Written by Emily Whitmore
Seacoast Eat Local Intern
The Seacoast Eat Local farmers’ markets are loaded with many varieties of high quality protein, including grass-fed meats. Protein is an essential part of our diet and is a vital nutrient used to build and repair tissues in the body. When we think of protein, a few sources that typically come to mind include beef, pork, fish and poultry. There are many different management methods when it comes to raising livestock, and today we will discuss the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed meats.
Grass-fed meats, whether beef, bison, or elk are jam packed with flavor. But the difference between grass-fed and corn-fed meats go well beyond taste profiles. Since childhood we’ve been taught that eating lots of greens can be very beneficial for our health, and this holds true for livestock as well! Cows are ruminants and herbivores, who thrive on high quality pasture and hay. One hundred percent grass-fed meats come from livestock that consumed only grass from beginning to end, with no corn or grain supplement at any point during their growth.
This grass-only diet is reflected in the meat which is considered lean, and is lower in total fat and calories. Saturated fats are of particular concern when consuming meats because they can raise cholesterol levels which can increase risk of heart disease. However, grassfed meats are lower in these saturated fats when compared to grain-fed livestock. Grassfed meats have also been shown to contain a higher content of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is a fatty acid that has been shown to have cancer prevention benefits. Grass-fed meats are also higher in omega-3s, which are fatty acids that decrease triglyceride levels in the blood and have been shown to be beneficial for cardiovascular health. Another health benefit includes higher amounts of essential vitamins A and E. These vitamins are necessary in vision health, growth and development, and heart and brain disease prevention. Despite the health benefits, making sure to stick to healthy serving sizes of protein is essential for good health. The recommended portion sizes for lean meat, poultry and fish according to the American Heart Association is 3 oz.
Not only does grassfed meat prove to be beneficial for eaters, but in general the livestock benefit as well. By definition, grass-fed livestock have to have access to pasture and open spaces, meaning that they are not confined to small, overcrowded feedlots. As a result they can experience less stress, which can lead to reduced amounts of disease.
Now that you’re an expert on grassfed meats, pick some up for yourself from the Bison Project, New Roots Farm or Velvet Pastures Elk Ranch at this week’s Pick Your Protein Market! And even if meat isn’t your thing, don’t panic! The market also has plenty vegetarian sources of protein available such as eggs, beans and lentils. Come support our farmers and snag some beans or soybeans from Baer’s Best Farm and some free-range eggs from White Cedar or White Gate Farms!