Taking It Beyond Organic to the World of Grassfed

June 2, 2011

Taking It Beyond Organic to the World of Grassfed

by Hilary Macht

You feel better knowing that the organic food you’re putting into your body has been grown naturally—that is to say, without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers; and, in the case of meat and dairy products, without antibiotics or artificial growth hormones. And all that’s true.

The trouble is, when it comes to meat, eggs and dairy, organic isn’t doing as much for you as you may think. Or, put another way, you can do better. Reach beyond organic to grassfed:  Animals that roam and graze on pasture, as opposed to being fed grains in a feedlot.

Meat and milk from animals that’s certified organic may be free of chemical pesticides, but it’s still based on grain. “Cows evolved to eat grass,” explains best-selling food author Michael Pollan. When they eat grains, like corn and soy, which the vast majority of cows in the U.S. do, they get fatter and they get sicker, Pollan says.

And, as the saying goes, you are what you eat. Animals that live on grasses are much healthier than those living on grains, and that benefit gets passed on to the people who consume their meat, milk and eggs—yes, even chickens are better off pastured!

Research shows that beef from grassfed cows contains less calories and total fat and more heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. It also has higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which, like the omega-3’s, has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Same goes for milk, yogurt and cheese from pastured cows.

Grassfed products offer a special benefit for women, as CLA has been shown to protect against breast cancer and block the growth of cancerous breast cells. There’s even evidence that CLA can aid in the formation of lean muscle mass and help with weight-loss.

What’s more, grassfed foods offer superior levels of vitamins and antioxidants, where women often come up short. You can actually see the difference: Spread some pasture butter on a piece of crusty bread and it’s yellow; crack open a pastured egg and the yolk is orange. What you’re seeing is the beta-carotene from fresh, green grass.

Look for the word “pastured,” says eatwild.com, the go-to source for everything you ever wanted to know about grassfed and where to get it. And in the case of beef, keep in mind that all cattle are fed grass until they get to the feedlot; “grass finished” or “100% grass fed” is what you want.

 I am reminded of the glowing young woman behind the cheese counter at Whole Foods. “Grassfed, organic and raw” she said, holding out a delectable looking piece of cheese for me to try. “It’s the perfect trifecta.” But that’s another story…..

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About guest blogger, Hilary Macht

Hilary Macht writes about women’s health, food and the environment. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Prevention, The Columbia Journalism Review, MORE, Fitness and The Amicus Journal.  

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