Having been energized by the recent Future Harvest CASA Annual Conference, at the University of Maryland last week, I wanted to share some additional information about health characteristics of grassfed beef. First, I supply some additional data obtained from Susan Duckett, at Clemson University, from tests she did on samples of my beef raised at West Wind Farm — back in 2007 (see http://www.grasspower.org/grass-power-and-health/).
Measurement Result Yr. 1 Result Yr. 2 Result Yr. 3
Saturated fatty acid 38.0 % 40.5 % 44.0%
Odd-chain fatty acid 2.3 % 1.8% 2.1%
Monounsaturated fatty acid 31.6% 29.1% 32.3%
Polyunsaturated omega-6 5.8 % 5.6% 2.7%
Polyunsaturated omega-3 3.6% 3.6% 2.0%
Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio 1.6 1.6 1.4
CLA, cis-9 trans-11 0.6 % 0.6% 0.8%
TVA trans-11 C181 3.5% 4.1% 6.0%
Second, here is a very good general summary of the added nutritional value of grass-fed meat products, (Adapted from the article posted on www.csuchico.edu/agr/grassfedbeef). The listed authors are: A. Daley1, P. Doyle1, G. Nader2, and S. Larson2.
College of Agriculture, California State University, Chico1
University of California Cooperative Extension Service2
Increasing consumer interest in grass-fed meat products has raised a number of questions with regard to meat quality and perceived differences between grass-fed and conventional production practices. The intent of this article is to summarize information currently available to support the enhanced nutrient claim for grass-fed meat products, as well as review the importance these specific nutrients have with regard to human health. A number of reports spanning three decades suggest forage-only diets can alter the lipid composition of meat, i.e., lower concentrations of saturated fatty acids and higher concentrations long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. In addition, several studies report forage-fed meat contains elevated concentrations of beta-carotene and alpha tocopherol, as well as higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, all substances reported to have favorable effects on human health. Research to date would support the argument that grass-fed beef is higher in Vitamin A, Vitamin E, conjugated lenoleic acid and omega 3 fatty acids as compared to grain-fed contemporaries when lipids are compared on a gram of fatty acid/gram of lipid basis, therefore when fed to the same degree of fat, grass-fed meat products are higher in favorable lipids than conventionally produced products.
This is a remarkable, and heretofore unprecedented, opportunity for the vigorous NGO community to join forces with principal national negotiators. The French “0.4% Initiative, Soils for Food Security and Climate” is a voluntary plan with no floor or ceiling commitments. It could become quite competitive as different nations report back in future years. It will encourage underdeveloped countries with poor soils to participate, because of its low cost and because poor soils can often demonstrate more rapid carbon sequestration and soil fertility increase than high SOC soils. Furthermore, there is an existing 46 member international organization, the Global Research Alliance for Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA), which can support implementation of the French “Initiative” in many different countries. Also the USDA gives significant support to the GRA.
Here is a link to the French .4% Initiative.
Here is a post from WanQing Zhou, Research Associate, at the Worldwatch Institute, with an explanation and discussion of the French 0.4% Initiative.
Dear Mr. President,
Thank you for your focus on global warming; however, I urge you to seize the opportunity to tap agriculture’s potential for mitigating climate change.
After 36 years with the U.S. Foreign Service, my husband and I ventured into grassfed beef farming. It was a giant learning experience. We practiced management intensive grazing (MIG); daily we rotated our steers to fresh grass-clover paddocks. We used no fertilizers or pesticides. Yet each year our pastures grew lush and our steers had good weight gain. And each year there was a growing market for our delicious and nutritious beef.
Soil tests in 2007 showed that we had doubled soil organic matter in 5 years from 4.1 to 8.3%. That meant photosynthesis had been drawing carbon from the atmosphere into our pastures. Analysis showed a net carbon sequestration. That finding started our family thinking about environment, climate change, and healthful foods.
In June 2004 National Geographic reported that conventional production of one steer used 283 gal. oil from birth to finish. In contrast, two colleagues in the Northeast Pasture Consortium stated that average lifetime use per grassfed steer on their farms was just 15-17 gal.!
The key to these findings is carbon. Drawing more carbon from the atmosphere into soils and minimizing oxidation of soil carbon will enhance soil fertility and also the volume and quality of food production. (Ref: 2013 UNCTAD, “Wake Up Before It Is Too Late. Make Agriculture Truly Sustainable Now For Food Security in a Changing Climate.”)
Somewhere between 30 and 50% of soil organic carbon has been lost to atmospheric CO2 in the last 100 years (Rattan Lal, OSU Ext. Fact Sheet). This is significant for two reasons: First, as we develop strategies to mitigate climate change, agriculture must be included and counted as a major source, and potential sink, of atmospheric CO2. Second, through thoughtful organic crop farming and MIG for livestock, significant amounts of CO2 can be naturally and inexpensively returned to the world’s soils. Because of the resulting benefits to human health and nutrition, and the potential to reduce anthropogenic CO2 emissions, I strongly encourage that you direct your negotiators at the upcoming IPCC convention in Paris to work these concepts into U.S. climate proposals.
Three major concerns spurred me to create this blog.
First is my astonishment that both the US government and the United Nations seem to regard agriculture as having a relatively minor role in Climate Change. In the US Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2010 (April 2012) Chapter 6 states that agriculture’s portion of all emissions is 8.1%. The UN says that world agriculture is responsible for 10%. On closer reading these 8-10% measures count only non-CO2 emissions. The CO2 emissions are scattered in 3 other chapters. This means, for example, that in the Energy chapter there is no distinction between truck or car emissions on a highway and tractor emissions resulting from plowing a field or spreading fertilizer.
Other responsible observers must be combining non-CO2 and CO2 emissions when they estimate emissions from agricultural sources to be 20-30% of total emissions. An example is the Natural Resources Defense Council which estimates that agriculture contributes 30% of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
A second deep concern that spurred creation of this blog is that most analyses of animal agriculture and meat do not distinguish among farming methods. For example, climate scientists do not seem to notice that grain-fed/feedlot beefs create high levels of GHG emissions due: to the production of farm machinery, fertilizers and pesticides used in producing corn and other grains; to the transport of machinery, chemicals, and animals; to the plowing, harvesting and spreading of seed, fertilizers and pesticides; and to the transport and mixing of feed for cattle in feedlots.
Skilled managers of cattle on grass who produce 100% grassfed organic beef require very few of these inputs.
Another example of my concerns: most doctors warn against beef, but do not distinguish between high Omega-6 conventional/feedlot beef and high Omega-3 grassfed beef, which can relieve pain and inflammation and can improve circulation.
Grass plays an essential role in both carbon and nitrogen sequestration. In pastures, grass supplies the green plant material that is essential to the biochemical reaction, photosynthesis, which pulls carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and draws it into the soil as soil organic carbon (SOC). That wondrous process, an important form of carbon sequestration, increases the organic matter in and the fertility of the soil. In grass/clover pastures, nitrogen from the air is drawn into the root nodules of the clover. These nodules then fertilize both the clover and the grass. Managing for carbon sequestration in conjunction with nitrogen sequestration is an economical way to achieve a fertile soil that, with adequate rainfall, produces excellent forage growth.
The power of grass can be enhanced by skilled rotational grazing management of cattle on grass/clover pastures. Daily moves of cattle from one small paddock to the next supply dung, urine, and saliva fertilization, and also an intensified sequester of carbon and nitrogen into each paddock. This process causes partial root die-back, thus creating additional organic matter in the soil of each successive paddock. This organic matter is 57% carbon, and if the soil is not disturbed, can become long-lasting soil organic carbon (SOC).
The power of grass is further enhanced by organic management. The absence of chemical fertilizers and pesticides facilitates a softer soil that roots can penetrate more easily and a more vigorous life for the many important critters in the soil.