Study shows ground beef from grain-fed cattle healthier than grass-fed
Shocking, isn’t it? I know it was for me. Not all that shocking mind you, but I was rather surprised. At first glance, you would think that I would be surprised by the result. I will tell you that it wasn’t so much that, as it was the fact that they behaved like scientists and actually tested something that most people would have believed in lieu of any testing. If you take a random person on the street and ask them which is healthier, grain-fed or grass-fed, they would almost universally respond grass-fed cattle, who are, after all, eating their natural diet.
There is no doubt that an animal eating their natural diet would be healthier than one that is not. However, that isn’t really the question here. The more compelling question for humans is whether or not this admittedly less healthier grain-fed animal yields beef that is healthy for human consumption. That is where the paradox lies. How does it affect us?
Dr. Stephen Smith and a team of researchers conducted a recent Texas AgriLife Research study funded by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. They used Angus cattle raised at the McGregor AgriLife Research Center. One group of cattle was fed a pasture diet with supplement hay. The steers were kept on pasture until 20 months of age. A second group of Angus steers was fed the same way a feedlot operator would and kept on a corn-based diet until 16 months of age, then reaching USDA Choice status. A third group of Angus steers were fed the corn-based diet the longest, until reaching USDA Prime. The fat in cattle that are high in marbling is low in saturated and trans-fats, and higher in monounsaturated fats.
Beef cuts from the plate and flank taken from all three grades were made into a ground beef product, containing 24 percent fat.
Next, a group of 27 men completed a three-way crossover study. Each group rotated, consuming five 114-gram ground beef patties per week for six weeks from each of the three sets of cattle used in the study. They found that contrary to popular perception, ground beef from pasture-fed cattle had no beneficial effects on plasma lipid. However, high monounsaturated fat ground beef from grain-fed cattle increased HDL cholesterol, increased LDL particle diameters, and decreased insulin, suggesting that ground beef produced by intensive production practices provides “a healthful, high-quality source of protein.”
The popular perception is that meat, in general “clogs the arteries” and thus would produce a derogatory effect on blood plasma lipids. If meat in general would produce this effect then surely grain-fed cattle would produce a result that is much worse than its grass-fed counterpart. And beyond all of that, we are talking about ground beef — the stuff of hamburger — which gets more than it’s fair share of blame for supposedly clogging arteries.
“We wanted to see from this study if product from pasture-fed and corn-fed cattle had different effects on LDL or HDL cholesterol,” Smith said. “We looked at the scientific literature and could not find any justifications for the statement that pasture-fed beef is better for you. All we found were rat studies in which they were fed omega-3 fatty acids, so we wanted to know if this applied to beef from grass-fed cattle.”
“There really were no negative effects of feeding ground beef from the pasture-fed cattle,” Smith said. “We did see many positive effects in men that consumed ground beef from corn-fed cattle. The ground beef from the USDA Prime cattle increased HDL cholesterol and LDL particle diameter. Both effects are protective against cardiovascular disease. The Prime ground beef also decreased insulin, so it may have some protective effect against type II diabetes.”
This backs up what we’ve been saying all along. Those hamburgers are just fine without the bun. It doesn’t make any difference whether you get that hamburger from Wal-Mart or Whole Foods. Hold the bread and your health will improve.Share on Twitter
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