Arrowhead Provides Healthier Grass-Fed Beef
Feb 28, 2014 05:50PM
● By Thomas Maslowski
For our great-grandmothers, the choice of a place to buy meat was probably determined by how polite the butcher was, how well he cut the roasts and trimmed the stew meat and whether he kept his thumb off the scale. She probably knew the butcher personally, and the butcher knew the farmer, so there wasn’t a question about quality.
Today, there are many questions about our food supply, especially about what the animals are being fed and how they are treated in the giant growing operations that are more factory than farm. So consumers are calling for a return to natural, regionally produced food. Currently in vogue, for example, is grass-fed beef. But is there really a difference, or are we the ones being fed a lot of hype to justify the higher prices?
According to Tony DeBlauw, a marketing ambassador with Arrowhead Beef, LLC, a cooperative of family farms, local processors and sales representatives selling grass-fed beef to Floridians, “There is much research that leads us to believe that grass-fed beef provides more health benefits than its grain-fed counterpart.”
Arrowhead features a superior breed of cattle, renowned for yielding exceptionally lean and tender beef, raised in what they call “herd-life harmony”. The cattle are kept on the land and never sent to an industrial beef production facility. They bypass feed lots, antibiotics and homogenization, thereby retaining the special identity of the breed. Then, all beef processing and aging is performed in small batches, so the meat has a natural flavor and an authentic nature.
Florida grass-fed beef is said to have health benefits, as well, being lower in fat and calories, high in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and richer in antioxidants than beef that’s been commercially produced.
While the ratio of saturated to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat stays fairly constant in beef regardless of the animal’s diet, the types of fatty acids within these categories can vary significantly. Research indicates that while the amount of Omega-6, a polyunsaturated fat that is pro-inflammatory, won’t vary significantly in grass-fed beef, the amount of the more desirable Omega-3, an anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated fat, will vary significantly.
The type of grass consumed and breed of cow have an effect, but we can expect to see two to five times more Omega-3 than Omega-6 in grass-fed beef, bringing the ratio very close to the desired one-to-one. Compared that to nearly an eight-to-one ratio in grain-fed beef.
When it comes to saturated fats, there are three main types: stearic acid, palmitic acid and mystiric acid. Grass-fed beef has been shown to consistently contain a higher percentage of stearic acid, which does not raise cholesterol. That means a reduction in the overall percentage of palmitic and mystiric acids, both of which are more likely to raise cholesterol.
There’s something called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid that occurs naturally in animals that eat grass. It’s said to have antioxidant qualities, and research suggests it might protect against heart disease and cancer. Grass-fed beef contains two to three times more CLA than grain-fed beef, because grain-based diets limit the growth of the bacterium necessary to produce beneficial CLA.
Also, grass-fed beef has more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Carotenoids, the precursors for vitamin A, are not found in grain-fed beef simply because grains don’t contain them, while grasses do. Grass-fed beef also has higher levels of vitamin E, which is helpful in protecting our cells from oxidation, as well as increased amounts of zinc, phosphorous and potassium.
Arrowhead Beef co-op growers adhere to the standard definition of grass- and forage-fed cattle and will back up their word with signed affidavits. The diet is derived solely from forage, consisting of grass, legumes, brassica, browse or crops in the vegetative state. Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.
Whether it’s the higher levels of Omega-3, increased CLA or more abundant antioxidants and minerals, it’s easy to see that grass-fed beef can offer a healthful diet option. But how about flavor? There are no hormones or antibiotics, and the steaks are aged for 28 days, making them consistently tender. DeBlauw says, "Not only is our beef healthier for you and more nutritious, it tastes better! You can feel good about eating something closer to the land."
Thomas Masloski is a freelance journalist who focuses on health, fitness and green topics and is a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings.