Thanks to Taco Bell, we now know that the USDA requires “taco meat filling” to contain only 40% actual meat. What many of us may not know, however, is that since 1989, the European Union (EU) has banned the import of hormone-treated meat from the U.S. This is the very meat that most Americans eat multiple times each day (even in those scandalized Taco Bell burritos).
Naturally, the USDA was (and still is) outraged by the EU’s move, accusing them of unfair trade practices based on a lack of scientific evidence. On the other hand, there is still no scientific evidence to prove that these added hormones are completely safe, either.
So what does all this mean for those of us living in the U.S.? Namely, that we have to be our own judge and jury. To do this, we have to understand the ins and outs of how beef is produced and how each type of beef can impact our health. Here’s the scoop:
1) Conventionally Raised Beef
If you’ve never watched Food Inc., you should. Through this documentary, you’ll understand industrial farming practices and see how most cattle in America are raised. A variety of hormones are used to make these animals grow and fatten as quickly as possible. Antibiotics are used to help prevent diseases that arise in the overcrowded, unsanitary environment of feedlots. These animals are usually fed grains, often genetically modified corn and soy.
- It's the most affordable type of beef
- Contains added hormones which may be harmful to our health
- Contains a much higher concentration of Omega-6 fatty acids than grass-fed beef. These have been shown to promote cancer when not in balance (in a person’s overall diet) with Omega-3s.
- Fattier meat
- May contain residual antibiotics
2) Grass-fed Beef
To qualify as grass-fed, the USDA states that “grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning.” Grass-fed animals should never be fed a vegetarian diet of grains or corn, even though some farmers supposedly do this and still try to pass off their beef as grass-fed. If in doubt, read the fine print, ask the butcher, or contact the farm directly.