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Is “Red Meat” Really Bad for You?

Is “Red Meat” Really Bad for You?
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  • Yes, it’s bad for you—if the cattle ate grains and were given antibiotics
  • No, it’s good for you—if the cattle were 100% natural and eating grass

We’ve been hearing/reading/seeing a lot of news about adverse health effects of red meat; what we’re not hearing at all is that this research has one very serious flaw.
What’s missing from the “red meat is bad for you” research? Free-range, 100% grass-fed beef, that’s what . . . but isn’t that a silly description? No one feeds cattle grass: For hundreds of thousands of years, cows and calves have all eaten grass and other vegetation all by themselves! And so have other “grazing” animals—deer, antelope, buffalo, and others. By contrast, cattle have eaten grain as a substantial part of their sustenance for less than two centuries. But I digress….
Starting in the 19th century, more and more cattle were taken “off the range” and confined to what were called “feedlots,” where the large majority of foods available to them were grains. By the 20th century, most cattle were treated this way. Starting in the second half of the 20th century, cattle (as well as chickens, turkeys, pigs, and other “livestock”) have been given increasing quantities of antibiotics.
Grains and antibiotics are not what Nature and Creation intended for cattle! For literally hundreds of thousands of years before that, the “red meat” eaten by humans has come from animals eating a 100% organic diet. For two centuries and a little more, grains and antibiotics. And researchers are finding that the meat from these un-naturally fed animals might be bad for our health? Duh!
But isn’t that just a theory? Not at all! It’s been known for decades that grain-fed cattle have different fatty acid, vitamin, and antioxidant content. Here’s a quote from a 2010 review:[1]
Research spanning three decades suggests that grass-based diets can significantly improve the fatty acid composition and antioxidant content of beef…Grass-based diets have been shown to enhance total conjugated linoleic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids FAs. While the overall concentration of total saturated fatty acids is not different between feeding regimens, grass-finished beef tends toward a higher proportion of cholesterol neutral stearic acid, and less cholesterol-elevating saturated fatty acids such as myristic and palmitic fatty acids. Several studies suggest that grass-based diets elevate precursors for Vitamin A and E, as well as cancer fighting antioxidants such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity, as compared to grain-fed contemporaries. Fat conscious consumers will also prefer the overall lower fat content of a grass-fed beef product.
Bottom line to all this? Non-vegetarian humans have been eating meat from grazing animals for hundreds of thousands of years, and not suffering the various consequences that modern researchers are finding in their research about eating meat from grain-fed, antibiotic-treated cattle. If your “red meat” is from cattle eating as cattle have eaten for hundreds of thousands of years, don’t worry about it. Copy Nature!

Other articles in this issue:

[1]    Daley C, et al. “A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef.” Nutrition Journal 2010

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