Omega-3 and Beef

In an earlier blog (see Inflammation – An Epidemic posted on March 31, 2013) we discussed the importance of purchasing organic whenever possible to minimize our exposure to chemicals and reduce chronic inflammation in the body.

When we purchase non-organic Canadian meat we are not only getting chemicals from the feed but also from medicines and hormonal growth promoters given to the cattle.

So purchasing organic beef is a great start, but you can take it up a notch by paying attention to what the cow was fed.  A cow’s digestive system is adapted to foraging and consuming plants such as various grasses, clover and legumes.  It is however cheaper to raise cattle on grain (corn being the cheapest and most commonly used).  A grain diet is not a natural diet for a cow.  Cattle fed a diet mostly of grain can create digestive problems that are solved by the administration of medicine (non-organic beef).

To qualify as organic in Ontario beef cows cannot be given medication.  To help solve the digestive problems for cattle fed grain organic cows have to have access to pasture for a minimum of 30% of their dry matter intake.  And when the cows are fed grain they are also fed dried roughage to help with digestion.

Organic beef that is labelled grass-fed (or range-fed) tells the consumer that the majority of the feed that the cow is receiving is from the plants and legumes that the cow is naturally able to digest.  In warmer weather it is from pasture and in the winter from dried foliage.  This is much better for the cow!  And it is better for us too…

Beef that is fed its natural diet contains more Omega-3 essential fatty acids.

I bet you haven’t heard of beef as being a source of omega-3 essential fatty acids!  Usually the focus is on cold-water fish, flax, chia, hemp and walnuts.

Although the amount of Omega-3 in beef is not as much as the Omega-3 food sources listed above it is still a source.  More importantly the ratio of Omega-6:Omega-3 in grass-fed beef is approximately 3:1. This is ideal for an anti-inflammatory diet!

When cows consume the unnatural grain diet the fatty acid ratio moves away from the idea with an increase in Omega-6, the inflammatory essential fatty acidGrain-fed beef can have ratios that exceed 20:1!  This makes sense, Omega-3 can be found in the natural diet of grasses and legumes and Omega-6 is found in high amounts in corn.

This time of year it is easier to find grass-fed organic beef with all the local farmers’ markets in full swing.  Fire up the BBQ!  For healthy BBQ tips visit our blog Safe Summer Grilling posted May 14, 2012.