If you can afford grass-fed beef, buy it. The health benefits are numerous, and even though many modern activists want to convince you to ditch meat, I don’t recommend it.
But what about those of us in lower-income households, or with lower-paying jobs and lots of mouths to feed? What if grass-fed beef isn’t feasible for you and your family — are you really better off not eating meat at all? Should you cut your losses and stick with chicken or cheaper protein options like beans? Absolutely not.
Diana Rogers, a “real food” nutritionist and sustainability advocate, along with Robb Wolf, a former research biochemist and author, co-authored a book called Sacred Cow, which deep-dives into the many arguments in favor of animal protein.
For centuries, humans have relied on the nourishment and resources that animals provide. Many cultures left no piece of the animal unharvested: if a piece wasn’t meant for food, it became clothing or tools. With the advent of agricultural and industrial revolutions, though, we stopped using the entire animal and started eating more foods in cans with added chemicals to preserve them. As fewer people were responsible for growing their own food, more people became reliant on the food they could afford, which made meat a less-accessible option for the lower class.
Factory farming quickly became a numbers game. It became cheaper to finish cattle with grains like corn, soy, and wheat (to fatten them up before processing) than to give them a grass diet, which the animal would choose under normal conditions.
Maintaining red meat in your diet is more important than buying grass-fed
As modern society starts to better understand the science behind farming decisions that existed for centuries, there has been more of an emphasis placed on getting back to our roots. We better understand the nutritional value of food raised in its natural habitat, rather than under conditions which benefit the consumer instead of the animal.
But it is important to note that grain-finished beef still has plenty of nutrients that can contribute to a healthy diet. We certainly do not want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Meat is high in nutrients like choline, iron, zinc, collagen, and is one of the only sources of b-vitamins. This fact can be especially significant for lower-income families looking to make some changes to their diets to improve their health and longevity.
For growing children, beef can aid in muscle and brain development, due to the amounts of choline and protein. This is becoming an increasing issue of access for kids in some schools that have adapted things like “Meatless Mondays,” where their only access to meat and its nutrients would have otherwise been school lunch. For adults, meat can be part of a satiating meal to help maintain muscle mass and avoid overconsumption of other processed foods (like fake meat), helping stave off diabetes and other metabolic diseases that are more commonly found in middle-to-lower income populations.
Even in a world where grass-fed beef is the gold standard, it’s essential to understand that grain-finished beef is still a good alternative, and shouldn’t be overlooked.