Athletic Cows

Athletic cows. Let that sink in for a minute. I heard the term the other day while watching The Dr. Oz Show. It was an episode devoted to investigating beef in America, particularly looking into the category of grass-fed beef.

Per this exploration, beef produced from conventional industry is managed to meet a huge American demand and to produce maximum profits. Cattle must grow bigger faster in order to satisfy. To do this, cows spend time in feedlots before slaughter to fatten up. They are generally fed corn and grains to add bulk rapidly. A cow’s body is not very tolerant of this diet, so the cows can become ill easily. To combat sickness, the cows are given antibiotics, as prevention and treatment. To further increase mass, the cows are also given growth hormones and performance enhancers. Thus, cows are raised at an accelerated pace and able to be processed sooner, with meat becoming available to consumers sooner.

On the show, a Texas farmer was studied by a reporter and interviewed on-air. Being “disenchanted and disgusted” with many modern day beef industry practices, the farmer reverted his techniques back to those of his grandfather’s day, pre World War II, where cattle roamed in a large open pasture until naturally reaching full size. These cows do live an athletic life. They have lots of space and grass to graze and are tended with care and skill.

This type of straightforward comparison highlights stark differences between two systems. Yet questions may still remain regarding grass-fed beef. The show did a good job of answering my questions at least…

Why does it cost more?
Higher costs come from proper practices. It takes more time for cows to grow at a normal rate. It takes extra manpower to oversee animals. It takes additional land for cattle to be housed on. It requires humane butchering practices by skilled workers. The volume to sell at market is less, so price per item has to be more for a farm to see any financial gains and stay in business.

Are there more health benefits?
Grass-fed beef has a lot of quality nutrients for the human body. When analyzed against standard beef, fat content from grass-fed beef proves to contain more good-for-you omega-3s, vitamin E and carotenoids from plants. In essence, eating grass-fed beef is like eating a cow that has been eating salad (low calorie, nutrient dense food). Whereas eating standard beef is like eating a cow that has been eating tortilla chips.

Is it really worth it?
Taste testers, chefs and scientists agree that grass-fed beef actually tastes better. As explained, the beef tastes more like beef should. When cooking, it doesn’t need as much flavoring to be flavorful. So people would consume less overall added seasoning, butter, etc. in a meal also. Comments were made about the beef texture, that it is more ideal as fully formed muscle, and about the leaner meat leaving you feeling lighter after eating compared to standard beef because of more vitamins and minerals with less fat.

Okay then. Farmers with integrity seeking greater good. Free, active cows. Lean, high nutrient meat. Less chemicals and additives in and on top. Superior taste and texture.

I believe that you are what you eat. Now I’m convinced that you are what your meat eats too. Awareness is the beginning. I’ll leave you with this…

We often treat food like a one-night stand. We don’t want to know anything about where it came from or what happens after we’re done with it.

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