The Quick Answer
Yes. Grass-fed meat is paleo.
Table of Contents
Why Is Grass-Fed Meat Paleo?
Unprocessed, high-quality meat provides protein, iron, B vitamins, as well as health-promoting acids like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which have been linked with healthy body weight maintenance and disease prevention.
With all animal-based products, however, the health of the animal is extremely important when it comes to the quality of the meat. That is, there is a significant difference between processed or conventionally-raised meats and grass-fed meats. While processed meats like hot dogs, cold cuts, and most packaged salamis, pepperonis, and sausages are not health-promoting foods, grass fed meat is. The living conditions of the cows, lambs, goats, and other animals, plus the diets they are fed and the soil that’s available for them to graze on, all greatly impact how nutritious the meat winds up being for humans.
What Does “Grass-Fed” Mean?
“Grass-fed” is a term given to animals like cows, lambs, bison, and goats that are free to roam outdoors, at least for a large percentage of their lives. This allows the animals to have access to grass and other plants, which are what make up their natural diets and what allows the animals to maintain a healthy digestive system and generally stay free from disease.
Simply put, the healthier the animal is, the better the meat will be. Animals stay healthy by eating their natural diets, roaming freely in the outdoors where they have fresh air, and not being overly crowded and force-fed grains. The opposite is also true. When animals are prevented from roaming freely and are raised on packed factory farms or on conventional feeding lots where they are fed low-quality grains (usually genetically modified corn) instead of grass, they become sick and usually depend on antibiotics and other chemicals to stay alive. These substances are then transferred into the meat that is sold to humans.
Studies have shown that grass-fed meat is much more nutritious than conventionally-raised meat in several ways. It contains more vitamins and minerals, has a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids, has a different fat composition, and is free from harmful antibiotics and hormones that are used to keep the animals alive.
Some reputable studies have shown that grass-fed beef contains four times as much vitamin E, eight times as much beta carotene, and three times as many omega-3 fatty acids as standard factory farm-raised beef does. The amount of fat found in grass-fed meat also differs greatly from the amount of fat found in grain-fed meat because the diet of the animal alters the fat composition in their flesh (this makes sense if you think about how humans experience the same thing – they eat an unhealthy diet and accumulate more fat around their organs). According to the American Grass-Fed Beef website, conventionally raised meat can have up to double the amount of fat as grass-fed beef. Grass-fed beef is also much higher in omega-3 fatty acids and lower in omega-6 fatty acids than grain-fed beef. This ratio is extremely important, considering the fact that most Americans consume far too many omega-6s each day and too few omega-3s. Not maintaining the proper omega fatty acid ratio is linked with an increase in disease development, inflammation, and a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
Where Does “Organic” Come In?
While “grass-fed” and “organic” do not mean the same thing, the two classifications are closely tied. Grass-fed implies that animals’ living conditions and access to the outdoors and a proper diet are better than normal, while the “organic” labeling ensures that animals have not been given hormones, injections, antibiotics, or access to grass where pesticides or fertilizers have been sprayed.
Many grass-fed meat farmers follow most of the standards for producing organic meat, however they do not officially label their meat “organic” for a couple of reasons. Firstly, obtaining organic labeling can be very expensive and, secondly, many grass-fed meat farmers do use a certain small amount of fertilizer or chemical spray on their grass to keep weeds at bay.
Many nutrition experts feel that buying grass-fed meat is just as important as buying organic meat and, in fact, some say that if choosing between the two is the only option, you should go for grass-fed. The reason for this is that meat can be labeled “organic” but the animals can still be fed grains (organic grains), which still means the animals can become sick and their meat may be less nutritious.
Is There Any Confusion When It Comes To Grass-Fed Meat Being Paleo?
No. Everyone agrees that grass-fed meat is paleo. It’s worth saying again that the “grass-fed” aspect of this is very important, as low quality, conventionally raised-meat, especially processed kinds like cold cuts and hot dogs, are not encouraged on the paleo diet because of their low levels of nutrients, harmful effects, and risks in terms of contamination.
So Is Grass-fed Meat Paleo?
Yes. Grass-fed meat is paleo. Good quality, free-roaming meat is a natural source of dietary protein that has been consumed for thousands of years by humans and that offers important vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients.
How To Know What Is And Isn’t Paleo
Check out Paleo.io, the mobile app that answers the question, “is __ paleo?” Paleo.io comes with the most comprehensive paleo diet food list out there, so no matter which food you’re confused about, you’ll always be able to find out whether or not it’s paleo.
Photo credit: benketaro
Download Your FREE Paleo Starter Kit Today!
- 3-Day Paleo Diet Meal Plan
- Comprehensive Paleo Diet Shopping List
- 5 of Our Favorite Paleo Diet Recipes