During world war two famers produced more grain (particularly corn) than the American population could use. The vast amount of corn made it more sustainable than using up grasslands for cow feed. In Down to Earth we learned about all the new benefits of transportation including railroads and cars. These factors include the cheep prices associated with beef currently.Farmers started to feed the surplus corn to cattle and why not? It conserves the uneaten food and fattens the cow quicker than grass. Cows that are genetically modified can get up to 1200 pounds in a little over a year. (Eisenbraun) That same weight on grass-fed takes 4-5 years. This is due to growth hormones, antibiotics, and protein supplements given. What’s wrong with affordable, quicker, and more sustainable beef? What people don’t understand is the potential health hazards. Food inc. did a fantastic job generalizing the differences in beef. I’ll being going more in depth with the science and health issues associated with the beef.
Cattle evolved eating grass so eating corn just isn’t natural for them. When a cow consumes corn the acidity in the cow’s stomach is changed. This changed acidity promotes the growth of E.coli. Which is strongly believed to evolve in the gut of cows. The development of this environment created an acid resistant strain of pathogen which survives in human stomachs and can prove to be fatal if not treated. Corn-fed cows are prone to bloating, diarrhea, ulcers, liver disease and weakened immunity. To prevent this from killing the cow they are given a constant supply of antibiotics. Since the antibiotic supply is continuous the bacteria that survive can reproduce nullifying the effects after time. (Eisenbraun)
Grass-fed cows have more nutritional value. They are higher in calcium, potassium, and has seven times more beta- carotene (beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A). Vitamin A is for healthy skin, our immune system, as well as vision. It has double the amount of omega-3’s, four times more vitamin E, and higher in ALA (a-linolenic acid).(Cross) Omega-3’s benefit the heart, regulate cholesterol, and effect learning. Studies have shown that the longer cows are fed corn the lower its omega-3 ratio is. (Kiernan) California state university studied three decades of research and found that beef from grass-fed cows fit more closely to saturated fats but also has beneficial nutrients. Grass-fed operations were under 50 a decade ago, now there are thousands. (Cross)
Corn-fed cows barley move their entire lives, while grass fed are running around grazing. It is because of this that they are leaner and when tasted, chewier. Still most people prefer the taste of corn-fed beef. Its also 2-3 dollars (on average) cheeper than grass. Typical beef consumption per year for a person is 67 pounds. That person would save 300 dollars if they only ate corn-fed. However grass-fed cows save a person 16,000 calories a year to process the beef. (Aubrey)
Dept. of Animal Science at Texas A&M University had two studies that compared grass and corn beef effects on CVD (cardiovascular disease) and cholesterol levels in men. Grass is higher in omega-3’s but also in saturated/ trans fat. Corn-fed beef is very high in oleic acid (blood pressure reducing monounsaturated fat) and much lower in saturated/ trans fats. The most abundant omega 3 fatty acid in our foods are ALA. ALA is believed to slow the growth of cancer and reduce CVD. ALA intake should be 1.6 grams per day for men. So, a quarter pounder ground beef patty from grass-fed cattle contains 0.055 1/3 of whats recommended. Oleic acid reduces LDL- cholesterol the cholesterol we don’t want and raises HDL- cholesterol we do want. Corn-fed cattle increases oleic acid (Smith)
So which is better oleic acid or omega-3? Studies show when men consumed both types of beef for five weeks older, mildly hypercholesterolemia men, grass-fed beef decreased HDL-cholesterol. In men with normal cholesterol levels corn-fed beef increased HDL-cholesterol. Neither beef type increased LDL-cholesterol in men. Neither type of ground beef had negative effects on risk factors for CVD or type II diabetes, but the beef from the corn-fed cattle provided more positive health benefits by increasing HDL-cholesterol. (Smith)
The tie breaker in my option would go to the grass fed cow for a few reasons but mainly for the vast nutritional benefit it contains.
Corn-Fed Vs. Grass-Fed Beef http://www.healthytheory.com/corn-fed-vs-grass-fed-beef (Karen Eisenbraun)
The Truth About Grass Fed Beef http://www.npr.org/2010/04/08/125722082/the-truth-about-grass-fed-beef (Allison Aubrey)
Grass Fed versus Corn Fed: You Are What Your Food Eats http://www.globalaginvesting.com/news/blogdetail?contentid=1479 (Bill Kiernan)
The grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef debate http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/03/29/grass.grain.beef.cookinglight/ (Kim Cross)
Ground beef from grass-fed and grain-fed cattle: Does it matter? http://animalscience.tamu.edu/2013/12/07/ground-beef-from-grass-fed-and-grain-fed-cattle-does-it-matter/ (Stephen B. Smith, Ph.D)