If you haven’t noticed, our Locavore is talked about a lot.  Recently Mykia, one of our two CORO fellows, wrote a fabulous post about the importance of a diversified diet for beef and dairy cows.  Just yesterday, one of Pittsburgh’s finest food blogs, Burghilicious, higlighted Franktuary and the Locavore.

Surely, some of you are wondering what all the fuss is about.  “Does it really make sense to pay that much more for a hot dog, or is it just a marketing ploy?,” you might be wondering.  Well, friends, I believe it does make sense.  The reasons are many.

The following is the first of what I hope to develop into a series on the benefits of grass-fed beef.  This initial entry focuses on human health:

Why Pasture-Raised Meat Matters

Franktuary’s relationship with Ron Gargasz Organic Farm enables the restaurant to offer an organic nitrate-free grass-fed all-beef frankfurter. Cattle raised entirely on field grasses produce a healthful balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), while their grain-fed counterparts do not.  The end result is a healthier steer, a healthier frankfurter, and a healthier customer.

Many people believe they should maintain a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids by eating seafood or using fish-oil as a supplement.  They’re absolutely right, but they’re only seeing part of the picture.  More important than the amount of Omega-3 consumed is the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 digested.  The human body requires both of these EFAs, but does not produce them on its own. Trouble begins when they are consumed in skewed proportions.  Experts agree that a healthy Omega-6 to Omega-3 dietary ratio is about 2:1, yet the average American eats to a tune of 25:1!  This is because vegetable oils such as corn, safflower, and sunflower, found in almost all processed foods, are rich in Omega-6 EFAs with virtually no Omega-3 content.

At the same time American livestock is routinely fed corn in place of its natural diet resulting in suppressed Omega-3 content and poor animal health.  Wild caught seafood is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids because this type of fish eats its natural diet.  Sadly, salmon, a carnivorous creature, is beginning to be fed corn in farm-raised situations.  It’s only a matter of time before fish is pronounced less healthy than previously thought.

When EFAs are consumed in proper balance the human body is less likely to experience inflammatory diseases ranging from stroke to Crohn’s disease to cancer. Ron Gargasz, a 30-year veteran of organic farming, has studied the EFA content of his beef in conjunction with Penn State University and knows its healthful ratio to be the direct result of raising cattle entirely on their natural diet of field grasses. In doing so he is also able to keep his herd free of antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides.  You know the adage, “We are what we eat.”  Simply put, pasture-raised meats and their grain-fed counterparts are different foods entirely.

Additional Information:
Print: The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Chapter 14, Section 2
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, Chapters 10 and 14
The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith or Anticancer: A New Way of Life, By David Servan-Schreiber
Film: Food, Inc. or King Corn
Television: “Get Fresh with Sara Snow”, Episode 21: “Back to Basics”
Web: www.rongargasz.com – Pie chart data taken from this website