Dr. Susan Duckett from Clemson University recently gave a presentation on the Nutrition of Grassfed Meats. It was phenomenal. All the information below was covered in her presentation and is based on published research.
Using consumer panels, trained professional testers and a laboratory test called the Warner-Bratzler shear force assessment (tests tenderness), research has found that grainfed and grassfed meats have the same tenderness and palatability. Consumers found them to be equally desirable in taste and tenderness. That's good news! In other words, grassfed meats are every bit as good as grainfed/finished meats. (You don't have to suffer to eat well!)
What is different between grassfed and grainfed meats? Meat from grassfed animals has more vitamins - it is higher in Vitamin E, Carotene, Riboflavin and Thiamin. Why, because grasses have more of those vitamins than grain! Grassfed meats also have a desirable Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio!
But first, let's review some basics. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered more desirable than Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids increase blood viscosity and vasoconstriction, increase clotting, and are inflammatory. Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, reduce blood viscosity, inhibit platelet aggregation and reduce arterial constriction. Health professionals recommend that the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 in our diet should be less than 4:1.
Grassfed meats have a better balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 than grainfed meats. In fact, studies have found that grassfed lamb has approximately the same Omega 6:3 ratio as farmed salmon. Yes, we have all heard that wild is better than farmed, but even farmed salmon maintains an Omega 6:3 ratio of 1.5-2:1 (well below the recommended 4:1 ratio). Interestingly enough, meat from grassfed animals had 62% more long-chain fatty acids (DPA, EPA, DHA) than meats from animals that were grainfed. That's incredible! The more time an animal spends on grain, the more Omega-6 fatty acids are deposited. So 100% grassfed and finished matters!
In fact, in one study called the Lyon Heart Study, patients that had had their first heart attack were assigned to 2 groups. One was instructed to reduce their linoloeic to linolenic ratio (Omega-6 to Omega-3) to 4:1 (grassfed meats meet this criteria; chicken and some grainfed red meats do not). After 2 years, there was a 76% reduction in mortality for those on the intervention (proper ratio/grassfed) diet! That's phenomenal!
Did you know that grains (including corn) are higher in Omega-6 fatty acids and grasses are higher in Omega-3 fatty acids? And once a fatty acid is consumed, it can be altered (such as converted from saturated to unsaturated), but it can't change families. So an Omega-3 fatty acid will remain an Omega-3 fatty acid, and an Omega-6 fatty acid will remain an Omega-6 fatty acid. Why does this matter? What an animal eats determines the type of fatty acids they deposit. This is true of monogastrics (chickens, pigs) as well as ruminants (sheep, beef, goats). So despite all the nutrition information out there recommending you eat more chicken, the Omega 6:3 ratio in chicken is around 12:1 (well over the recommended 4:1) while both beef and lamb are under the 4:1 ratio, because beef and lamb eat grass, which is higher in Omega-3s, and chickens and pigs eat grains, which are higher in Omega-6s. Remember, Omega-6s can't become 3s because they can't change families.
From the early to the late 19002, the American diet experienced incredible changes. We were told to use vegetable oil, which is high in Omega-6 fatty acids, instead of butter and lard. Also during the same time period, we started feeding ruminants (cattle and sheep) grain, which increased the Omega-6s in their meat. As a society, we also began eating more packaged foods, nearly all of which have corn syrup, cornstarch, soybean oil, or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Long story short, we have drastically changed the ratio of Omega 6:3 in our diet. During the same time period, we have also seen marked increases in many nutritive disorders - diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, etc. There is also growing evidence that these diet changes may be at least partly responsible for the increase in brain and memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
What we eat truly matters! So, go enjoy a good 100% grassfed steak or lamb chop while it is still grilling weather. And then, when winter arrives, cozy up with lamb stew or a slow cooked chuck roast…from 100% grassfed animals, of course! We’re thankful for the opportunity to provide delicious and nutritious meats and eggs!