Eating-healthier-than-thou attitudes tend to float on clouds of perception rather than be rooted in fact. Thus, the bubble burst by a recent research study may do little to convince proponents about the real nutrition differences that apparently exist between beef from grass-fed cows versus grain-fed cows.
The tender and juicy bottom line: Pasture-fed beef is not only not more healthful and nutritious, but it looks like it's actually less. That was the conclusion announced in May by Texas A&M University AgriLife researchers after a complex study focusing on meat consumed by test participants.
Researchers fed three groups of steers – same age, same breed, and in the same herd – different diets: pasture plus supplemental hay until 20 months of age, standard feedlot corn-based until 16 months of age and USDA Choice status, and additional standard feedlot time until USDA Prime status was reached. Beef cuts from each group of cattle were made into separate groups of ground beef patties, then cooked and eaten by 27 male test participants. They ate five 1/4-pound patties per week, six weeks per animal group. That was 90 patties per person in all.
"There really were no negative effects of feeding ground beef from pasture-fed cattle," said Dr. Stephen Smith, an AgriLife Research meat scientist. "We did see many positive effects in men who consumed ground beef from corn-fed cattle. Ground beef from the USDA Prime cattle increased HDL cholesterol and LDL particle diameter. Both effects are protective against cardiovascular disease. Prime ground beef also decreased insulin, so it may have some protective effect against Type II diabetes