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Organic Beef: Is It Good for You?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 28, 2020

In recent years, shoppers have begun to raise questions not only about the food they eat but also about where that food comes from. The increase in people who are vegetarian and vegan is due, in part, to concerns over the ethics of animal farming practices.

However, similar questions are being raised about chemicals and additives being fed to animals on farms and whether those additives are safe for human consumption. 

One response to these concerns over ethics and health is to change farming practices to match the standards of the present world. Organic foods are the results of these changes.

This isn’t just a marketing tactic: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has standards in place that food must meet to be certified as organic, whether the food is grown in the states or imported from out of the country. Some of these standards include: 

  • Animals can’t have any antibiotics or growth hormones
  • They can’t be fed mammalian or poultry protein or by-products
  • Their feed can’t have been exposed to pesticides, growth hormones, or fertilizers
  • They must have access to the outdoors

USDA standards aim to ensure that animals raised on organic farms are raised in a much more ethical way than animals not raised organically.

However, some may question whether these regulations produce meat that’s healthier for human consumption. Learn whether organic beef is actually good for you, any potential risks involved in consuming it, and healthier alternatives. 

Nutrition Information

A 100 gram serving of organic beef contains:  

  • Calories: 134
  • Fat: 4.02 grams
  • Cholesterol: 49 milligrams
  • Sodium: 321 milligrams
  • Carbohydrates: 3.57 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 3.57 grams
  • Protein: 20.54 grams

Beef is also a significant source of iron.  

Potential Health Benefits of Organic Beef

The question remains whether organic beef is better for your health than regular beef. The science is in, and the data says: probably. Here’s what the current research says about the nutritional benefits of choosing organic beef over regular beef: 

May Improve Heart Health

If you’re looking for a heart-healthy way to enjoy beef, you may be in luck. Studies show that grass-fed beef has less total fat than regular beef and contains more Omega-3 fatty acids, both of which are beneficial to your heart. 

Although not all organic beef is grass-fed, due to the regulations on feed, which include no animal proteins and no fertilizers or growth hormones in feed, organically grown cattle often receive much of their nutrients from grass. 

Protect Against Diseases

Free radicals (unstable atoms that can damage cells) are produced by a number of environmental factors, including cell metabolization and the air you breathe. They can lead to a number of harmful conditions, including cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes

One of the best ways to combat free radicals and, in turn, protect against these diseases is by consuming antioxidants. A comparison of organic and non-organic beef sold in retail stores showed that organic beef had significantly higher levels of antioxidants than non-organic beef, making it a great choice for protecting against harmful diseases in the future. 

Potential Risks of Organic Beef

It’s important to remember that organic beef is still beef. Overconsumption of red meat has been shown to shorten the average lifespan. Red meat is known to be associated with higher instances of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

So, while organic beef may be better for your health than non-organic beef, it’s still important to limit your overall beef intake. 

Healthier Alternatives

Studies suggest that organic meat is healthier than non-organic meat. Although studies are still in the works, this likely holds true whether the meat you’re discussing is beef, chicken, or turkey.

However, some protein sources are inherently healthier than other protein sources, whether organic or non-organic. Some of the most heart-healthy protein choices include:

  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Poultry

Show Sources

SOURCES:

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon.

Harvard Health Publishing: “Protein Sources That Are Best for Your Heart.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “What’s the Beef with Red Meat?”

Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture: “Nutritional properties of organic and conventional beef meat at retail.”

Mayo Clinic: A Grocery Bag of Beneficial Antioxidants.”

Mayo Clinic: “Grass-Fed Beef: What Are the Heart-Health Benefits?”

National Institutes of Health: “Risk in Red Meat?”

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Moral Vegetarianism.”

University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research & Extension: “Natural and Organic Beef.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “ORGANIC BEEF”

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