You Are What You Eat... is Eating
The old saying "you are what you eat" no longer holds much value. You have to go deeper, "you are what you eat is eating." An animal's diet not only affects several generations of its offspring but also has an enormous impact on the person that eats its meat. An excellent book on how one's health influences epigenetics is Pottenger's Cats: A Study In Nutrition.
Many people think that organic equates to healthy and safe. They assume the animals are eating healthy, and therefore the meat is healthy too. But I'm afraid this is not the case with many types of meat, especially beef.
Cattle are ruminating animals that evolved to eat grass and green forages. They were not meant to eat grains (not even organic grains!) Unnatural grain-based diets affect mineral intake and disrupt digestive and biochemical processes.
Specifically, grain-based diets reduce the pH of the digestive system, which inhibits the growth of important bacterium that produces CLA or conjugated linoleic acid, a potent antioxidant that research indicates may aid in fighting against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Pasture-raised beef has 3 to 5 times more CLA than grain-fed beef, and this is evident in research that shows that Americans consume far less CLA than people in countries where grass-fed is the norm (1).
Pasture-raised beef also contains 2 to 5 times more of an essential fatty acid, called Omega-3 (2). They call it "essential" because it is one of the few types of fats that your body needs, but cannot produce on its own. Most importantly, it's the ratio of Omega-3 to another fatty acid — Omega-6 — that can either keep you healthy, or make you susceptible to inflammatory diseases, cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more.
Many generations ago, our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed a ratio close to 1:1. But due to the popularity of vegetable oils — and the use of corn and other grains to fatten livestock — the ratio has shifted toward more Omega-6. Depending on one's diet, average ratios are now estimated to be from 15:1-16.7:1 (3). So you need to increase your Omega-3 intake, and pasture-raised beef is an excellent source.
Pasture-raised cattle also have more carotenoids like beta-carotene, which are essential precursors to vitamin A. More vitamin E, superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase and glutathione is also found in pasture-raised meat. Much research and growing interest in glutathione have revealed it to be the most critical life-giving molecule and detoxifier. And finally, pasture-raised beef is a much better source of vital trace minerals like zinc, iron, and phosphorus.
Another critical thing to realize is that grain-fed beef is almost always produced in feedlots. It is not uncommon to find more than 100,000 head of cattle crowded into a single feedlot. In addition to unnatural diets, they are injected with growth hormones and prophylactic antibiotics, because the feedlot owner cannot risk an animal getting sick and infecting thousands of others.
In many cases, these pharmaceuticals do not clear the animal's body before slaughter and end up on your dinner plate to be ingested by you. This can be especially dangerous for young children with developing immune systems.
So, for the sake of your health and that of your family, always choose pasture-raised beef over grain-fed. Better yet, make sure it is organic pasture-raised.