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The Case for Organic Meat

I am reading this wonderful book called “Anti Cancer: A new way of life”, written by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, a neuroscientist who recovered from brain cancer and then sought to find proven ways that changing his life and his environment could help to prevent a relapse. One of the MANY very interesting things I learned from this book is that there is a real benefit to our health to eating organic meat and dairy. The main benefit seems to be from eating grass fed animals, but I do find  often when you buy organic, the animals are also grass fed. This is not a guarantee but a good starting point.

I am going to try to summarize this section of the book, but I highly recommend reading the whole thing. Here it is:

Cows and Chickens and what they eat
Omega-3s provide many health benefits we have all heard about. They help to develop the nervous system, reducing inflammation and regulating cell growth (and we know that unchecked cell growth is what leads to tumors). Omega-3s also limit the production of fat cells. However, omega-6s, which are not spoken of as often, help stock fats, promote inflammation, and increase cell growth, leading to the spread of cancer and tumor growth. Read more about omega-3s vs. omega-6s from another source here.

At a traditional farm, cows eat grass, an especially rich source of omega-3 fatty acids; these fatty acids are therefore concentrated in the milk from cows raised in pastures and in the milk’s derivatives –butter, cream, yogurt, and cheese. Omega-3s are likewise found in beef from grass-fed cattle and in eggs from free-range chickens fed with forage (rather than grain).

Starting in the fifties, the demand for milk products and beef went up so much that farmers had to look for shortcuts in the natural cycle of milk production and reduce the grazing area needed to feed a cow. Pastures were abandoned and replaced by corn, soy, and wheat, which have become the principal diet for cattle. This feed contains practically no omega-3 fatty acids and are rich in omega-6s.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are called “essential” because the human body cannot make them. Therefore, the quantity in our body is a direct result of what the cows and chickens we eat have consumed. If they eat grass, then the meat, milk, and eggs that result have a balance close to 1/1 of omega-3s and omega-6s. If they eat corn and soy, the imbalance in our bodies become 1/15 or can even be 1/40. Eggs are also affected. Eggs from chickens raised on corn contain 20 times more Omega-6s than Omega-3s. 

This means that non-organic meat, dairy, and eggs are all creating an imbalance in our bodies of many more omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3s. This imbalance puts us all at higher risk of weight gain and cancer.

Therefore, if you can, stick to organic meats and dairy, and especially grass fed beef and free range chicken and eggs. And don’t be shy to ask. If restaurants and grocery stores hear more demand for these types of products, they will start to stock more of them.