We’re back with our 62nd episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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Episode 62 Links:

  • Reserve your copy of my upcoming print book HERE.
  • Find a farmer near you via EatWild.com
  • ButcherBox will deliver grass-fed, grass-finished beef (along with healthier choices for chicken and pork) right to your door! Check back HERE for a link to a free package of bacon on Sunday, May 8th.

I would LOVE some feedback, so feel free to leave a review in iTunes, comment below, or even give us a shout on social media!

Episode 62

On today’s show, we’re talking about why grass-fed is better; what the other meat labels actually mean; labels like organic or hormone free; and where you can find affordable, reliable, and delicious cuts of healthy beef.

Cassy Joy: And we’re back with another episode! My goodness, I just looked at the list, I can’t believe we’re at episode number 62. Wow, time flies; and I still have things to say. {laughs} That’s the really crazy part. So today on the show I know we just finished up a short little interview series, where I invited some of my dear friends in the industry to join me on the show to share some of their thoughts and professional expertise. And now today, it’s just me. You get some quality time with yours truly.

And something that I wanted to talk about, I really wanted to zero in on an issue that I’ve never really talked about before on the blog, and here on the podcast, and it’s the issue of grass-fed beef, and why grass-fed is better. Because I think that if we really start to think about the reasons why; I mean, I think folks know that grass-fed beef is a good option, but I don’t think we always understand why. There’s all kinds of different labels at the butcher counter, and it can be very confusing, so today we’re going to explore some of those options.

But in the meantime, I wanted to give you a quick update, because I know a lot of you listeners have been with me for a long time and you are all up to speed on the crazy projects that I’m working on right now, so I wanted to give you a quick update on where I’m at. So let’s see, today is Monday May 2nd. My goodness, I can’t believe we’re already in May. And my book, my first printed real deal, going to hold it in your hands book, hits the shelves July 12th. And I just can’t wait.

It turns out, I had a whole lot to say, because we’re at the maximum page count. My very patient publisher, they’ve just been amazing to work with. But {laughs} one of our conversations pretty recently, he said; “you know, I called the printer, and apparently the book cannot exceed;” I think the number was 488 pages before the spine on the book with give out. {laughs} and I was like, oh my goodness. You know, I would rather the spine hold together then have maybe those extra graphs and things that I had put together for the book. So I have a feeling there’s going to be a good deal of material that doesn’t make it in print that I will instead give you guys online as online resources.

And really what this has come down to is; I’m not saying this will be the only book that I will ever write, but the way that I approached it is I want to be able to use it as a resource for years and years and years. I don’t want you guys; I want this to be something that not only our community leans on, but something that you can look at. If you’re in the Fed and Fit family with me, you probably identify with a lot of the things that I say, we all stand around and pat each other on the back and we kind of agree with each other. And when you want to go out in the world and help share some of your perspectives, I wanted to give you a tool to do that. Something that from cover to cover has almost all the information that somebody would want to know. And beyond that, also a guide, a program, a 28-day program that would really help them kind of live some of that out, the mindful eating, breaking away from the diet chains. It’s not a detox; it’s really trying to feel good, get a reset so you can design your own perfect you plan.

So what I wanted to do was I wanted to include that concise resource. I didn’t want you guys to have to then wait around for the next edition. You know; I didn’t want you to have to then, it would just complicate your mission in life and all the missions of the people who are reading the book and would hold the book and try to share it with other people. I wanted to make it as simple as possible, so that’s why I’m putting so much into it because I wanted it to be a really dense, valuable resource. So I’m giving it my all and at this point it’s funny because there literally have been four people, maybe five, who have read it. And it’s been myself, Liz Wolfe who is a friend of mine, she’s at https://RealFoodLiz.com. She has been reviewing some of the material for me. And then of course, my publishers, my editors; it’s just so funny to me that I’ve written more than I’ve ever written in my entire life, and 5 people have read it. It just cracks me up. So it kind of feels like I’m shouting into the abyss at this point, but I know that it will eventually arrive in print and people will be able to hold it in their hands, and probably find a couple of typos that I missed, but it’s all good!

Anyways, I’m pretty excited about it, if you couldn’t tell. And it goes to the printer in exactly one week from today, so this is crunch time. I am crashing on it, but I wanted to honor my weekly podcast commitment to you guys, and record a show.

So, today, back to the show, let’s talk about it. So why is grass-fed better? Ok, so you know I think it’s important to start off this conversation by maybe discussing the life of a cow. And you know, that sounds kind of silly, and if you know me you know that I’m a very visual person. So you can’t see me right now, but I have my hands up in front of me, and I’m kind of holding up a picture frame for you, and I’m picturing the life of a cow. It’s this spotted, beautiful cow on a big green grass.

Ok, so the average life of a cow that then becomes US beef; most, believe it or not, whether they are grain fed or grass fed and finished off in a feed lot, most cows regardless of what they’re labeled at the end of the day actually are raised on grass to begin with. So little baby cows are raised on grass, for the most part. There are definitely some exceptions. But that’s a pretty good average to stick to.

And then when they are of age, they are transferred to a feed lot for the rest of their time. Now these are conventional cows we’re talking about in this example. Which is; gosh, I don’t even have a percentage. I want to say 90%, but I’d be making that right up. So I would say the majority of the beef consumed in the US are conventional cows. So these are what we’re talking about.

Once these sweet little cows are transferred to the feed lots, that’s when really most of the controversy really starts. Because at that point, they are fed a whole bunch of grain which helps them fatten up, just like human beings. On the paleo plan template, whatever you want to call it, we exclude grains. Those of us who made the decision to cut grains out of our lifestyle maybe noticed that all of a sudden inflammation started to fall away and our body was able to metabolize fat, and we became much more efficient machines at that point in time. We kind of leaned out a little bit. The same thing happens with the cows. They’re fed all of this really, really rich, high calorie grain and they tend to start to pack on the fat.

So some of those grains can include corn; corn is, of course, a grain. And most of these are genetically modified sources because they’re cheaper and they’re more reliable. So these cows are there, they’re eating all this yummy GMO corn and grain, and they’re also given pretty regular doses of hormones. And these hormones are meant to help promote faster growth. Ok, so then we’ve got these; this is a dramatic interpretation of what actually happens, but these hulk cows. {laughs} You know, they’re giving these hormones so that they grow faster, and the bulk up a little bit more.

They’re also administered antibiotics for the most part, and the antibiotics; you know, if a cow, it’s one thing to give medicine to a sick cow, right? But in this circumstance, I’m talking about antibiotics that are administered as preventative medicine. Ok, because when we think about human beings, we don’t just go take our weekly antibiotic to make sure that we stay healthy, right? And I’m not saying it’s administered that often, but these cows in these feedlots are given antibiotics as a preventative measure because they’re kept in such tight, close quarters, and it’s actually pretty gross. If you’ve ever seen any kind of documentary on it, Food Inc., I believe is one of them. I haven’t seen it in years, but I seem to remember a searing image of a feed lot and how it grossed me out. But these cows are in really close quarters, and if disease were to break out, it would for sure just take out the whole lot. So they’re given antibiotics pretty liberally to help prevent the spread of disease.

So that’s kind of where we’re at. These cows are there a minimum of around; or roughly around I guess 4-ish months. And why this matters; why do we talk about the life of a conventional cow? And it’s because we’ve all heard you are what you eat, right? And some of us have also heard the adage of, you are what you eat eats. And that rings especially true when we’re talking about beef. Because these hormones, and these antibiotics, and the GMO corn and other grains, and the pesticides that were used to keep those GMO crops really healthy, then find their way into the body of that cow and then when that cow is butchered, it becomes part of our food source.

And especially those hormones and antibiotics tend to concentrate in some sources, especially organ meats. And I’ll talk a little bit in a second about, if you are going to buy organ meats, which are really, really wonderfully healthy. Man; I’m not going to talk about it on this show, I’ll save it for another one, but the benefits of organ meats like liver; oh gosh, all of them. Hearts; they all have their own wonderful positive unique properties. But a lot of those hormones and antibiotics tend to concentrate, especially in the liver and kidneys. Some of those organs that are meant to filter out things in our own bodies, it’s what happens in a cow. So if that cow liver is filtering out pesticides and antibiotics and hormones, you can understand that it might just become a little; it’s almost like the safety net. It holds all that stuff.

Ok, so let’s talk about labels. This is pretty exciting stuff. I used to do this; I keep thinking that I want to start it up again, and then I go and sign a book contract and all of my time goes away {laughs}. But I used to work with people one on one when I was really just a one on one nutrition consultant, part of my services, especially if they were local, is I would go with them to the grocery store. HEB comes to mind because I’m in Texas, and HEB is a really wonderful grocery store that we’re very privileged to have here in most neighborhoods. So I take them to HEB, and we would probably spend the most amount of time at the butcher counter just trying to understand all the options. Because it’s very confusing.

And as a consumer, we want to think that all the labels are telling us what we need to know. But something that I want you to remember is, or if you too are a nutrition consultant, this is a really good thing to help share with your own clients. It’s a good touch point to help give people some perspective. What we want to remember when we’re at the butcher counter is those meat packing companies; they’re the business that maybe put together that grass-fed ground beef or whatever it is that you’re looking at; they’re in marketing. They’re marketers, and they’re in the business to make money, and they’re going to use buzzwords. I guarantee they do market studies where they determine what are the best colors to put on meat packaging.

I remember; there was some study that I crossed over, I don’t remember if it was in nutrition school or back when I was at Texas A&M, but it was something about how they learned that green is a really good color to put on red meat, but not on poultry. Just really interesting stuff; so if you go to a meat counter, if you consider yourself a student of marketing; and really, we all are. We’re all consumers, and we’re all out there consuming what companies are trying to market to us. So when you’re standing there at the meat counter, what you’re looking at, yes, are a bunch of options for food, but you’re also having to filter through these companies marketing campaigns. And what’s included in those marketing campaign; it’s not just the pretty picture, or the font they decided to use, or even what they named their company. It’s also the labels that they put on there that we perceive as being regulatory.

So let’s talk about some of those labels, and determine whether they are actually highly regulatory or not. Because there are some buzzwords out there right now; grass-fed, organic, gluten free; you know that people; marketers, companies that have anything to sell, are going to use to their advantage. And at the end of the day, we may not be buying what we think we’re buying.

Ok, first off, what does antibiotic and hormone-free mean on a label? So if you go to the grocery store and you’re at the butcher counter, that’s a pretty easy one to pick out on a label. It will say “antibiotic and hormone free”. That means exactly what it says; that meat, that cow was not give hormones or antibiotics. That’s a great start, and you know what, at the end of this list I’m going to kind of give you; we’re going from good, better, best options on finding meat, especially this grass-fed meat. I’m also going to give you some ideas on where to go to get that meat, but this is my good option. So if you are really trying to budget; gosh, if you’ve got 4 kids, and oh my goodness what if they’re all teenage boys? {laughs} You are feeding an army! Every single day, and so budgetarily, this might be your best option. But this is a good place to start, so think about that. Hormone and antibiotic-free is kind of a ground zero. I would avoid all conventional beef because of all those reasons we just talked about; but hormone and antibiotic free is a good place to start.

Now, what if beef or any meat in particular is labeled organic? The term ‘organic’ is on there. So organic means that it is actually antibiotic and hormone free, and it’s also fed food, probably in a feed lot, possibly, and it’s probably grains, but food that was not sprayed with any kind of a pesticide. So that’s pretty cool, but something to remember about organic beef is that as far as the laws go and the regulations go; any meat that is labeled as organic can still spend up to 120 days in a feed lot after their days in the sun. Which really kind of rounds out to be about the same time as a conventional cow. Some cows are kept in longer. But still, that’s 4 months. That’s a long time.

So that’s interesting to think about, right? Because when we see organic meat, we might be thinking that we’re getting, organic is the cream of the crop, it doesn’t get any better than that. But truth be told, it still can be a cow that’s raised in a feed lot. And like we said before, almost all cows are raised first in a field, so this really isn’t that different from the conventional guys; minus the fact that they’re fed pesticide free feed and they’re not given antibiotics and hormones.

Ok, next up, what does grass-fed mean on a label? So, grass-fed, really, truth be told you guys, probably means less than organic almost. If it just says grass-fed, and I’ll talk about what I mean by that in a second. So, grass-fed doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s hormone and antibiotic free. It doesn’t have to mean that. You can have a grass-fed animal that was actually administered hormones and antibiotics. And there’s really no way for you to know which is which, so I like to always err on the side of not going that route.

It also could have been feeding on grass that’s been treated with pesticides. So an animal that’s labeled with grass-fed, and is pass whatever regulation timeframe to be actually in the fields, it’s also possible that a farmer could have been spraying that grass so that the cow had more consistent crop to feed off of. So pretty confusing stuff.

So hormone and antibiotic free I think is the good option; better, I guess we could say grass-fed but it’s still kind of murky waters. I would go further and say organic is a little bit better than just plain old grass-fed, and then the best option out there is going to be grass-fed, grass-finished. Ok. And if this is new information to you, just go to the butcher counter and look. Look for those words. If it does not say grass-fed/grass-finished, then it was probably finished in a feed lot. But if it says grass-fed/grass-finished, it’s a tighter regulatory circle and companies really need to make sure the cows are finished off in the fields, in the sunshine, and I’ll talk about the benefits of a cow that’s fed on grass in a second. But that’s really, really where you want to be.

And now hearing this; how the heck can a farmer; I’ve married a man who comes from a family who raise cows. And I’m privy to these conversations; them and their friends, and they just say, “How the heck can a farmer sustain these standards?” Your crop is going to be unreliable if you can’t give them antibiotics, if you can’t give them feed, especially in certain parts of Texas and other parts of the world. It can be really different to have enough grass that’s not pesticide sprayed, and not fertilized. It’s almost impossible to have enough food to raise these cows so that they can grow to a certain size and be able to be butchered.

Usually what that amounts to is very small farms present; and if you listen to my podcast with Bethany Joy, she’s of Primal Pastures, that’s one example. She’s in southern California. So there are farmers out there, and I’m going to give you a resource to look up see if there’s one near you, but usually small farms. So know thy farmer, and know what you eat eats.

Ok, so quickly let’s talk about the benefits of grass-fed, grass-finished beef. So, it is double if not more; has double if not more the concentration of omega-3 fatty acids than its conventional counterparts. Now, if you’re familiar with the omega-3/omega-6 debate, in a nutshell what we as consumers need to be concerned with is taking in more omega-3 fatty acids because in a lot of ways, we can essentially think of those as anti-inflammatory. Because too much omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in a lot of seed oils like canola oil, it’s just really in our food today. It’s everywhere. It’s woven into almost everything that we eat, so we’ve got to be really, really careful about making sure that we get enough omega-3s to balance it out and keep inflammation in check. And grass-fed, grass-finished beef is a good source of this.

Grass-fed, grass-finished beef also has a higher vitamin and mineral content. It has a higher concentration of the saturated fat stearic acid. And if you’re new to the saturated fat debate, I won’t go into it again today but I’m going to make a note to talk about it in a future show. Saturated fats are not all bad; there are a bunch of different kinds, and stearic acid happens to be one of the good kinds that even by conventional scientists, folks who aren’t necessarily in this real food movement, admit that stearic acid does not raise blood cholesterol. So those mainstream scientists are even admitting that. Grass-fed grass-finished beef is a good source of that acid.

Contrarily, because it’s high in stearic acid, it’s also low in palmitic and myristic acid. I hope I said both of those right; if not, someone correct me. It’s lower in both of those kinds of saturated fats, which are known to actually likely raise blood cholesterol. It’s not one for one; it’s really difficult to tell what actually contributes to what, but for the most part it’s a pretty good rule of thumb to know that palmitic and myristic acids will raise it.

And then lastly, grass-fed, grass-finished beef is also a wonderful source of conjugated linoleic acid, which is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that can protect against diabetes and heart disease. Really, really wonderful things. I mean, if you’re consuming really high quality beef, it can be really, really good for you and a really great addition to your diet.

Ok, so after saying all of that, we’ve got pretty high standards {laughs} for meat now, don’t we? We want it to be grass-fed, grass-finished, no hormones, no antibiotics, I should put a little asterisk there and say unnecessary hormones and antibiotics. Hormones are usually unnecessary, antibiotics sometimes. And then we want it to be living on grass; green, green grass and eating all the good things that the earth can give it. And we also want it to be a good cut of meat. Right? Am I wrong? I’m a foodie. I like food, and I like really good food. And we don’t want to just kind of chew on shoe leather. So how do we find; and here’s the third piece of the puzzle, we also probably want it to be semi-affordable.

So that might sound like a really tall order, but I’m here to tell you where there’s a will, there’s a way. So where are the best places to buy this kind of beef? Let’s talk three options for you guys. And above all, remember to always be savvy and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You grill that butcher. You know what, you might just make his darn day because you started asking questions about grass-fed, grass-finished. And you know what; if he doesn’t have the answers for you, maybe you’ll give him a really great education and he’ll be able to help the next customer that comes in so everybody wins.

Ok, option number one on ways to find this stuff. You can look for grass-fed, grass-finished beef at your grocery store. This is probably going to cost you the most. It might actually look on paper like it might cost you the least amount of money, but if a grass-fed, grass-finished farmer has actually found a way to produce enough stock to get his products in your grocery store, he probably has to raise his prices because it’s not cheap to raise animals this way. So think about that; know that that’s a possibility but it might cost you the most. Which is why it turns a lot of people off. When I’ve been standing there at the counter with my nutrition clients and they’re looking at the prices on these meats, they’re like holy moly! I have to spend 2.5 times more on this kind of beef versus the other stuff that I used to buy? I’m going to have to totally rethink my budget. You know, and that’s because you’re paying for the convenience of it being around the corner and it being there all the time. So remember that.

Our second option, and slightly more affordable and probably even a better product; find a local farmer that you trust. And if you can’t think of one; this is the word of mouth industry, and that’s what a lot of people think and they feel a little defeated because they’re like, “I’m not friends with a farmer! I don’t know any farmers, I live in freaking Metropolis, USA.” Not everybody knows a farmer; and I hear you, that’s fine. There’s a way; there’s this awesome website called EatWild.com; type it in there and click on your state, and then do a word search for whatever city you’re in and it will tell you what are some farms that kind of abide by a lot of these awesome really healthy rules; where are they near you? And what are their prices on meats? It’s a really cool tool, so look that up. And I’m not saying that you’re guaranteed to find something nearby, but that’s a really great place to go.

Ok, and then lastly the third option, which is amazingly still also more affordable, is find an online source that you trust. This is not exactly the sustainable model because they have to package it and ship it to you, but by golly it’s convenient, it’s trustworthy, and by some miracle I actually found a company that makes it semi-affordable. And I will be talking about this company; oh goodness, I think I’m announcing them on Wednesday on my blog, so that will be Wednesday May 4th; I believe that’s May 4th. So keep your eyes peeled for that; the company is called Butcher Box. And I will link up to it in the show notes so you don’t have to remember any of these links.

But it’s this great company that will send you meat every month; really good beef, chicken, and heritage pork. And I’ve been eating this meat, and it’s really high quality, I’m amazed by how affordable it is. They also have amazing bacon. And if you’re actually, speaking of that, if you’re on my Fed and Fit newsletter; if you’re not now is a really good time to sign up because I’m sending out a week from; or this following Monday. Gosh darn it, I’m going to have to give you the date because I don’t want to misquote it; on Sunday May 8th, I’m sending out a newsletter that will include a link to a free package of bacon with this company Butcher Box. It’s really great bacon. They sent it to me, actually I was going to use it for a recipe and then I wound up eating it all for breakfast because it was so good.

Anyway, they’re really great. I’m going to be making some recipes so you can see some of their cuts on the website; but that’s a really good option, really reliable, affordable compared to some of the other options, and they deliver it to your door. So anyway, that pretty much wraps up what I wanted to tell you guys today. I don’t know where we’re at on time, but I hope it was pretty concise and information packed. Feel free to share this show with anybody you think might benefit from it. I would love to get your feedback if I mispronounced something or if I grossly said something that was wrong if you’re a farmer and you have more to add; please add it. Find me on FedandFit.com. You can type in a comment on the show notes there. Remember we get all of these podcasts transcribed, so if you know somebody who doesn’t necessarily want to sit down and listen to a show, you can also send them a link to the show and they can read. They can do a word search for some of their stuff. So all of my tips and the links that I’m talking about today will be right there on the website, ready for you to go.

Thank you guys again for joining me on the show; it’s been a lot of fun, and I will be back. Next week I am talking to; I’m bringing back another dear friend, Vanessa Barajas of Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind, and we’re going to talk about grain-free baking tips. We’re going to demystify what it means to be a grain-free baker. And really, what it turns out to be is a tutorial in grain-free baking, because I need it, and my friend Vanessa is one of the masters. So she’s going to come on and give us some ideas.

So thanks again you guys for joining me; we will be back again next week.

About the Author

Cassy Joy Garcia, NC

Cassy Joy Garcia, a New York Times best-selling author, of Cook Once Dinner Fix, Cook Once Eat All Week, and Fed and Fit as well as the creative force behind the popular food blog Fed & Fit.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Cassy!

    Love your podcast! I started listening in March and had a lot of catching up to do from the beginning. But here I am!

    I have a question. I have been seeing labels in the store that say grass-fed and then 100% grass fed. Are they the same thing or does 100% grass-fed indicate something different?