Whether you are producing your own food products, or just trying to live a simpler, more natural life, you can run across buzz-words that sound good, but to the average consumer have little meaning. Natural, hormone-free, grass-fed, organic-all of these words can seem like jargon to the uninitiated. One phrase that is common nowadays is the term "grass-fed." Read on to get the low down on grass-fed meat and milk.
Modern Conventional Farming Techniques
Since World War II, most cattle in our country are heavily dependent on grain and grain mixes for a large portion of their diets. Producers found that beef cattle finished much more quickly (in less than 2 years) when fed a massive amount of grain. Grass-fed cattle can take 3 or 4 years to reach this same size. Dairy cows gave much more milk when they were kept confined and fed a mixed ration containing a great percentage of grain.
While this production method was good for beef and dairy producers, as well as the grain farmers, it isn't so great for cows. Cows fed large amounts of grains can develop acidosis, basically a stomachache, because they really are designed to digest grasses and legumes rather than grains. Large amounts of grain also change the pH of a cow's intestinal tract. Bacteria like E. coli are more likely to inhabit the intestines of a cow with this changed pH. Many commercial operations feed their cows grains mixed with preventative antibiotics because the unnatural feeds can weaken the cow's natural immunity. When you put lots of cows together in a feed lot, they can quickly make one another sick, therefore the antibiotics are necessary to keep veterinary costs down.
Grass-Fed Cattle Farming
Those who raise grass-fed beef and produce grass-fed dairy products believe that intensive, grain-based cattle raising is hard on the earth and hard on the animals. They may not make quite as much money, but they feel that the animals are happier, and the trade-off is worth it. Additionally, some studies have shown that products from grass-fed cattle are healthier than those from conventionally raised animals.
Grass-Fed Beef and Dairy Benefits
Grass-fed beef and dairy products contain better quality fats and higher concentrations of Omega 3 fats in the products. The cows naturally deposit these products in their milk and muscle tissue when they are allowed to graze and consume grasses and legumes as the greatest portion of their diets. Additionally, grass-fed animals have plenty of beta carotene in their milk and meat because they get it from the forages that they consume. Additionally, grass-fed meat has lower levels of saturated fats than grain-fed meat.
Recent studies have shown that the milk of grass-fed cows contains a much higher concentration of a fat called conjugated linoleic acid. This acid can promote heart health and support the immune system.
Grass-fed milk products also have lower amounts of saturated fat in them.
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