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Choose the right kind of beef for your family

Where’s the beef?

Q: I need some grocery-store guidance. I’m glad to see more options at the butcher’s counter, but I’m a little overwhelmed. What kind of beef should I be buying for my family? Should I be eating all organic?

Dr. Wright: I always recommend eating as many organic foods as your budget allows. But when it’s beef, you can do even better than organic. The fact is, free-range (also called grass-fed) beef has many more health benefits than commercially raised beef–and even organic grain-fed beef.

A study of grass-fed versus grain-fed beef by Clemson University and USDA researchers found that grass-fed had the following advantages: lower total fat, lower saturated fat, higher beta-carotene, vitamin E, riboflavin and other B-vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, total omega-3 fatty acids, higher omega-3/omega-6 ratio (4.85 v 1.65), and higher CLA (conjugated linolenic acid).

100% grass-fed (free range) beef also contains more of other nutrients beneficial for humans and less of other things bad for human nutrition than either “organic” grain-fed beef or commercially raised beef, even though researchers haven’t found all of these details yet. How can I be so sure? It’s simple–Copy Nature! For literally hundreds of thousands of years, cattle ate only grass and weeds. No grain, and especially no added hormones or antibiotics. And for those same hundreds of thousands of years, when humans ate beef, it was this grass-fed variety.

Grass-fed beef is more expensive than commercially raised beef, and can even cost more than organic grain-fed beef. But the extra cost now may actually save you money in the long run: Even though it’s more expensive, grass-fed beef (along with other free range animal proteins and organic fruits and vegetables) are the #1 part of ultimate “health insurance”–and by “health insurance,” I mean truly raising your odds of staying healthy! Today’s mistakenly labeled “health insurance” policies can’t possibly–and aren’t designed to–insure that you stay healthy. They’re much more accurately described as “disease and accident insurance.”

Sure, you still need that “disease and accident insurance” just in case your excellent diet, exercise, and health program don’t keep you totally healthy. (After all, if you’re hit by a truck, it doesn’t matter how many organic apples or steaks you’ve eaten). But if you put your “health insurance” dollars into all the best foods first, you’ll very likely be able to save money on “disease and accident insurance” by opting for a much less expensive insurance policy (such as a health savings account, or HSA). And that makes grass-fed beef well worth the investment.