Milk from Grass-Fed Cows Higher in Vitamin E
Cows that get all their nutrients from grazed grass—their natural diet—produce milk with up to 86 percent more vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) than cows fed a standard dairy diet, according to a recent study.
The standard dairy diet consists of large amounts of “concentrate,” which is typically a mixture of dry corn and soy. Some organic dairies raise their cows on pasture and supplement them with organic concentrate; others keep their cows indoors and feed them organic concentrate and stored grasses. The more freshly grazed grass in a cow’s diet, the more vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and CLA.
Leiber, F., M. Kreuzer, et al. (2005). Lipids 40(2): 191-202.
Eggs from Pastured Hens Better for Your Eyes
Eggs from hens raised on pasture are higher in lutein and zeaxanthin than eggs from chickens raised in confinement. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are natural substances similar to beta-carotene that protect your eyes from cataracts and a common cause of blindness called "macular degeneration." They may also protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Commercial egg producers add synthetic colorants to their feed to mimic the bright yellow yolks of eggs from pastured hens, A widely used additive is "canthaxantin." Canthaxantin can cause eye problems in humans. Farmed-raised salmon and trout are also fed canthaxantin to add more color to their pallid flesh. Due to public outcry, labels on farmed Atlantic salmon must now include the words "artificially colored" or "color added," in ¼ inch or larger letters. The same cautionary remark should be added to most egg cartons.
Where can you find eggs from pasture hens? Most of the premium or "natural" eggs in your supermarket are not from chickens raised on pasture. The term "cage-free" can simply mean that the hens are free to roam on a barn floor; typically, the hens have no access to grass. Organic eggs come from chickens fed organic ingredients. Typically, they, too, are raised in confinement. The same is true for chickens fed "vegetarian" feed. Grass makes the difference. It is rich in the natural carotenoids that are important to your health. You will find eggs from pastured hens at your local farmer's market and from producers listed in Eatwild.com.
Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2006, 54, 2267-2273.
Be wary of spring chickens
Did you know that standard poultry producers feed trace amounts of arsenic to their broilers? In small amounts, the well-known poison stimulates the birds’ appetites and helps fight certain diseases that can spread rapidly in confinement facilities. A survey published in Environmental Health Perspectives sheds light on how much arsenic makes it to our dinner plates.
The researchers determined that there was 0.39 ppm of arsenic in the meat of young broiler chickens, the type of chicken that fills the meat cases at your local supermarket. They calculated this was “3–4 fold higher than in other poultry and meat. People who eat typical amounts of chicken may ingest 1.38–5.24 mcg a day from chicken alone.” They concluded that “These concentrations are higher than previously recognized in chicken,” and went on to say it may be wise to recalculate how much of the poison that consumers are ingesting on a daily basis.
Pastured poultry are not treated with arsenic or any other toxic substances.
Lasky, T., W. Sun, et al. (2004). "Mean total arsenic concentrations in chicken 1989-2000 and estimated exposures for consumers of chicken." Environ Health Perspect 112(1): 18-21.
Pizza dough and tetracycline
In an interview with a former manager of a Nebraska feedlot, Eatwild has learned of an extreme example of raising cattle on junk food. In this particular feedlot, the cattle were fattened on stale pizza crust that the owners purchased from a wholesale bakery for only a penny a pound.
Feeding junk food to animals is regarded by many as a win-win situation: it keeps waste food out of the landfills and provides low cost food for the animal industry.
The pizza dough was then mixed with powdered tetracycline. Why add the antibiotic medication? Because low levels of antibiotics make cattle eat more and put on weight more rapidly, further cutting the cost of raising them to maturity. Tetracycline is not approved as a feed additive in cattle, so the owners purchased the drug under the false pretense that they were using it to treat disease in poultry.
On this junk food and drug diet, the cattle put on as much as four pounds a day, a remarkable rate of growth at a very low cost. The end result was more money for the feedlot, more abuse of medications that are important for human medicine, and more meat of questionable quality for an unsuspecting public.
The degree to which American cattle are being fed junk food and off-label drugs is not known.
Grass-fed beef can qualify as a "good source" of omega-3
Grass-fed animals have 2 to 3 times more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed animals. But is this enough of a difference to enhance your health? Yes, according to an Australian study. The researchers sampled meat from three groups of animals: 1) cattle raised on pasture alone; 2) cattle raised on pasture and then switched to grain for a short period of time, and 3) cattle raised on pasture and then switched to grain for a longer period of time, the typical American feedlot model.
The researchers determined that the 100 percent grass-fed animals had higher levels of omega-3 than both of the other groups. There was enough of two types of omega-3s—EPA and DHA—to qualify the meat as a significant "source" of these healthy fats. Meat from the rump had enough to qualify as a "good source."
As other studies have shown, the grass-fed meat also had less total fat and less saturated fat, making it a healthier choice all around.
Mann, NJ et al, "Feeding regimes affect fatty acid composition in Australian beef cattle," Asia Pac J Clin Nutr, 12 Suppl, S38, 2003.
Women lose more weight on a diet high in red meat
One hundred overweight women were randomly assigned to one of two different diets. One was high in red meat (34% protein diet) and the other was low in red meat (17% protein diet.) The two diets had the same number of calories. At the end of the three-month study, the women on the red-meat diet had lost an extra one and a half pounds of fat. They also held on to more of their lean muscle mass, which helped them maintain their strength and metabolic rate. Women who had high triglycerides at the beginning of the study fared even better on the red meat diet, losing four and a half extra pounds.
There were additional benefits to the carnivorous diet. The women had a 14% greater reduction in triglycerides, and a 9% increase in vitamin B12. (The women on the low meat diet had a 13% loss in B12) The conclusion of the researchers? "A low calorie diet high in red meat seems to provide a weight loss advantage [for women] with no adverse effects on bone metabolism."
APJournal of Clinical Nutrition, 12(S):10, 2003
Grazing better for the soil than growing grain
Six Minnesota pasture-based ranchers asked researchers to compare the health of their soil with soil from neighboring farms that produced corn, soybean, oats, or hay. At the end of four years of monitoring, researchers concluded that the carefully managed grazed land had:
Depending on the way that cattle are managed, they can either devastate a landscape or greatly improve the health of the soil. To be listed on our Eatwild Pastured Products Directory, producers must certify that they use best management practices.
"Managed Grazing as an Alternative Manure Management Strategy," Jay Dorsey, Jodi Dansingburg, Richard Ness, USDA-ARS, Land Stewardship Project.
One hundred percent grass-fed ice cream
Cows on pasture produce healthier, bigger calves
Pasture, not grain or "concentrate," is the native diet of cattle. It stands to reason that cows that eat nothing but pasture would have healthier calves. Researchers have found this to be true. In a controlled experiment, 24 pregnant cows were divided into two groups. Both groups grazed pasture, but one was supplemented with a grain-based product. The calves from the grass-only cows were heavier, taller, and had a larger chest circumference. The researchers concluded that "the adoption of new management practices" such as feeding grain to pregnant cows should be undertaken with caution.
Bergamaschi, M. A., W. R. Vicente, et al. (2004). "Effect of grazing system on fetal development in Nellore cattle." Theriogenology 61(7-8): 1237-45.
How much garbage is being fed to our livestock?
As a way to lower costs, millions of tons of municipal garbage are being fed to our livestock. Understandably, this practice is not widely advertised. Nor is the volume of the garbage in animal feed being monitored by the USDA.
Perhaps the only way to track the amount of waste being "recycled" through animals is to review the records of waste management bureaus. In 2002, in the city of Los Angeles alone, records show that more than 276,000 tons of garbage were diverted from landfills and turned into animal feed.
Grazed pasture is the best land use for storing carbon
Growing plants take carbon dioxide out of the air and "fix" it into the soil as organic matter. The more carbon dioxide that's taken out of the air, the lower the rate of global warming. Until recently, forested land and ungrazed grasslands were thought to be the best "sinks" or storehouses for carbon. The study iillustrated below concluded that well managed grazed pasture may be far better.
"Soil Organic Carbon in fields of switch grass and row crops as well as woodlots and pastures across the Chariton Valley, Iowa." Final Report. Lee Burras and Julie McLaughlin, Iowa State University, January 25, 2002.
Growing corn and soy causes six times more soil erosion than pasture
Farming cannot be sustainable if the topsoil is constantly being eroded. Currently, the United States is losing three billion tons of nutrient-rich topsoil each year. The graph below shows the results of a new study from the University of Wisconsin Discovery Farms Program. Compared with grazed pasture, gently sloped land devoted to soy and corn production lost six times more topsoil each year. According to Dennis Frame, director of Discovery Farms, if the trend of selling cows and moving to grain production doesn't cease, soil erosion and nutrient losses will continue to climb.
Article originally available on MyCattle.com
Alpine milk may be the healthiest of all
Milk from one hundred percent grass-fed cows is healthier than milk from grain-fed cows because it contains more of a number of key nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, beta-carotene, and conjugated linoleic acid or CLA. New research shows that cows that graze at relatively high altitudes may produce the healthiest milk of all. Compared with lowland grazers, milk from high altitude grazers (3700-6200 ft) has even more omega3s and CLA and significantly less saturated fat.
Why? Plants growing in higher altitudes have more omega-3 fatty acids, fats which solidify at lower temperatures than other fats and therefore act as a form of anti-freeze. The cows eat this enriched pasture and pass the nutrients on to their milk.
Hauswirth, C. B., M. R. Scheeder, and J. H. Beer. "High Omega-3 Fatty Acid Content in Alpine Cheese: The Basis for an Alpine Paradox." Circulation 109, no. 1 (2004): 103-7.
Pasture reduces topsoil erosion by 93 percent
Canadian researchers are confirming recent U.S. findings that grazed pasture helps reduce soil lose. According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, growing corn and soy for animal feed using conventional methods causes a significant amount of this soil loss. Compared with row crops, grazed pasture reduces soil loss by as much as 93 percent.
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Robert P. Stone and Neil Moore, Fact Sheet 95-089
More good news about the health benefits of milk from grassfed cows
In recent years, researchers have discovered that some fats are very good for your health, including omega-3 fatty acids, oleic acid (found in olive oil and meat) and conjugated linoleic acid CLA. Now, attention is focusing on the health benefits of a little known fat called butyric acid (byoo' tric).
Like CLA and omega-3 fatty acids, butryric acid is a cancer fighter. Lab studies have shown that it can slow the growth of tumor cells and prompt all cells to develop more normally. According to a newly published study, feeding grain to dairy cows "reduced the contribution of butyric acid to milk fat, from 4.5 to 3.9 g/100 g milk fat, on average."
Compared with milk from cows fed grain, grassfed cows have more omega-3s, CLA, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and butyric acid.
Stockdale, C. R., G. P. Walker, et al. (2003). "Influence of pasture and concentrates in the diet of grazing dairy cows on the fatty acid composition of milk." J Dairy Res 70(3): 267-76.
1) The future of farming is here
According to the latest US census data, the average age of the US farmer is 54. Young farmers, under the age of 35, account for only 8 percent of the farming population.
Grassfarmers seem to be bucking the trend. A 1997 survey of Pennsylvania dairy farmers found that farmers who raised their cows on pasture were younger, better educated, more likely to use farm plans, and more interested in expanding their operations than farmers who kept their cows in confinement.
Kelsey Kozak, an enterprising 15-year-old from Washington State, may be the very youngest of the new crop of grassfarmers. Kelsey has wanted to have her own cow since she was 8-years old and had a fantasy of "making my own Brie." At age 12, she began envisioning "a fridge in our barn full of milk, cream, butter, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream."
This summer, Kelsey began realizing her dream by purchasing a Jersey cow, Iris, and raising her on pasture. In addition to attending school full-time, Kelsey does all the milking and makes yogurt, yogurt cheese, mozzarella, and ice cream to sell at her home-based "Fort Bantam Creamery." Customers come from as far away as Seattle, even though it means a two-hour round trip and a $15 ferry ticket. Like other grass-based farmers, she has discovered that "people are thrilled to find real milk in their area."
Kelsey is now experimenting with making aged cheeses. Her future goals include "going to France to work with an artisan cheese maker in the Pyrenees and learn how to make really good cheeses!" Brie is likely to be one of the first that she masters.
2) Pasture-raised animals have fewer disease-causing bacteria
Australians discovered that raising cattle on pasture reduced their risk of carrying a bacteria called "campylobacter." FIfty-eight percent of the cattle raised in a feedlot carried the bacteria, but only two percent of those raised and finished on pasture.
Campylobacter bacteria can cause fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache and muscle pain. Most cases are mild, but it can be life threatening if other diseases such as cancer or liver disease are present. People most likely to be affected are children under the age of 5 and young adults from 15-29. Symptoms can occur from two to ten days after eating infected meat.
Much of the grain fed to our conventionally raised
livestock is genetically modified or GM. The only way to keep pollen
from GM crops from "out-crossing" to unmodified plants is to
create a sufficiently large buffer zone. A recent British study found
that bees transport pollen more than 4,000 meters—a much larger
buffer zone than most farmers maintain. This finding "stunned the
Ministry of the Environment, and a spokesman said that existing isolation
guidelines will have to be reviewed."
3) Natural CLA from grazing animals superior to pills
Tens of thousands of people who want to lose weight or reduce body fat have been taking a synthetic version of conjugated linoleic acid or CLA. A new study shows that the pills may cause more harm than good. After reviewing 13 randomized studies, a group of researchers concluded that the pills do not reduce body weight or body fat to a significant degree. Unfortunately, the promising results seen in animal studies do not seem to apply to humans.
Worse yet, the researchers found that a kind of CLA found in the pills (CLA (t10, c12) may cause serious health complications, including an enlarged liver, lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
Meanwhile, the main type of CLA found in meat and dairy products (c9, t11 or "rumenic acid") has been given a clean bill of health. Once again, a natural product has been found to be superior to its synthetic counterpart.
Larsen, T. M., S. Toubro, et al. (2003). "Efficacy and safety of dietary supplements containing conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) for the treatment of obesity-evidence from animal and human studies." J Lipid Res.
5) You'd butter believe it!
On the left, you see two cubes of butter. The one on the top is from a grass-based dairy in Kansas. Despite appearances, no coloring was added to the grassfed butter. When a cow gets all her nutrients from lush spring and early summer pasture, the butter takes on a golden hue. The color comes from beta-carotene, an important vitamin and antioxidant. Milk from grass-fed cows has invisible benefits as well, including several times more omega-3 fatty acids and CLA.
The cube on the bottom is from a well-known commercial dairy. For most Americans, this is the way butter is "supposed to look." Cows have been supplemented with grain for so many decades that people have come to expect the paler color. The fact that conventional butter also has fewer health-promoting nutrients remains a closely guarded secret. To the USDA, most dieticians, and virtually all members of the medical profession, butter is butter is butter.
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