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The Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Meat: Part 2

By: Dave Asprey

grass-fed meatFat can be a wonderful thing.

Fats can be the most nutrient rich part of your diet, or they can cause numerous diseases – depending on which fat we’re talking about.  What an animal eats will change the kind of fat in its tissues.  If an animal eats a suboptimal diet including grains and legumes, its fat loses much of its nutrient quality in surprisingly little time.  The second study we cover in this two-part series examines fats present in grass-fed meat besides omega-3’s and CLA, along with various nutrients stored in the meat and the fat.

The last article in the series showed grass-fed meat has more omega-3’s and CLA than grain-fed meat.  Both of those fats are beneficial, but there’s more.  The new study in this article compared a broad spectrum of nutrients in grass-fed and grain-fed beef.  It measured carotenoids, the total amount of fat, and the types of fat including:

  1. Omega-3
  2. Omega-6
  3. Cholesterol (this isn’t a fat, but its still important)
  4. Total Saturated Fat
  5. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
  6. Trans-Vaccenic Acid (TVA)*

*Trans-vaccenic acid is metabolized into conjugated linoleic acid, and performs similar functions.  It can speed fat loss, fight cancer, and improve brain function. It is technically a naturally occurring “trans-fat” but it does not cause the same the negative health problems that margarine or hydrogenated fats do.

Study #2: Conventional vs. Grass-fed

Effects of conventional and grass-feeding systems on the nutrient composition of beef.

In 2008, meat samples were collected from around the country at three different times.  Grass-fed meat was taken from 13 states, and grain-fed meat was collected from Ohio, Texas, and South Dakota.  The nutrient content of the grass-fed meat was analyzed and compared to the grain-fed meat.

Results

The grass-fed meat had higher levels of carotenoids, making the fat appear yellow.  Generally, the more carotenoids in a substance, the more nutrients it contains.  Yellow fat (like grass-fed butter) is a sign of high nutrient density.  One of the things you’ll notice when cooking grass-fed meat is the yellowish color of the fat.

More carotenoids = more antioxidants+nutrients (and more flavor too).

“…grass-fed beef had fat that was more yellow in color than control beef.”

Grass-fed meat had slightly less total fat, but both types of meat were considered lean.  Neither one of them was more than 4.3 percent fat for the cuts studied.

The real difference was the type of fat in each meat.  Grass-fed meat was higher in saturated fat (that’s a good thing, but for you fat-phobic people, there are other studies that show grass-fed meat has less saturated fat), omega-3’s, CLA, and trans-vaccenic acid (similar to CLA).  Both grain-fed and grass-fed animals had about the same amount of omega-6, total polyunsaturated fat, and cholesterol.

Grass-fed meat had the same amount of omega-6 fatty acids, and far more omega-3‘s.  This means grass-fed meat has a better ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.  The higher levels of saturated fat are a bonus.  You want to avoid an overabundance of polyunsaturated fat.

“…grass-fed beef had… a greater content of SFA (saturated fats), n-3 fatty acids, CLA, and trans-vaccenic acid than did the control samples. Concentrations of PUFA, trans fatty acids, n-6 fatty acids, and cholesterol did not differ between grass-fed and control ground beef.”

Summary

Grass-fed meat was higher in…

  • Carotenoids and trace nutrients.
  • Saturated fat.
  • CLA and TVA (super healthy fats)
  • Omega-3’s.

Grass-fed and grain-fed meat had the same amount of omega-6 fats, cholesterol, and total polyunsaturated fats.

One of the most important health markers is your omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio.  A commonly cited healthy ratio is 2:1 but the Bulletproof recommendation is to keep it below 1:1 and to make sure the omega-6 you eat is mostly uncooked.  Most Americans have a ratio of 20:1 to 30:1.  Along with other dietary measures, consuming grass-fed meat will help improve this ratio.  Just like in the 2006 study cited in our first post, grass-fed meat had more omega-3’s, CLA, and TVA.  Grass-fed meat has more antioxidants, and a broader spectrum of healthy fats.  The higher antioxidant content in grass-fed meat will also protect the omega-3’s and omega-6’s from oxidizing.

When it comes to meat, grass-fed and grain-fed don’t even compare. Go grass-fed, every time.

Looking for a reliable source of grass-fed meat that delivers across the U.S.?  We recommend Alderspring Ranch as the best value for grass-fed.

Some background research for this post may have been conducted by Bulletproof staff researchers.