Dr. Stephen Smith, an AgriLife Research meat scientist, and a team of researchers have found that contrary to popular perception, ground beef from pasture-fed cattle had no beneficial effects on plasma lipid.
However, high monounsaturated fat ground beef from grain-fed cattle increased HDL cholesterol, increased LDL particle diameters, and decreased insulin, suggesting that ground beef produced by intensive production practices provides “a healthful, high-quality source of protein.”
“We wanted to see from this study if product from pasture-fed and corn-fed cattle had different effects on LDL or HDL cholesterol,” Smith said. “We looked at the scientific literature and could not find any justifications for the statement that pasture-fed beef is better for you. All we found were rat studies in which they were fed omega-3 fatty acids, so we wanted to know if this applied to beef from grass-fed cattle.”
Smith presented the findings to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association last year and is now sharing among consumers and producers. He recently gave a presentation at the Texas Human Nutrition Conference in College Station. Smith said he did receive some initial negative feedback from ranchers in the grass-fed beef business, but he isn’t telling them that what they are doing is wrong.
“I know that cattle are adapted to growing on high-roughage, pasture diets, but my focus is the beef product,” he said. “A lot of producers are receptive. What I’m trying to show them is that the longer cattle are fed a corn or grain-based diet, the healthier the product will be.”
The study team included Dr. Rosemary Walzem, AgriLife Research poultry scientist, and Dr. Stephen Crouse, researcher from Texas A&M University’s health and kinesiology department.