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The Many Benefits of Grass-Fed Beef

With camping season upon us, my thoughts are beginning to turn to camping meals. I like to keep things simple, and I like to do a lot of the prep work in advance so I can maximize my relaxation time. I usually make the first night’s dinner in advance so that we can set up our campsite, explore the area and not have to worry about what we are going to be eating. This filling paleo style Beef Chili fits the bill because I can make it the night before and it only gets tastier the next day.

I am a big fan of beef, but there is no denying that beef has gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years. With the rise of heart disease in North America, the blame was placed squarely on saturated fats leading to recommendations to cut out red meat, egg yolks, full fat milk and butter (if you are interested in learning more about the diet heart hypothesis, check out Nina Teicholz's book, The Big Fat Lie). You may also recall a study released in recent history, that stated diets high in red and processed meat could lead to cancer. Of course, the fact that processed meat was included in this study seems a tad unfair as there are a host of additives and processes that could skew the results of this study. But more importantly, did this study consider how the cattle were raised? The answer is no. There is, however, a growing body of research examining how the diets on which cows are raised impacts their nutritional profile. For those of us who consume grass fed beef, the news is good.

What is grass fed beef?

Simply put, grass-fed beef is cattle that has been raised exclusively on pasture. It is cattle that has only consumed a diet that it has foraged. It has not been finished with grain. It has only ever eaten grass. As cows were meant to eat grass and not grains, corn, and other feeds, you may not be surprised to learn that this diet creates beef with a superior nutritional profile to its conventional, grain-fed or finished counterpart.

There is no question that beef is a nutritional powerhouse- an excellent source of protein as well as vitamins A, B6, B12, D, and E as well as iron, zinc, and selenium. A 3-ounce portion of beef will give you 22 grams of protein as well as 82% of your recommended daily intake of B12 and over 50% of your zinc (necessary for your immune system, as well as for your hair and nail health) and selenium intake[i].

A review of studies comparing grass fed and grain fed/finished beef found that grass fed beef had lower fat content overall[ii] and in particular, a reduction in the fatty acids that have an impact on raising cholesterol[iii]. Moreover, grass fed beef is up to five times higher in omega 3, an essential fatty acid that we must get from our diet, than conventionally raised beef that is fed a diet largely or exclusively consisting of grains[iv].

Raising beef exclusively on grass also has a positive impact on its overall antioxidant profile[v] with higher amounts of beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin E, and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). In fact, grass fed beef has been shown to have between 300 and 500 % greater amounts of CLA. This powerful antioxidant protects against cancer, improves insulin sensitivity, and lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes[vi]. Grass fed beef is also rich in glutathione, another powerhouse antioxidant which protects against free radicals, promotes liver cell repair, and protects against cancer[vii].

A diet consisting strictly of grass also has positive impacts on vitamin k2 which triggers the body to move calcium into bones and teeth. It also triggers the body to absorb calcium from the blood stream, thereby reducing plaque in arteries.

There is another benefit to eating grass fed beef and that is the opportunity to buy directly from the people who raise the cattle. More and more people are beginning to ask where their food comes from and how it is produced. Purchasing beef directly from the rancher allows you to ask questions about how the cattle are raised and to form relationships with these important stewards of the land. During the pandemic we have all heard the adage to buy local. Buying directly from farmers and ranchers is a great way to support this local industry while at the same time feeling confident in the products you are buying. For me, buying my grass fed beef directly from the rancher gives me confidence in this nutritious and health supporting product and I feel good about serving it to my children. As a lover of grass-fed beef, I am fortunate to live in Alberta where there is no shortage of options. I have been incredibly happy with my beef from Burke Creek Ranch, located less than 2 hours from where I live in Calgary. So, I feel good about that too.


Paleo Style Beef Chili

This is a great simple and easy recipe for camping, for busy weeknights, or anytime you feel like a hearty meal. It pairs beautifully with a chopped salad or spinach salad.

Serves 4 generously

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 1 hour (or longer!)

As usual, whenever possible, use organic ingredients.

1 ½ lbs. grass fed ground beef, browned

1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic minced.

1 medium sweet potato, diced (about 2 cups)

1 each red, yellow, and green pepper, diced

2 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp coriander

½ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp cayenne pepper or to taste.

1 28 oz can of san Marzano tomatoes.

1 lime cut into wedges for serving (optional)

1 bunch of cilantro, chopped for serving (optional)


1. Brown ground beef. Set aside.

2. In a large Dutch oven melt the ghee. Add onions and sauté for 4-5 minutes until translucent.

3. Add sweet potato and sauté for another 5 minutes.

4. Add peppers, garlic, and spices. Stir to combine.

5. Add beef and stir to incorporate all ingredients.

6. Add the tomatoes and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.

7. Reduce to low, cover, and allow chili to simmer, stirring occasionally.

8. Serve with lime wedge and cilantro.


Wondering how culinary nutrition can help you meet your goals for health and wellness in the kitchen? Check out our personal services page.

Endnotes [i] Murray, Michael et al. Encyclopedia of Healing foods. New York, New York: Atria Books, 2005. [ii] Daley, Cynthia A et al. “A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef.” Nutrition journal vol. 9 10. 10 Mar. 2010, doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-10 [iii] Ibid [iv] Ibid [v] ibid [vi] Dhiman, T R et al. “Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets.” Journal of dairy science vol. 82,10 (1999): 2146-56. doi:10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(99)75458-5 [vii] Ibid

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