Beef- The Honest Truth

“Cut down on red meat consumption”. How many of you have heard this common saying before? At the same time, we have also heard the common saying of “You’re low in iron? Eat more beef. Beef will get your iron stores back up in no time”.

Is beef good or bad for us?

The truth is many of us have shamed beef for a very long time but others continue to swear by eating beef. Many clients have told me that no cut of meat ever comes close to the taste of beef.

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Gilbrae Farm in Ontario recently. The family, the Wilsons, who farm and own the farm is very passionate about what they have been able to achieve on this farm.

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The farm has ample room for the cows and/or calves to graze as the farm spans 500 acres. It was really neat to see the cows/calves up close.

My hope for this post is not to provide consumers and/or readers with more information about beef farming practices so that everyone can make more informed choices the next time they go grocery shopping for an animal protein source. In this post, I hope to address some common concerns when consuming beef include:

1. “I’ve heard beef contain hormones and antibiotics.”

Antibiotics are cautiously used. Farmers do care about the well being of their animals. Antibiotics are only meant for treating sickness. Antibiotics are expensive. Not only are antibiotics expensive but veterinarians need to come assess the animal in question. Veterinarian visits can be quite costly as well.

When the antibiotic is administered, it is important to note that all cattle sold in Canada for meat that have been treated with antibiotics must under a withdrawal period. The withdrawal period is the period of time where no antibiotics can be used before going to the market.

2.  “Grass Fed Beef Is Best”

Where do you normally picture cattle? They are usually grazing in the fields on grass. Cows eat forage for the majority of their lives. Forage includes grass, clover and alfalfa. During the winter, forage is fed to cows in the form of hay or silage.

Based on what I just told in the above paragraph, how can the cow fatten up? The cow has no opportunity to fatten up because it’s like asking a human to gain weight on a diet full of spinach.  Grass fed beef is leaner as a result.

3. “Grain Fed Beef is Not Natural”

Cows all start out with the same diet. They forage and graze in the pastures  and/or eat hay or silage. As mentioned above, it’s very hard for cows to fatten up on a forager’s diet. As a result, at ~3-4 months before cattle go to market, farmers will skillfully adjust the diet consisting of grains like corn or barley. With a diet containing grains, a higher quality marbled product will result.

Cows can’t digest grains naturally. What can farmers do? Farmers can use antibiotics known as ionophores.  Please note: ionophores are classified as an antibiotic but ionophores do not serve the same purpose as those types of antibiotics used to treat sickness. At the farm, the farmer mentioned that they use Monensin. What do ionophores do? Ionophores worked by controlling the type of parasite that can infect cattle and also allow beneficial bacteria in the animals’ rumen to become more efficient. Essentially, ionophores are responsible to change the gut flora in cows to help them better digest grains to avoid acidosis. Why would cows develop acidosis? Cows apparently aren’t very good mindful eaters. They do not know when they have had enough; therefore, there is always a very good chance that a cow may overeat. If a cow overeats on grains, acidosis occurs and death may be the result.

Given a blind taste test, 10/10 individuals always will prefer the taste of grain fed beef versus grass fed beef. Taste is king!

4. “I have high cholesterol. I don’t eat  beef because it has extremely high levels of saturated fat. ”

During the farm visit, the farmer and the organizers of this event had said something that shocked me. They said that the level of saturated fat in extra lean ground turkey and extra lean ground beef is the same. I took this piece of information with a grain of salt so I did my own investigation at the grocery store. To my surprise, it is true! There is minimal difference between the level of saturated fat in turkey vs. beef. The level of saturated fat is actually highest in extra lean ground chicken. Can you  believe that?

Beef is considered to be one of the best sources of iron, protein, Vitamin B12 and zinc.

Food For Thought: After addressing some of the most common consumer concerns about beef consumption, how do you feel about consuming beef?

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