Is grain good for cattle?  Have you ever wondered?  Or do cattlemen feed grain because others feed grain and the cattle seem to grow quite well?  Of course, there's that mantra everyone hears that grain-fed cattle make better-tasting beef. And another mantra Agricultural Extension beats the drum over is that cattle with high quantities of intramuscular fat are going to be more tender, better tasting, and more profitable.  Of course, that's not always the case, but that's not the first time Extension didn't let the facts get in the way of being correct.

So let's ask the question again.  Is grain good for cattle?  In her book, The Omega Diet, Artemis P. Simopoulos, M.D., delivers a compelling message about why Americans need to rethink their diet.  In making her points she quotes data derived from numerous scientific studies.  In many of these studies the subjects being fed were mice.  I know mice aren't humans and they certainly aren't cattle.  But as I review the scientific experiments and see the association scientists make between mice and men, why can't I make an association between mice and cattle?

In virtually every experiment where the mice were fed high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids, their tumors grew faster and were more aggressive.  When mice were fed diets high in Omega-3 fatty acids, tumor growth slowed and the tumors were less likely to spread.

When mice were fed high Omega-6 diets they developed obesity and insulin resistance.  When their diets were supplemented with Omega-3 fatty acids their metabolisms normalized and they weighed less.  Both diets contained the same number of calories.

When rats on a high Omega-6 diet were tested in a maze, they made the right choice only 60% of the time.  Rats on the high Omega-3 diet made the right choice 90% of the time.

In a life-or-death test, mice were placed in a tank of water with a small, slightly submerged platform in the middle.  On the second day of the tests, the mice with Omega-3 diets reached the platform in an average of 42 seconds, while the mice on Omega-6 diets took 81 seconds.

Mice with a lupus-like condition were fed fish oil high in Omega-3 or grain-fed beef fat high in Omega-6.  In 18 months 85% of the fish oil mice were still alive, but only 2% of the grain-fed, beef-fat mice were alive.

Health Ailments Tied to Wrong Fat

There are many more studies cited in The Omega Diet that were conducted on humans.  In all cases people with high Omega-6 diets suffered problems not experienced by those with diets properly balanced between Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids.  We know for a fact that Americans are the world's second-largest consumers of Omega-6 oils (corn oil, vegetable shortening, etc.) topped only by the Israelis.  And the scientific evidence to date strongly suggests that the glut of Omega-6 fatty acids contributes to high rates of cancer, depression, obesity, insulin resistance, allergies, autoimmune diseases such as lupus and arthritis, and diabetes.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are not manufactured by one's body.  They must come from the diet, and man evolved with a diet that was evenly balanced in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.  That evolutionary diet is often referred to as the Paleo diet, the Hunter Gatherer diet, or the Cavemen diet.  Today, scientists say that in the modern American diet the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is about 25 to 1 and should be no more than 4 to 1.

Man's ancestral line diverged from the chimpanzee more than four million years ago, yet there is only a 1.6% difference in the genes.  It is thought that there is a negligible difference between the genetic makeup of modern man and the man of the Paleolithic era, which would be 40,000 to 15,000 years ago.  So, our body expects the chemical composition of its food to be the same as that of the man who lived 40,000 years ago.  If we change the chemical composition of our foods over a period of a few hundred years, there is no way our stoneage bodies can adapt as fast.

Early man ate mostly meat, fish, greens, vegetables, and then seasonally he ate tart fruits and nuts.  Cereals, bread, dairy products, and sweet fruits are relative latecomers to man's diet.  Even though modern man thinks these latter foods are essential, they are foreign to man's evolutionary diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids are concentrated in green leaves of plants and a few seeds such as flaxseeds, rapeseed, and chia.  Omega-6 fatty acids are usually concentrated in seeds and grains.  Today the American diet is top-heavy in cereal, bread, crackers, pastries, cakes, and cookies, not to mention the many other products such as foods cooked in corn oil, margarine, and products from animals (meats, eggs, and dairy) fed high-grain diets.

Cattle Prefer Leafy Greens

When I observe my cattle as they graze, I know for a fact they didn't evolve eating grain.  I even plant rye in my winter pastures, but I've noticed that long before the seeds mature the cattle pay no attention to the seeds.  But they alway go after the green leafy parts of the plants.  If mice and humans can suffer body breakdowns (I am not referring to infectious diseases from germs, but the body attacking itself with cancer, depression, obesity, insulin resistance, allergies, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes) from eating foods high in Omega-6, one can't believe that grain is good for cattle.

Grain-fed cattle can weigh 1,200 pounds in 12 months.  If they are raised on forage alone it takes them two years to reach that weight.  Scientists have documented that the massive injection of grain that is required to achieve this accelerated growth tilts the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids in the meat of the cattle from a healthy 1 to 1 ratio to more than 20 to 1, which is a horrible ratio.  And if it does that, might it not also create health problems in the future for the grain-fed cattle that are not slaughtered?  You bet it does. So if it does that to cattle and it does the same for mice, why can't we share those same health concerns for the American diet that skews the fat ratio in people to between 20 to 1 to 30 to 1?

This is why grass-fed beef is a far superior product for man to eat than grain-fed beef.  In fact, grass-fed beef, or meats from any of the grass-fed animals, has the perfect nutritional composition required for the optimal health of whoever eats them.  So count me in as a grass-fed meat eater . . . please.

Ted Slanker
Slanker Grass-Fed Meat