Last year, I wanted to see what the environment and conditions were like on a 100% grass-fed ranch. I had the priviledge of getting to visit the family-owned, 100% grass-fed Markegard Family Ranch in Half Moon Bay. I’ve always wondered how these cows lived and if all of the picturesque scenes of happy cows grazing on vast and expansive greenlands is actually real. Well…I’m happy to report…. it’s actually real.
Not only does a ranch like Markegard keep their cows happy, but they also use more biodynamic, rotational practices, whereby once the animals complete their grazing, the now newly fertilized plot are allowed to regenerate naturally, producing nutrient rich, nitrogen bound, sustainable top soil and grasslands, ready for rich grazing in the next future rounds.
So what’s the difference between 100% grass fed meat vs. lot fed cattle? The nutrition and molecules contained in them are compositionally different. It is understood that grass fed meat contains 300-500% more CLA than grain fed or lot fed meat. What is CLA you ask?
CLA stands for conjugated lenolenic acid, an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid which can be found in meats as well as plant oils. However, even though it is an omega-6 oil, it’s properties behave more like the desirable and beneficial omega-3 oils. Some research has touted that it may help with weight loss, build muscle instead of store fat, in addition to having many anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and immune-boosting properties. Other studies have found that people with higher amounts of CLA in thier bodies have a lower risk of heart disease.
Some other benefits of Grass-fed vs. grain-fed meat include:
In terms of nitrogen fixation, propogating biodiverisity, and maintaining a sustainable, closed-loop system… just like crop rotation, rotating cattle and/or chicken to different parts of the land assures that each cycle of consumption and waste work and integrate together to produce a final product (the meat that we eat). Instead of producing massively wasteful and toxic by-products, those materials are put back into the earth which then breaks down producing healthy, fertile grounds for the next cycle of planting or grazing.
If your locality does not have a grass-fed ranch nearby, and you still want to support mindfully-run family farms, I have heard great things about Butcher Box, in which they are able to send right to your door, fresh 100% grass-fed beef, as well as other high quality thoughtfully cultivated meats. I have also heard great things about US Wellness Meats, a company which is/was big with the Crossfit community as it is supported and featured in its certifications and trainings.
If you’re looking for an amazing meatloaf recipe you can try this one: moist and tender grass-fed meatloaf which is extra delicious, tangy, and savory at the same time.