Author: Jordan Mazur MS, RD and Nutritionist to professional NFL teams
At Country Archer Provisions, we love grass-fed beef! In fact, we love it so much that we make all of our beef jerky with only 100% grass-fed and finished beef from pasture raised sources. We’re not shy about sharing our love for grass-fed beef and its many benefits. But don’t just take our word for it. We reached out to NFL Sports Dietitian and Coordinator of Nutrition Jordan Mazur, MS, RD for his thoughts on grass-fed beef vs. conventional. Here’s what he told us:
Question: Is grass-fed beef healthier than conventional fed beef?
Jordan: This is a common question that many people and athletes ask me when choosing beef options at the grocery store or even when dining out. They often ask: What’s the difference? Is it worth it? Is grass-fed beef healthier? Well, to answer those questions, we’ll need to dive a little into defining it all and the health benefits of grass-fed beef first and why it’s the best choice for athletes and non-athletes alike.
Question: Grass-Fed Vs. Conventional Beef: What’s the difference?
Jordan: To start, the term grass-fed isn’t clearly defined but grass-fed cows eat mostly grass, while conventional cattle eat mostly an unnatural diet based on corn and soy. Most conventionally raised cows start by consuming milk and eating grass, then as they age, that’s where most cows switch to feedlots and are fed mostly grain based feeds.
Grass-fed cattle are what you would expect – fed grass for the entirety of their lives. Because they are solely grass-fed, the cattle naturally roam about and eat their natural diets that provide ample protein and nutrients. Additionally, since cattle roam daily to feed, they are naturally leaner and have less fat. Environmentally speaking, grass-fed beef is somewhat better as the cattle naturally disperse fertilizer from manure, which improves nutrient composition of the soil for which foods are grown.
Question: What does grass-fed and finished mean?
Jordan: All cattle consume grass at some point during their lives, but will eventually finish their lives on a grain fed diet. Grass finished beef means that cattle received a grass or forage diet their entire lives. Grass-finished cows contain more healthy fats than their grain-finished counterparts and some say a richer flavor.
Question: Is grass-fed beef healthier than conventional beef?
Jordan: So, this is the big question and one that most people want to know. In general, beef is a highly concentrated source of nutrients in our diets. Beef is loaded with B-vitamins and high in bioavailable iron, selenium, and zinc. However, compared to conventional beef, grass-fed beef is much higher in Vitamin A and E, beta-carotene, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Grass-feed also contains 2-4x more Omega-3s and 5x more CLA, which are really good for your body and health. Omega-3 fatty acids are important because they are an integral part of cell membranes throughout the body. They provide the starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. This is particularly important for athletes to help them recover from their strenuous workouts. Grass fed beef also tends to be richer in antioxidants which are also important to manage free radicals that cause cell damage in the body.
But one of the biggest benefits of grass-fed beef is a healthier fat profile compared with conventional beef. There's little scientific literature comparing a human diet of grass-fed beef to a diet of conventional beef, but research is beginning to show the differences in the beefs' fat profiles and these differences may have implications for human health. As a dietitian to professional and elite athletes, I understand how critical clean and healthy protein is to a balanced nutrition plan. Clean protein sources are very important for athletes because it gives them the building blocks to recover and stay strong throughout their training and competition.
Question: So overall, is grass-fed beef a better choice and what you would recommend to the athletes that you work with?
Jordan: So, the bottom line is, the meat you choose to eat and/or buy from the store will depend on the desire for optimal health and wellbeing with improved nutrient consumption compared to saving money. You should take each of these into consideration the next time you want to weigh (no pun intended) your options.
Photo Credit: Richards Grass Fed Beef
For more information on why Country Archer uses grass-fed beef, check out our Grass-Fed Beef page.Author: Jordan Mazur MS, RD and Nutritionist to professional NFL teams