As if consumers weren’t bombarded with enough terms in the supermarket, the newest term we are hearing more about is grass fed, as in grass fed dairy and grass fed beef. Is grass fed dairy healthier? Is grass fed beef better for you? What does the term grass fed really mean, anyway? Don’t all cows eat grass??
You see, we’ve been told a lot of things by the food industry over the last thirty years that simply aren’t true. When I was a kid, margarine was considered a healthier option than butter, because it didn’t have all that saturated fat. Everyone started to drink Tab, and Diet Coke soon thereafter, because they didn’t contain sugar. That dark pink of Tab can was practically a fixture in our home. After all, with no sugar, it must have been healthier for us, right? And margarine didn’t contain saturated fats, so it would keep us leaner, wouldn’t it?
Today many consumers understand that diet drinks contain sugar substitutes, which have been strongly linked to disease and weight gain. They may also know that margarine contains trans fats, which too has been clearly linked to disease and weight gain.
Today we’re learning more about how farming practices affect our foods. We’re seeing growing evidence that the pesticides, herbicides and fungicides added to the farmland is getting into animals and in our crops, which in turn is harming our bodies. The antibiotics given to animals are transferred to humans. Consumer demand for genetically modified foods to be labeled even recently led to a new law in Vermont.
What animals eat matters too. For example, cows on a diet of fresh grass produce milk with five times as much of an unsaturated fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than cows fed processed grains. Why does this matter? Because people with higher concentrations of CLAs are shown to have up to a 36% lower risk of heart attack than those with lower concentrations. CLA may also help with the prevention of cancer and diabetes.
Outdoor-reared, grass-fed animals produce milk and meat that is consistently higher in desirable fatty acids such as the omega-3s, and lower in fatty acids that can promote heart disease and other chronic diseases.
Today, the 7 billion livestock animals in the United States consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population. From ecological standpoint, the American way of farming grain-fed livestock accelerates soil erosion and greatly affects world food supply. It has been said that if the grains used to feed livestock in this country were consumed by humans instead, nearly 800 million people could be fed. Exporting those grains could potentially boost the country’s trade balance by up to $80 billion a year. Additionally, grain fed animal farming is a major user of water resources in the United States, consuming 100,000 liters of water for every kilogram of food.
Americans would still get more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of meat and dairy protein if they consumed the same amount of grass-fed livestock. Why? Because cows were meant to eat grass, and it’s healthiest if they eat what nature intended.
Now that you know about what grass fed means, but are all products labeled “grass fed dairy” or “grass fed beef” the same?
There are many claims made about dairy products from grass fed cattle because the term “Grass Fed” is not monitored or sanctioned by the FDA for dairy. Additionally, USDA organic standards require only 30% of a cow’s diet to come from pasturing. The rest can be diet from corn, soy, grains and other non-grass feed supplements. This means that organic brands can claim their products are grass fed, when in actuality less than 50% of the cattle’s diet is natural unsprayed grass.
However, the folks at Stonyfield Organic have introduced organic 100% grass fed yogurt. That was ONE HUNDRED PERCENT, folks. Not only does Stonyfield Organic yogurt contain ALL of the 21 most important nutrients for a healthy brain, it does so without pesticides, antibiotics, or GMO’s. It tastes wonderful, and has quickly become one item I seek out the most at the supermarket.
So let’s go back to a time when there were no trans-fats, no artificial sweeteners, and no feed-eating cattle. After al, it IS better for you.
Disclosure: I am so proud to be a paid ambassador for Stonyfield Organic, because it is a brand that I trust wholeheartedly.