More Good News for Grass-fed Meat

Filed under: General Health, Nutrition

While researching the benefits of grass-fed meat for my nutrition guide for Eric Cressey’s new book, I came across a brand-new study that I thought was really incredible.

This study looked at red meat from animals that were fed grass or conventionally-fed, and compared the amount of omega-3′s in the blood from each.

Now as I am sure you know, grass-fed meat contains more omega-3′s than conventionally-fed (along with more CLA, more vitamins A and E, and a better saturated fatty acid profile), but it was unknown if this was enough to make a significant difference in blood concentrations in people.

These researchers set up a randomized, double-blind dietary intervention for 4 weeks. This means it was well-designed (especially for a nutrition study, which are often poor).

These 20 subjects replaced their normal red meat intake with three portions of either grass-fed beef or lamb, or conventional-fed beef or lamb.

The researchers found the fatty acid composition of serum blood and platelets, overall dietary intake, blood pressure as well as blood cholesterol and lipid levels pre and post-intervention.

They found that the subjects who consumed the grass-fed meat had higher total intakes of omega-3′s (obviously) and higher blood and platelet levels of omega-3′s, but there were no significant differences seen in triglycerides, blood cholesterol levels or blood pressure.

Ok, so what does this tell us? It tells us that consuming grass-fed red meat will contribute to higher levels of omega-3′s in our diet and in our blood, which is pretty cool. While clearly just consuming grass-fed meat was not enough of an increase in omega-3′s to alter blood lipids and cholesterol (or at least not given enough time), and it was clearly shown to be a significant contributor to overall omega-3 intake.

The key is to look at the big picture, and to see how the consumption of pasture-raised and grass-fed animals will improve nutrition and health over time. 4 weeks is a very short time period to see powerful changes, but just improving blood and platelet levels is an important step in improving long-term health. Eating grass-fed meat in conjunction with pastured eggs and dairy will make an even bigger difference in the overall omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and levels of inflammatory markers.

To me it is just more proof against those who try and claim that the difference in cattle feed is not important. While I do believe that it is significantly better to consume real food like meat, grass-fed or not, than processed man-made food products (or edible food-like substances as Michael Pollan likes to call them), to claim that how the animal was fed doesn’t make a true difference is simply false.

Over time these pieces all add up. Heart disease and inflammation are not problems that are created over night. They are created from long-term diet and lifestyle choices, and improving them one piece at a time will make a huge difference long-term. Choose grass-fed whenever possible, your long-term health will thank you.

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Posted on September 8th, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

4 Comments

  1. Dush Says:

    Couldn’t you just pop some omega-3 tabs and eat corn fed all you want?

  2. Zach Says:

    well said. lots of people argue that the amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids in a serving of meat or dairy or an egg are so small (like only a couple hundred mg i think) that it doesn’t make a difference, but those people are the ones who eat animal products like once a week and wouldn’t see any notable change. for those of us who lift weights and consume huge amounts of protein, i think that multiple servings of a couple hundred mg multiple times per day will definitely add up in the long run. plus the hormone and antibiotic thing is a huge deal as well.

  3. Brian St. Pierre Says:

    Dush,

    No. Thats like saying that diabetics can eat as many carbs as they want, they will just need to pump a little more insulin.

    Besides there is still more to the story than just omega-3′s, that was just the point of this blog. Grass-fed meat has 500% more CLA, higher glutathione content, higher vitamin A and vitamin E content, higher antioxidant content, no antibiotics or hormones and they consume pesticide and herbicide-free grass. Want me to keep going?

    There is also a limit to how much fish oil you should consume. Polyunsaturates are far less stable and much more prone to oxidation, so you are better off consuming less total polyunsaturates with a higher percentage from n-3′s, rather than consuming more and just off-setting the increase in n-6′s with some more n-3 tabs. Omega-3 supplementation is actually more effective when omega-6 intake is at or below 4% of calories.

    Make sense?

  4. Dush Says:

    Brian, I didn’t mean to imply that there weren’t many benefits of grass fed meat. I personally would like to eat it purely for animal welfare reasons but it’s not always within the budget. Lamb and beef prices have sky rocketed in the UK so I’m having to stick to chicken mostly.

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