May is Beef Month, and as consumers gear up to purchase steaks and hamburger for their Memorial Day gatherings, they might also have questions about the many labels offered in the meat case.
Is grass-fed or grain-fed healthier for me? Which one tastes better? Should I get the leanest hamburger possible? Should I get the fat trimmed off the ribeye steaks I’m buying? What’s the difference between organic and natural?
With so many labeling claims, no wonder our consumers have concerns about conventional, grain-fed beef.
I recently read an article that appeared in The Land, which featured highlights from a speech given by Stephen Smith, Texas A&M meat science professor, who spoke at the Australian Waygu Association conference this spring.
Smith touted the benefits of Wagyu beef, crediting the abundance of fat as being a healthful addition to the diet. Of course, this goes against everything the U.S. government has pushed since the 1970s when the low fat craze was first introduced.
Smith shared research with attendees that proved as cattle fatten and marbling levels increase, the saturated fat found in beef turns to oleic acid, the same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil.
According to the article, “In transitioning from pasture or grass feeding to feedlot feeding there is a profound increase in genes associated with fat development and making more oleic acid. As fat increases, it is accompanied by a decrease in the proportion of saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids with a corresponding increase in oleic acid and other monounsaturated fatty acids.
“Smith’s department at Texas A&M has conducted the only studies comparing the effects of ground beef from grass-fed and grain-fed cattle on risk factors for cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes in people. His studies found that while grass-fed beef does contribute to the healthy omega-3 fatty acids, it is at levels far below recommended daily intakes. Meanwhile, the ground beef patty from grass-fed cattle contained 6.3 grams of oleic acid and from grain-fed 8.3 grams.”
While I love that consumers have options to choose either grass-fed or grain-fed beef, I despise how the industry often pits one method of beef production against another, usually at the expense of conventional, grain-fed beef.
Corn-fed beef is not only tasty, but it’s healthful, too. Now if we could only convince Americans of that fact. Fat is not a four-letter word, and it’s studies like Smith’s that will help to share that important truth with our consumers. Consumers can enjoy their conventional beef this holiday weekend without the guilt.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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