Maintaining Sustaining

Not Ready to Go Vegetarian/Vegan? Go Grass-Fed

Veganism and vegetarianism are on the rise. Some people are making this dietary change for health reasons, while others are concerned about the impact of a carnivorous diet on the environment. But if you’re not sure that giving up animal products is right for you, consider switching to grass-fed beef instead. The health and environmental benefits may surprise you.

Health benefits of grass-fed beef

Cows are grazers. That means they eat fresh plants, particularly grass, right out of the ground. But on most farms, cows don’t have access to unlimited pastures, and farmers feed them grain instead—usually a mix of corn, soy, wheat, and other ingredients. This results in meat that is higher in saturated fat than grass-fed beef. Grain-fed beef also tends to be greasy, while grass-fed beef is juicy.

Some of the most important nutritional benefits of grass-fed beef include its high content of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Taken together, this means benefits for cardiovascular health, neurological health, immune system strength, energy levels, skin health, and muscle growth. While grain-fed beef causes inflammation, grass-fed beef is anti-inflammatory. So different from the conventional wisdom about eating red meat, right?

Environmental benefits of grass-fed

Some people may think that grass-fed meat is unsustainable because of the amount of land it requires.  However, in comparison to grain-fed cattle farms, pasture-raising actually has a positive impact on the environment. Allowing cows to graze naturally helps to preserve the health of grasslands. It also maintains the wellbeing of the local ecosystem by encouraging the presence of pollinators. Would you be surprised to know that pasture-raised cattle ranches also contribute to a reduction in global warming? It’s true!

But grain-fed cattle farms actually contribute to climate change. The monocultural process of growing the grain and the cattle’s process of digesting a biologically incorrect diet combine to create additional greenhouse gases. This is not to mention the fact that grain-fed cattle operations generally rely on synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, allowing chemicals to leech into the soil and water. While pasture-raised ranches have an incentive to maintain healthy grasslands, the grain-feeding factory farm industry creates about 61 million tons of waste each year.

Ethics

Much of the motivation for the switch to vegetarianism/veganism is ethical in nature. People are rightfully concerned with the treatment of animals, whose quality of life is important. A quick comparison of a cow’s life on a grain-feeding factory farm versus a pasture-based ranch reveals that grass-fed meat is a more ethical decision for consumers.

Grass-fed cattle are allowed to live naturally—they graze, socialize, and digest their food in accordance with their own biology. In contrast, grain-fed cattle are usually confined to uncomfortable and unnatural spaces, causing them to experience daily stress. Eating grain taxes their digestive system, causing even more stress.

Finally, grain-fed cattle are usually slaughtered at a much younger age because their artificial diets have plumped them up sooner than an all-grass diet would have. As a result, grain-fed cattle generally live less than eighteen months, while grass-fed cattle are not considered mature until about two and a half years of age.

How to buy grass-fed

Many grocery stores only sell grain-fed meat, but it’s getting easier to find grass-fed options. You can find grass-fed beef at chains like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and even Walmart! For convenience, check out some of the websites that will deliver grass-fed products right to your door, such as grasslandbeef.com and butcherbox.com. Finally, if you want to stay as local as possible, look up your area on eatwild.com or grassfedbeefdirectory.com. These sites will point you to farms, stores, and restaurants that serve grass-fed beef near you.

-J Maurice

Photo by julie aagaard from Pexels

About

I am a linguaphile, writer, editor, and educator from New York City. Passionate about natural living, spirituality, and socio-cultural issues, I have written on a wide variety of topics, ranging from politics to holistic wellness and parenting. With a background in curriculum writing and teaching in diverse settings, I have been involved in several grassroots activist projects as well. My hobbies include music, art, gardening, cooking, and hiking. Writing samples can be found at scribewritingservices.wordpress.com.

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