feedlot cattle and, interestingly, almost
twice as high as the meat from the feedlot cattle given vitamin E supplements.
The reason for the very high vitamin E content in the meat of grassfed cattle
is the very high vitamin E content in fresh grass. (Scan down for earlier postings
on vitamin E levels in animal feed.)
In humans, vitamin E is linked with a lower risk of heart
disease and cancer. This potent antioxidant may also have anti-aging properties.
Most people tend to be deficient in vitamin E.
("Dietary supplementation of vitamin
E to cattle to improve shelf life and case life of beef for domestic and
international markets." G.C. Smith Colorado State University, Fort Collins,
1. Rule, D. C., K.
S. Brought on, S. M. Shellito, and G. Maiorano. "Comparison of Muscle
Fatty Acid Profiles and Cholesterol Concentrations of Bison, Beef Cattle,
Elk, and Chicken." J Anim Sci 80, no. 5 (2002): 1202-11.
2. Davidson, M. H.,
D. Hunninghake, et al. (1999). "Comparison of the effects of
lean red meat vs lean white meat on serum lipid levels among free-living
persons with hypercholesterolemia: a long-term, randomized clinical trial." Arch
Intern Med 159(12): 1331-8. The conclusion of this study: "...
diets containing primarily lean red meat or lean white meat produced similar
reductions in LDL cholesterol and elevations in HDL cholesterol, which were
maintained throughout the 36 weeks of treatment."
3. Siscovick, D. S.,
T. E. Raghunathan, et al. (1995). "Dietary Intake and Cell Membrane
Levels of Long-Chain n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and the Risk of Primary
Cardiac Arrest." JAMA 274(17): 1363-1367.
4. Simopolous, A.
P. and Jo Robinson (1999). The Omega Diet. New
York, HarperCollins. My previous book, a collaboration with Dr. Artemis P.
Simopoulos, devotes an entire chapter to the vital role that omega-3s play
in brain function.
5. Rose, D. P., J.
M. Connolly, et al. (1995). "Influence of Diets Containing Eicosapentaenoic
or Docasahexaenoic Acid on Growth and Metastasis of Breast Cancer Cells in
Nude Mice." Journal of the National Cancer Institute 87(8):
6. Tisdale, M. J.
(1999). "Wasting in cancer." J Nutr 129(1S
7. Tashiro, T., H.
Yamamori, et al. (1998). "n-3 versus n-6 polyunsaturated fatty
acids in critical illness." Nutrition 14(6):
8. Duckett, S. K.,
D. G. Wagner, et al. (1993). "Effects of time on feed on beef nutrient
composition." J Anim Sci 71(8): 2079-88.
9. Lopez-Bote, C.
J., R.Sanz Arias, A.I. Rey, A. Castano, B. Isabel, J. Thos (1998).
"Effect of free-range feeding on omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-tocopherol
content and oxidative stability of eggs." Animal
Feed Science and Technology 72: 33-40.
10. Dolecek, T. A.
and G. Grandits (1991). "Dietary Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Mortality
in the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT)." World
Rev Nutr Diet 66: 205-16.
11. Dhiman, T. R.,
G. R. Anand, et al. (1999). "Conjugated linoleic acid content
of milk from cows fed different diets." J Dairy
Sci 82(10): 2146-56. Interestingly, when the pasture was machine-harvested
and then fed to the animals as hay, the cows produced far less CLA than when
they were grazing on that pasture, even though the hay was made from the
very same grass. The fat that the animals use to produce CLA is oxidized
during the wilting, drying process. For maximum CLA, animals need to be grazing
12. Ip, C, J.A. Scimeca, et
al. (1994) "Conjugated linoleic acid. A powerful anti-carcinogen
from animal fat sources."
p. 1053. Cancer 74(3 suppl):1050-4.
13. Aro, A., S. Mannisto,
I. Salminen, M. L. Ovaskainen, V. Kataja, and M. Uusitupa. "Inverse
Association between Dietary and Serum Conjugated Linoleic Acid and Risk of
Breast Cancer in Postmenopausal Women." Nutr Cancer 38,
no. 2 (2000): 151-7.
14. Smith, G.C. "Dietary
supplementation of vitamin E to cattle to improve shelf life and case life
of beef for domestic and international markets." Colorado State
University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1171