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Organic, grass-fed beef is good for you.

Free-range cows
Free-range cows

Beef is good for you. Really, it is. Just keep one very important thing in mind: Healthy cows make healthy beef, so the quality of meat you consume directly impacts it's “healthiness”.

Conventionally raised cattle (as opposed to organically raised or grass-fed/free-range), grow bulky due to the use of steroids and hormones that, as a side effect, suppress the their immune response. The cows are fed an unnatural diet of genetically modified grain and are kept in tight quarters that promote the spread of disease among a group of animals with already suppressed immune systems and poor diets. In order to quell the spread of infection, these cattle are regularly treated with antibiotics. All of the fat soluble pharmaceuticals given to these unlucky cows are eventually stored in adipose tissue (aka fat). So, ultimately, the meat on your table will contain detectable traces of all of the drugs these “feedlot” raised cattle were given. As cattle naturally graze on grass, a grain based diet makes the meat particularly acidic, which is neither good tasting nor good for you. Additionally, high levels of inflammatory omega-6 oils and low levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3s make conventionally raised beef much less appetizing.

Organic beef is a better choice, but grass-fed beef is the best you can get. Organic meat contains no steroids, hormones or antibiotics. These cattle are humanely raised in open space where they can roam; this tremendously reduces the spread of disease. However, organic meat is often grain fed, and though the grain must be organic (pesticide free and non genetically modified), it's just not as good as what cows eat naturally: grass. Cows that are allowed to graze on their natural foodstuff at their leisure are healthy, happy animals. This is why grass-fed, free-range cattle make the healthiest, most delicious beef. Beef from these cows has a minimal risk of containing food-borne disease and contains higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and smaller amounts of LDL (the so called “bad cholesterol”). Grass-fed beef also contains conjugated linoleic acid, which studies show to have antioxidant and cancer combating effects.

Locally, grass-fed beef can be found at Mountain Mama Natural Foods, Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage or Whole Foods Market (or you can always ask someone behind the meat counter at your neighborhood grocery/natural foods store if they carry grass-fed beef).