Folks have commented that they really like how our ground beef fries up in the pan with little “grease”.  A friend said, “yeah, love grassfed beef, but still think it tastes a little ‘gamey’.”  I asked, “‘Gamey’ or ‘Beefy’ flavor?”   After a moment he said, “Ahhh, maybe that IS how beef should taste.”  Your taste buds aren’t confused, they probably don’t know any better, let me explain…

If you have spent anytime on our website, you know we refer to our beef as Pasture Grazed rather than grassfed because our cattle consume more than just grass.  Take a look at a list of known plants growing in our pasture:

Complext flavor of beef

“complex pastures create complex flavor in meat” – Grazing guru Jim Gerrish.

In addition to the flavor from our pasture, in earlier posts we discussed the following factors that play into the flavor/taste of our Pasture Grazed Beef:

  • TIME – overall flavor comes with animal maturity.
    • Our beef is harvested after 24 months of age.
    • The last 60-90 days of feed probably influences flavor the most.
  • FATS – Lynne Curry in her book Pure Beef notes:
    • “omega-3 level is one of the reasons grassfed beef has a more intense taste than grainfed beef”
    • Remember our beef is high in those good Omega 3 Fats!
    • Phospholipids fat, the fat we cannot see, stores the flavor.
    • The triglyceride fat we can see will be a hard creamy white to a tint of yellowing.
  • DRY AGING – Lynne Curry has this to say:
    • “It’s all a matter of taste, but many people find dry aging critical to giving the muscles their due time to dry and contract, concentrating the flavors, and letting the calpain enzymes do their tenderizing work.”
    • Our beef is allowed to dry age at least 14 days.
    • Since our beef is vacuum packed, consider letting it thaw in your fridge for an additional “wet age” period.
  • COMPLEX Pastures = primary and secondary plant metabolites
    • In this past post we encouraged you to “eat the rainbow” for your health.
    • Our cattle can transfer to us the part of the rainbow that we cannot eat first hand.

Now let’s take a look at the feed source for typical conventional beef:

Feedlot beef rations

Simple rations result in simple flavors in meat.

Look at the above feed for the last few months of feedlot beef.  Pickup some conventional hamburger at the grocery store.  Now look at the above list again, these are the primary ingredients that make up the store-bought hamburger.

  • Pickup up any other prepared food product in the grocery store.
    • Corn, corn, soybean and more of the same.
    • Aren’t you tired of eating corn for three meals a day?
    • Consider eating beef with real “beefy” flavor.
  • In addition to the simple feeds, feedlot beef are harvested much younger and don’t have the time to acquire “flavor”.
  • Dry aging, due to the time and locker space involved, is not practiced for conventional beef.  It is “wet aged” in a package waiting for purchase at the store.
  • Finally, when you add grain to the diet, the beef rumen bacteria populations switches over to “proteolytic”.
    • The good omega 3 fat disappears, along with the conjugated linoleic acid.
    • The fat turns from a hard milky white marble to a clear greasy fat.

So enjoy some “beefy” pasture based beef!  Just as folks like trying different wineries for the different flavors from each vineyard, we encourage you to try different pasture farm beef!  The different makeup of each farms pasture will give a unique flavor to the beef you find there.

pasture grazed beef

Late summer 2015 grazing, 24+ month old steer (mature flavor) on left. Not just grass-fed our herd is pasture grazed.  The cow in the right image literally ran past the rest of the herd to get to this patch of showy partridge pea when turned into this new paddock.  What was she seeking?  A specific nutrient, mineral or flavor?  Maybe she just likes the pretty flowers in our pasture?

 

In the past three posts we took a close look at our Pasture Grazed beef when compared to typical beef.  Thanks to the folks at Mother Earth News, we can see how our beef compares with other grassfed beef from around the country.  We were fortunate enough to have DS Family Farm beef included in the recent Mother Earth News pilot Omega 6 to Omega 3 test study with other grassfed beef farms from around the USA.  It is an honor to be included with the list of grass based farms that participated.  From looking at the list of participating farms I am guessing many of these farms raise grassfed beef similar to our farm.

To clarify, when people ask me about our “Pasture Grazed” beef, my first point is “yes, we are 100% grassfed”.  So what is the difference?  Basically “grassfed” just involves what feed the animal consumes.  In that sense, yes, we are 100% grassfed.  When we say “Pasture Grazed” we mean that our herd spends their entire life on our pasture, never confined to a feed lot.  For more information please refer to our blog post “Pasture Grazed vs Grassfed Beef“.

Our Pasture Grazed beef compared with the Grassfed beef – Omega 6 to 3 Study

Here is the Data Analysis Summary for beef from the Mother Earth News, 1/11/2016, pilot study.

omega fatty acid testing grass fed beef Mother Earth News

Beef Data Analysis Summary, Mother Earth News 1/11/2016.

In the table below I take the pilot grassfed beef values from the table above and compare them against our Pasture Grazed beef findings:

Grassfed beef omega-3 and omega-6 data

Our Pasture Grazed Beef Omega-3 & 6 data versus all grassfed farm averages in the Mother Earth News Pilot Study 1/11/2016.

A few points about the above chart:

  1. We are humbled that our beef expresses 60% higher anti-inflammatory Omega-3s (above average).
  2. We recognize also that our beef has 24% higher of the inflammatory Omega-6s (above average).
    • It is the Omega-6 LA that holds conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), the anti-cancer fatty acid.
    • LA was the primary Omega-6 component of our sample.
    • Since our animals live their entire lives on grass, we estimate ~75% of our Omega-6 LA is CLA.
    • Potentially our sample was above average for CLA, but that is only a guess based on research data.
  3. Again we are humbled that our beef expresses a better Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio (above average).
We went into great detail on the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, the O-6 to O-3 ratio and estimating CLA in our previous three blog posts.  We put together a one page summary “Fatty Acid Analysis” PDF with the main charts and links to each post.  Consider printing out the PDF so you have the charts in front of you while you review each blog post for detailed analysis.
The first time I heard of Mother Earth News was back around 2008 when we were really researching our opportunities in grass based animal production.  I remember they created a stir in the health community when they claimed that not all eggs were created equal (Meet Real Free-Range Eggs – Mother Earth News 2007).  Again we feel fortunate that our pasture grazed beef was part of this pilot 2015 grassfed study and thank Josh Brewer for his encouragement and insights with this project.

This is the third and final post discussing our beef compared to “typical” beef.  If nothing else, I have learned a great deal about the role of fat in my diet as I complete this summary of the laboratory analysis of our Pasture Grazed Beef.  When I asked Midwest Labs to analyze our beef, I specifically requested a report of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), see our “Power Fat” blog post from April 2014 on this all important fat component.  Unfortunately they were unable to analyze CLA specifically.  So what is CLA and what can we tell from the data we have?

Estimating CLA

Conjugated linoleic acid is a form of rearranged omega-6 linoleic acid (LA).  The rearranged LA (CLA) appears to be anti-cancer where as our earlier post pointed out omega-6 fatty acids, like LA, are inflammatory.  So the more LA converted to CLA the better!  This conversion is more dramatic for animals that spend a larger part of their life on green forages.  For a run down of CLA and grassfed meats, refer to the CLA page at EatWild.com and this CLA document at BeefResearch.org.

So what can we deduct from the laboratory data we have for our Pasture Grazed Beef sample vs. the two “typical” beef samples for CLA?

  1. The Beef Research document notes “the total CLA content of beef varies from 0.17 to 1.35% of fat”.
    • Remember, we are comparing 3 lean beef samples with comparable levels of total fat (nutrition label).
  2. We have established our beef matches grassfed characteristics and the typical beef matches grain fed.
    • The Eat Wild information notes that grassfed beef will have 3 to 5 times more CLA than grain fed.
  3. For our estimates we will use 1.25% CLA in our grassfed fat and (1.25/3=0.42) 0.42% CLA in typical beef fat.
    • This will put our beef just below the high range for CLA content and only 3 times more than the typical beef.
  4. Using our four ounce serving size nutrition label.
    • DS Family Farm Beef = 9.5 grams fat * 0.0125 = estimated CLA of 0.13 grams.
    • CNF 6068 Typical Beef = 8.4 grams fat * 0.0042 = estimated CLA of 0.04 grams.
    • USDA 23271 Typical Beef = 9.5 grams fat * 0.0042 = estimated CLA of 0.04 grams.

Another note of interest is that CLA is fairly stable under most cooking and storage conditions.  All of the facts and figures presented in these three posts have been on raw meat analysis.  I’ll keep “what happens during cooking” for a future blog post.  From what I hear, during cooking we loose more Omega 3 than Omega 6 which will raise the final Omega 6 to 3 ratio.

Is There Really A Difference Between Grassfed and “Typical” Beef?

I think we can say, “Yes” there is a difference.  From the laboratory, to the field, to the animal and to the taste, many folks will tell you, yes, there is a difference.

The question becomes, “Is the difference enough to make a difference?”

If you are interested in grassfed meat for your health, here is a 2010 study where eating grassfed meats (beef and lamb) increased the study groups blood omega 3 values.  (Cambridge Press link).  Note in this study there was not much CLA difference in any of the beef, but the lamb was off the charts (higher) for CLA!

If you ask for my opinion, I would have to say “I don’t know” if the difference is enough to make a difference.  There appears to be some good indicators that grassfed meat does have health benefits but as my “Health Nut Highway” friend would tell me, we are all “biochemically different”.  If grassfed meat makes you feel better, than yes it does make a difference!

Looking to improve your health:

  • Eat whole foods, locally produced and minimally processed.
  • Reduce sugars, starches, vegetable oils, stress and toxic relationships.
  • Increase your intake of animal protein and fats!
    • 100% Grassfed preferable (I am biased).
    • But any animal that has access to grass for a significant part of their lifespan should be just fine.

The old adage applies, “if you don’t measure it you can’t manage it”.  These results show that our management is headed in the right direction.  Our beef definitely fits the “healthy profile” as promoted by the grassfed beef industry.  We will leave you with a graphic of our beef nutrition label.  Note this graphic depicts an eight ounce ribeye steak (four ounce sounds kind of small to me).

grassfed ribeye nutrient breakdown

Graphic of the major nutrient make up of our grassfed ribeye including detailed omega 6:3 ratio.  Estimated CLA = 260 mg.

A summary of all three “Fatty Acid Analysis” posts PDF.

The previous blog post was a little heavy on charts (PDF with all charts) from the laboratory analysis of one of our pasture grazed ribeye steaks.  In this post I continue the comparison of our grassfed beef to two “typical” beef samples.  First of all let’s summarize some of the discussion and charts from the earlier post, then we will address polyunsaturated fats:

Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA)

In Chart 1 (previous post), our grassfed beef sample had higher SFA (~60% of fat) when compared to typical beef (~40% SFA).  When we looked specifically at the break down of SFAs in Chart 2:

  • Grassfed beef had a higher percentage of palmitic acid, used in the complex process of cell communication.
  • Grassfed beef had a lower percentage of stearic acid, in our body this is converted to oleic acid, see below.
  • Saturated fat is the preferred energy source of the heart.
  • You probably knew our liver protects us from toxins but did you know saturated fat protects our livers!
  • Since the early 1900s the food supply has not changed much in available SFAs, 50 gm/day vs. 56 gm/day (2004). +
    • If fats are causing health changes in our population, SFA must not be the source of change.
  • Finally as the Ohio State study points out, eating carbohydrates raise saturated fat levels in the blood but eating good portions of saturated fats does not raise SFAs in the blood (carbs are the problem, not fat).

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)

  • Our grassfed beef sample had lower MUFA (~35% of fat) when compared to typical beef (~50% MUFA) (Chart 1).
  • The primary MUFA for both grassfed and typical beef is oleic acid or olive oil (Chart 3).
  • MUFA has been found to be the main fat in fatty tissue.
  • Palmitoleic acid is the next MUFA found and is lowest in our grassfed beef vs. typical beef.  Palmitoleic is the fatty acid the OSU study considers the most problematic when looking at human blood levels.
  • Early 1900’s, Americans obtained 42% of their MUFA from fats/oils and 40% from meat/poultry/fish. +
  • In 2004 Americans obtained 63% of their MUFA from fats/oils and only 22% from meat/poultry/fish. +
    • The American food supply has increased in the use of vegetable oil MUFA by two-thirds while decreasing MUFA from meat by one-half.
  • Overall MUFA in early 1900s = 47 gm/day in the food supply vs 79 gm/day in 2004 (+), an overall increase of MUFA by 60%!
    • Appears like we have too much MUFA in our food these days, especially from vegetable oils.
    • If fat is causing health changes in our population it may be due to over consuming MUFA.

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) – Grassfeds Claim To Fame

Grassfed beef omega 6 to 3

Modified Chart 4 from our previous post with the calculated Omega 6:3 ratios, our grassfed sample versus two typical beef samples.

  • Our grassfed sample had the same Total PUFA when compared to typical beef (4%) (Chart 1), but looking at Chart 4 above, you will immediately note a difference in the PUFA makeup.
  • The omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are both important in small amounts and the correct ratio!
    • These “fatty acids are also precursors of eicosanoids (prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes), which are hormone-like compounds that regulate blood pressure, heart rate, vascular dilation, blood clotting, lipolysis, and immune response”. ++
    • Omega 6s are for inflammation, such as blood clotting during an injury.
    • Omega 3s are for anti-inflammatory functions during healing.
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential because unlike SFA and MUFA, our bodies cannot make these, we must consume PUFA in the food we eat.
    • Since we must consume these, it is a good thing we need just tiny amounts: “the requirement for essential fatty acids is infinitesimal under most conditions and can be easily met by eating a diet that includes traditional whole animal foods without necessarily adding any specific fats or oils.”++
  • A current concern of PUFAs is omega 6 intake.  With the reduced consumption of animal fats and eggs over the past few decades and an increase in vegetable oil consumption (corn and soy), the average American has too much omega 6 compared to omega 3s.  Our bodies are constantly in a state of inflammation (Times Magazine 2004 “Fires Within” highlighted this issue).
    1. In 1995-2000 data, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the food supply = 9.7:1.  +++
    2. “This is much higher than the recommended ratio of 2.3:1.”  +++
    3. Here is why grassfed meats have a claim to fame, note our steak with an omega 6 to 3 ratio of 2.0:1 matches the recommended ratio.  
    4. Both typical beef samples have an omega 6 to 3 ratio that exceeds the U.S. food supply as a whole (12:1 and 17:1).
  • Another possible problem with PUFAs is just plain over consumption resulting in oxidative stress.
    1. “PUFAs are uniquely vulnerable to oxidation because they are the only fatty acids with two or more double bonds, and it is the carbon that lies directly between two double bonds that is vulnerable to oxidation”.  ++
    2. “The consumption of excess PUFAs increases oxidative stress”. ++
    3. Early 1900s = 13 gm/day in the food supply of PUFA vs 37 gm/day in 2004 (+), an overall increase of 35%.
      • Do you think we are currently overconsuming PUFAs?
      • Maybe too much of a good thing?
      • Remember our need for PUFAs is “infinitesimal under most conditions”.

Summary and Lead In To Our Next Post

I apologize for referring back to the charts from the previous post (as one PDF document) and multiple references to numbers through percentages etc.  If this is something you are really interested in, then I have tried to give some data and sources that can help you along your way.  If you are like my wife Sheila, this maybe a little more info than you are looking for.

Here are some things for you to consider up to this point:

  1. Saturated Fats from meat/eggs/poultry is not the problem it has been portrayed to be and has not increased over the past century in our food supply.
    • High Carb diets (low fat diet) causes increased saturated fat in the blood stream (OSU Study).
  2. Reducing meat consumption and increasing vegetable oils use in the U.S. has led to:
    • Overall increased consumption of MUFAs.
      • This fat is hard for us to burn.
    • Overall increased consumption of PUFAs.
      • Vegetable oils are high in omega 6s and has thrown our ratio of omega 6 to 3 far above the recommended levels (possibly causing a continuous state of low grade inflammation in our bodies).
      • PUFAs are very important but at very small quantiles, over consumption can cause oxidative stress.

Our next post will be a Fat Finale and we will look at:

  • The all-important Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA).
  • Give a final overview of what you get with one of our grassfed steaks.
  • Give you some final food for thought on grassfed vs. typical beef.

 

PUFA grassfed vs typical beef

* Detailed PUFA data. DS Family = grassfed ribeye Midwest Labs. CNF sample ID 6068 Canada. USDA sample 23271 USA.

  • Hiza, H.A.B., & Bente, L. (2007). Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Supply, 1909-2004: A Summary Report. (Home Economics Research Report No. 57). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.

++ Precious Yet Perilous – Weston A Price Foundation website, 2010 article.

+++ Gerrior, S., Bente, L., & Hiza, H. (2004). Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Supply, 1909-2000. (Home Economics Research Report No. 56). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.

I recently visited with a friend who shed some weight over the past year, when I asked how he lost the weight, he replied “improved my diet”.  He obviously “gets it”, notice he didn’t say he was on some kind of “diet” he just changed to a “healthy diet”.  One specific diet change he mentioned was that he was eating grassfed beef rather than conventional beef.  We discussed the “known” benefits of grassfed and then he pointed out that his son, who raises conventional beef, refers to grassfed as “Voodoo Beef”!

With our first Pasture Grazed, 100% grassfed beef in the freezer, it was time to find out for ourselves, is there really a difference between a pasture grazed beef compared to typical (corn-fed) beef?

Grassfed ribeye raw and grilled

Example of a DS Family Farm Rib Steak (2015 Steer Tag 18) before and after grilling! When the bone is removed this is known as a Ribeye Steak.  Do not trim the fat from a grass-fed steak!  Eat the fat, it is good for you, keep reading…

We sent in a rib steak (ribeye after removing the bone) from a 2015 harvested steer to Midwest Laboratories in Omaha Nebraska for analysis.  With the results in hand I searched out some “typical” beef analysis to compare our pasture grazed beef with.  It didn’t take long and I had two similar† “reference” samples from the USDA and Canada nutrient databases.  Below we compare a DS Family Farm Pasture Grazed steak to some “typical beef” steaks – Canada record 6068 and USDA record 23271.

grassfed vs conventional nutrition label

Nutritional information on three lean ribeye steaks. Our grass-fed sample on left compared to two “typical” Government reported samples, Canada (middle) and USA (right).

Let’s Talk FAT!

  • Trans Fat?  Yes there is natural Trans Fat in beef, not the added hydrogenated vegetable oils (bad stuff).
  • Looking at the above three samples, I believe the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules would allow all steaks to be labeled as ZERO TRANS FAT since they are all 0.5 or less.  So when you check any food product label, if it says ZERO TRANS FAT, it may actually not be “zero”.
  • Always avoid food items with any ingredient listed as “partially hydrogenated“.

Warning – pie charts below!

Total fats grassfed vs conventional

Chart 1: Total Fats: Our grass-fed sample on left compared to two “typical” Government reported samples, Canada (middle) and USA (right).

  • Chart 1 – ALL FATS do not fear good grassfed fat!
  • I was once brain washed with the “fat is bad for you” message.  I believe more folks are understanding it is High Carbohydrate Diets (Low Fat diets) that can be linked to heart disease and diabetes.  This study at Ohio State University points out:
    • Increasing levels of carbs in diet during the study promoted a steady increase in blood fatty acids.
    • Carbs are being converted to fat instead of being burned as fuel.
    • Reducing carbs and adding (good/portions) fats ensures the body will promptly burn saturated fat as fuel.  (This will take a resetting period for your body to switch between using carbs vs. fat for energy).
    • Please watch the OSU video that points out your brain is 60% fat!  Eat fat to fuel your brain!
  • Chart 1 displays a noticeable difference between SFA – Saturated Fatty Acids versus MUFA – Monounsaturated Fatty Acids in grassfed vs. conventional, we will look at these individually below.
Saturated Fatty Acids grassfed vs conventional

Chart 2: Saturated Fatty Acids: Our grass-fed sample on left compared to two “typical” Government reported samples, Canada (middle) and USA (right).

  • Chart 2 – SATURATED FATTY ACIDS (SFA)
  • Note in Chart 1 = 60% of the fat from our pasture grazed beef is SFA vs. around 50% of typical beef is SFA.
  • Chart 2 = two main SFA, Palmitic (tropical oil) and Stearic is better balanced (?) in our beef versus typical beef.
  • Tropical (palmitic) oils are gaining favor with nutrition folks, get yours from our Midwest 100% grassfed beef!
MUFA grassfed vs conventional

Chart 3: Monounsaturated Fatty Acids: Our Grassfed sample on left compared to two “typical” Government reported samples, Canada (middle) and USA (right).

  •  Chart 3 – MONOUNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS (MUFA)
  • Note in Chart 1 = 35% of the fat from our pasture grazed beef is MUFA vs. around 50% of typical beef is MUFA.
  • Chart 3 = primary MUFA is oleic acid, also known as Olive Oil.
  • Grassfed has a higher percentage of the SFA Palmitic (good fat, chart 2) but a lower Palmitoleic MUFA (bad fat, chart 3).
    • According to the OSU study, in humans, “Palmitoleic acid, a fatty acid associated with unhealthy metabolism of carbohydrates that can promote disease”.  Could this apply to cattle also?
PUFA grassfed vs conventional

Chart 4: Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Our grass-fed sample on left compared to two “typical” Government reported samples, Canada (middle) and USA (right).

  • Chart 4 – POLYUNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS (PUFA)
  • Note in Chart 1 = 4% of the fat from all three sample is PUFA.
    • The Holy Grail of Fatty Acids
    • The Essential Fatty Acids
    • Notice a difference?  Hint – a balance of green & yellow is recommended.

Stay tuned we will dive in to the PUFAs in our next post!

† I selected these reference samples because they were of the same part of the beef.  We sent in a Rib Steak which is a Ribeye with a rib bone still attached.  The bone was removed, so our sample was a ribeye when analyzed.  I consider our beef lean so the selected reference samples used were identified as “lean”.  We are still building our soils and forages and striving for higher fat (marbling) percentages in our beef.

Note, I am not an expert on fats nor statistical analysis.  Feel free to dive into the Government data and check my calculations for the two samples listed above.  If you find any discrepancies, please email me: doug@dsfamilyfarm.com.  If you have comments please share them on our Facebook Page.