Research from Utah State reconfirms health benefits of grassfed beef

Staff report

LOGAN, Utah: Research by Drs Dhiman, Poulson and Cornforth in the Department of Animal and Dairy Science at Utah State University have once again confirmed the greater health benefits of grassfed over grainfed beef.

The research also reconfirmed that steer calves fed grain early in their lives never achieve the CLA levels of calves raised exclusively on pasture for their entire lives.

Generally, the calves fed grain early in their lives but finished on pasture had 218% more of the anticarcinogenic CLA than feedlot-finished cattle, but this was less than half the amount of the calves raised on grass their entire life. This compares with 466% more in completely grassfed animals.

This is the same magnitude of increase previously found in the milk of completely grassfed dairy cows.

The Utah researchers surmise that grain feeding at any time in the animalís life somehow decreases the expression of the mechanism responsible for the synthesis and incorporation of the anticarcinogenic CLA into meat tissues.

Some researchers have argued that the leaner carcass of grassfed animals offsets the increased CLA content as the CLA is found mostly in the fat of the animal.

However, the Utah research said that even figuring a fat content of only 60% of that of grainfed beef the CLA per 100 grams of meat was still 330 % greater.

Also, the grainfed animals had only 60% as much omega-3 fatty acid as the pasture finished animals.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to increase immune function and to reduce heart disease.

Vitamin E in the meat was 300% higher than in the grain-finished animals. This resulted in a significantly redder meat color than that found in the grainfed animals.

There was no difference in tenderness or juiciness between the three treatments. However, a slight off-flavor was noted in the grassfed and grass-finished group.

Surprisingly, this off-flavor was not found in the cattle which had been grain supplemented as stocker cattle but had been completely grassfed for the final 130 days of their lives.

Other research by Dr. Dhiman in 2005 found that supplementing grassfed steers with soybean oil for the last 105 days prior to harvest did not significantly increase CLA content in either grainfed or grassfed animals.

Complete details of this and other CLA research can be found at www.usu.edu/trdhiman/publication.html.

© by The Stockman Grass Farmer


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