USDA Is Pimping Saturated Fat

Do you know how the current beef “quality” grading system works? Well, you should, because the beef industry is obsessed with fat, and they want you to equate Fat with Flavor and therefore Quality.  Well, we say, that’s just a bunch of Bull!  Not only is this approach flawed, it’s downright unhealthy.

The current beef grading system in the US (prime, choice, select, and standard) is based on fat marbling.  The greater the amount of intramuscular fat in the meat, the higher the grade.  It’s the primary measure the beef industry uses to sell beef to the average US consumer.  Does anyone else see a problem with a grading system that promotes the concept that the fattest beef is the best beef?  Think about the message: “Higher Fat equals Higher Quality”, “Higher Quality equals Higher Price”.

marbling_beef_USDAIt should come as no surprise that the best way to increase the marbled fat content of beef is to grain feed it.  Today’s feedlot industry evolved from this grain feeding concept, only it’s been taken to extreme.

Virtually all the meat, eggs, and dairy products that you find in the supermarket come from animals raised in confinement in large facilities called CAFOs or “Confined Animal Feeding Operations.”   Cattle are quickly fattened up on grain so they can be ready to go to market as quickly as possible.  These operations are efficient at providing a ready supply of relatively inexpensive, fat laden beef.  But can it really be considered “high quality”?  According to the USDA, if it’s graded PRIME, it is the best there is.

Maybe it’s time we came up with our own criteria for judging what makes a high quality meat.  Here are some of our criteria:

  • Free of added hormones and antibiotics
  • Provides the proper balance of fats
  • High nutritional value
  • Raised humanely
  • Environmentally sustainable
  • Great flavor
  • Lower risk of E. Coli

This notion that saturated fat = quality is a flawed perspective.  Yes, it is true that with grain-fed beef the flavor is in the fat, and that the meat has very little flavor.  However, with grass-fed beef, the flavor is in both the meat and the visible fat (which is different than saturated, intramuscular fat).

The consistency, look, smell, texture and flavor of grass-fed beef differs from grain-fed beef.  It’s leaner, yet has a much bolder flavor. For some people this may require a bit of an adjustment.  Some consumers have to learn to appreciate the differences, while others like it immediately because it actually tastes like beef.

Regardless of where you fall in the spectrum, you should know that grass-fed meat is healthier, leaner, and full of flavor.  Once you become accustomed to it, it may just become the flavor you prefer.

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A 6-ounce grass fed steak has about 100 fewer calories than an equivalent grain fed steak because it is leaner.
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