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Five Myths About Grass-Fed Beef

Five Myths About Grass-Fed Beef

As Americans start to realize that factory-farming is cruel to animals and unsustainable, news about possible solutions are coming out. Articles like Carbon footprint menu: Let them eat grass keep popping up in small town papers across the country, suggesting that feeding cows grass is a good alternative to factory-farming. So what’s the deal? Is grass-fed beef better for animals, the planet and our health? 

Like many defenses of grass-fed beef, the Carbon Footprint Menu article is full of pseudo-science and unsupported claims that cattle who feed on grass make for better meat. It is about time we busted some of the common myths about grass-fed beef. 

Five Myths About Grass-Fed Beef 
Myth #1: Grass-fed beef is good for the environment.

False. Raising animals for food, especially cattle, is one of the leading causes of global climate change. In 2006, the UN release a study called Livestock’s Long Shadow which made the point that raising animals for food is the largest contributor to global climate change. The biggest environmental problem with raising animals for food is the greenhouse gases that they produce–methane and carbon dioxide. Feeding cattle grass instead of corn or soy is somewhat of a reduction of resources, but does not address the issue of greenhouse gases. It does not matter whether the cattle are located on a giant mega-factory-farm or on a small farm in Central Massachusetts, each cow still produce a huge amount of greenhouse gases.

Myth #2: Animals on grass-fed farms are happy.

False. There is certainly a gradient in the ways in which animals are treated in the meat and dairy industry, but even small operations are far from kind to animals. Cows are forcibly impregnated–a grotesque and cruel procedure. Many calves are taken from their mothers shortly after birth, to be sold to a veal farm or used as dairy cows. Did you know that many small farms send their animals to the exact same slaughterhouses as factory farms? In the slaughterhouse, animals are shocked with electric prods, hung upside-down and are slowly bleed to death.

Myth #3: Grass-fed beef is safer.

False. If you eat meat, you are increasing your risk of developing E. Coli. There is no evidence to suggest that grass-fed beef has a lower risk of contamination than factory-farmed meat. E. Coli is transmitted through contact with fecal matter and all meat has fecal matter contamination. Some prominent supporters of grass-fed beef have said that the stomachs of cows who eat grass are more resistant to E. Coli, which is a claim that has never been backed up by facts. This myth seems to have started with Nina Plank and became commonly known because of Michael Pollan’s writing. Slate recently published a piece, Beware the Myth of Grass-Fed Beef, which explodes the myth that grass-fed beef is safer.

Myth #4: Grass-fed beef is good for your health.

False. Grass-fed beef is still full of saturated-fat, cholesterol and growth hormones. It may be true that beef from cattle who are fed grass is somewhat better for your health than meat from animals who live their entire lives confined on feed-lots. However, eating a plant-based diet is even better for your health.  We’ve known for years that beef consumption is linked to the major killers: cancer and heart-attack. Furthermore, it’s a myth that beef from grass-fed cattle does not contain hormones. It is common knowledge that all animal products contain hormones, but you might be surprised to hear that grass-fed beef can also contain added artificial hormones. A short time before being slaughtered, grass-fed cattle are often fatten-up with by being fed corn, soy, and given unnatural growth hormones. If you eat meat, those hormones go right into your body.

Myth #5: If everyone ate grass-fed beef factory-farming would end.

False. Eating grass-fed beef does not challenge factory-farming, because it is not a viable alternative. It is expensive and there is not nearly enough grassland in America to raise that many cattle. Every year in the United States, over 10 billion land animals are raised and killed for human consumption. There is a reason why factory-farming persists: Americans continue to eat meat. There simply is not enough grassland to raise that many animals on pastures. Plus, ordinary people cannot afford the high price-tag of grass-fed beef. A small operation based in Hardwick, MA sells grass-fed ground beef for $9 per pound and $23 for rib-eye. Working people cannot afford that.

So what can we do? 
Eating Vegan Helps Animals, the Planet, and is Healthy

True. Eating vegetarian foods is inexpensive and accessible. Eating vegan dramatically reduces your carbon-footprint. It’s the best thing you can do to help animals, and it is great for your health! Plus it’s easy. Every grocery store in America now offers a selection of vegan foods–including vegetarian analogs like mock meats and soy milks. So don’t buy the myth. Avoid expensive grass-fed meats and opt for tasty vegan fare.

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236 comments

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4:23PM PDT on Jun 27, 2013

lol! find me a more sustainable form of agraculture in the US (where i live) than grass pasture. so far, thats the only one ive seen with only sun and rain as external inputs. the pastures, btw, are lush and diverse. you learn this by actually going there instead of just taking in what peta tells you.

if half the crap vegans said about "excessive" protein and red meat was true, id be dead years ago. i mostly live on beef. (i also eat more vegetables than any vegetarian i know) i have a six pack, and excellent health markers. if you wish to verify this, come see one of my shows. youll see the abuse and blood loss my body goes through on a regular basis and still manages to stay healthy.

id love to see human fertilizer put into use instead of flushed out to sea, or more widespread use of aquaponics, but neither exist yet. in the former case, i dont know where phosphorus would come from without animal bones to grind up. i dont like it being trucked in from rocks.

3:12AM PDT on May 7, 2013

Yeah, Joseph, that's why a leading neuro-surgeon (Dr. Stephen Sinatra) and a world-reknown cardiologist (Mehmet Oz) advise for eating grass-fed beef.

BTW, the last cases of E-coli were from contaminated vegetables. You just might try keeping up with the news, not to mention that this article is now 3 years old.

11:01AM PDT on May 6, 2013

This is a bunch of sod.

Myth #1: Grass-fed beef is good for the environment.

>False. Raising animals for food, especially cattle, is one of the leading causes of global climate change.False. If you eat meat, you are increasing your risk of developing E. Coli.

4:07AM PDT on May 5, 2013

Since I am an omnivore, this is an interesting topic. However, the U.S. is not the entire world and even within the U.S. there are small organic farms that are not the factory farm horror shows. Depicting smaller farms as cruel is ridiculous. Then the author tells us to eat tasty vegan fare at the end of the article. Mystery solved...vegans disapprove of eating meat, 'Meat Is Bad', here comes the Boogeymeatman.

Vicky A, to label anyone who does not agree with you as an 'idiot' is both rude and obtuse. Interesting profile...try putting something on it.

Nothing like unfounded propaganda, where many of the 'facts' are misleading. Hide your honey, vegans will be out to ban that next, not to mention eating eggs. I wouldn't touch soy with a barge pole as most of it is GMO.

12:23AM PST on Dec 13, 2012

Well said Sean. I see you've been a bit "victimized" by the resurrecting of a very old Care.2 discussion to promote being vegan. This one is 2 YEARS old now, but it's been slow in Care.2 recently, so they've been dragging out all the old PRO-VEGAN nnsense again. Yes, you obvlously "get it" that it's mostly propaganda!

12:08PM PST on Dec 12, 2012

Excuse me, Mr. Wilson, but as a scientifically trained individual I find this articles offensive. You claim to be "exploding myths" but provide no sources for any of the claims you are making. In addition, your article lacks complexity and makes no attempt to substantiate a single statement that you have made.

This kind of "take my word for it" style is generally the first sign of "propaganda" in my experience, and I invite you to review the scientific method.

Some of your claims may have some validity, but there is NO WAY for me to determine this, as apparently I am forced to "take your word" for everything presented here. If we look to recent studies (such as: A.J. McAfee, et. all. (2011). Red meat from animals offered a grass diet increases plasma and platelet n-3 PUFA in healthy consumers, British Journal of Nutrition, 105, 80–89), I can see that indeed, the results presented in this study are compared between consumers eating non-grass-fed beef and traditional, factory-farmed beef - one of your points (this will be the only piece of research I do for you... please take the time to do your own in the future).

However, to then decree that THEREFORE a plant-based diet is superior to Grass-Fed Beef diets is an affront to science and thinking people everywhere! (Do you mean ANY plant based diet? Do you include processed foods? Highly processed, GMO soybean-burger paties? Nuts? What about fiber content? Fruits and vegetables only? How many raw f

9:07AM PST on Dec 1, 2012

If people want to be vegans that's great, but don't try to scare them into it with lies.

2:23AM PDT on Oct 3, 2012

I'm making no judgement here on what people choose to eat, but here's some info. Beef fed on it's natural diet of grass has higher omega 3's vs. 6's than that of corn fed (higher Omega 6's), thus because of diet is a leaner meat containing a higher ratio of good/bad fats. Corn feed is GMO product with Roundup chemical in it that affects DNA. Corn is used to fatten up resulting in higher fat product, and because it is not natural diet, sets up conditions in the cows gut that results in type of E-Coli (not a problem with grass-fed cows). Thus the need for high doses of antibiotics used on corn-fed beef (80% of antibiotics in U.S. are used for this). Also, pasture-raised beef is outside most the time and absorbs more Vitamin D3 (this is part of the epidemic od low Vitamin D3 we see - we are supposed to get this from our diet and the sun - if the animals/birds,eggs,etc. are kept in closed buildings and we no longer use the whole animal (bones for soup, etc.) we no longer have this as a big source.

7:00AM PDT on Sep 29, 2012

I must take offense to the lies and deception contained herein. Properly raised " Grass Fed" beef is extremely healthy, with thousands of years of history.Those who raise Grass Fed are extremely conscientious as a group. They don't " Fatten UP" their beef at the end. They do not want more fat, they want less and strive for that.
CARE 2, Please check your sources. I could rebut every statement, but what's the point. Care 2 has endorsed the article.
By the way, I eat a veggie based diet, with a bit of grass fed beef, pastured pork, wild foraged eggs and chicken when I can find and afford it.

11:25PM PDT on Jul 6, 2012

Vicky A., everyone here is entitled to his/her own opinion, but it's pretty obvious that when someone says "NEVER" in regards to nutrition and dietary choices, they are just plain closed-minded and probably lack knowledge. You tell others to "IGNORE" those who disagree? Wow, that's rich.........not to mention NOT very mature. To imply that those of us who are not vegetarian ENJOY killing is ludicrous. We eat meat because we believe it's necessary for us to remain healthy and do not wish to make ourselves "guinea pigs" to toy with finding out differently or "otherwise".


"Veg diet is the best in the world"........actually, the Mediterranean diet is the best (proven throughout decades if not centuries of research, "has more nutrients than meat"........some veggies and SOME legumes have more protein or another nutrient than SOME meats, but to say that in generalities is untrue."Meat gives diseases"......meat doesn't "GIVE" diseases anymore than anything else edible. TOO MUCH of poor quality meat may contribute to health issues, and some meats contain contaminanats, same as SOME veggies.

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