Alot of mainstream nutritional rhetoric out there will tell you either to avoid beef completely, or to only eat about 12-16 oz or so a week. Part of their reasoning is right, since modern day supermarket beef is vastly inferior to the real thing. But, on the other hand, traditional cultures thrived, and didn't suffer from things like heart disease and cancer, even when they ate red meat as a primary staple in their diet.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT EATS. Not all beef is the same! What the cow eats (grain vs grass), how it's raised and treated, and how it moves from the farm to the shelf is very crucial to your health. Here's some differences in "types" of beef available to buy, and what the labelling means:
Regular Beef from the Supermarket: Often raised on factory farms, these cows are treated with hormones, and fed antibiotic-laced, nutritionally inferior soy grain. They live in crowded and sickness-prone environments. Their beef is higher in toxins and unhealthy omega 6 fats, and much lower in nutrients and healthy omega 3 fats.
"Natural" or "All Natural" Beef: Not a regulatory term. Doesn't really mean much, except that there are no added artificial flavors/colors, or chemical preservatives. The USDA states that "all fresh meat" qualifies as "natural".
"No Growth Hormones Added" / "No Antibiotics": Means what it says. These are available in many supermarkets. In some brands, cows are fed a vegetarian diet of grass and grain. Definitely a cut above the regular stuff.
USDA Organic Certified Beef: Raised and produced with more strict sustainable standards: no synthetic fertilizer, hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, genetically engineered/modified ingredients; and only fed organic grains (and/or grass). Definitely better than regular beef, but more than likely fed organic grain instead of grass
"Grass-Fed Beef": This term is not legally defined, so it can really vary. The cow is typically fed a diet made up mostly of grass and forage, sometimes with a small amount of corn, silage, and/or grain. Keep in mind: even when a small amount of grain is introduced into the cow's diet, nutrients in the beef start to go down.
"100 Percent Grass-Fed" Beef: This is ideal, when shopping in health food stores or supermarkets. Even if its not labeled "USDA Organic", these farmers usually don't use modern industrialized methods...they tend to raise their cows with alot more care.
THE BEST: 100% Grass-Fed Beef from a Reputable Source, preferably local. This is the real deal, and the best option. Cows really aren't meant to eat grain anyway. When they do, the beef loses huge amounts of nutrients like vitamin E, beta carotene, the anti-cancer CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and its healthy balance of omega 6's to omega 3's. When cows are fed rapidly growing green grasses, and allowed to live in pasture, their beef is much healthier and packed with nutrients, and when you eat it, you'll be healthier too. It gives you a complete source of protein, powerful B vitamins, and CLA, which is anti-cancerous, anti-artery-clogging, and actually helps to reduce fat accumulation in the body,I strongly encourage seeking out grass-fed beef when possible. It's the real deal.
A few tips:
-Try to find local or regional grass-fed beef. This may be easier than you think. See resources below.
-If you can't find local, search online, mail order.
-For better convenience, buy in bulk and freeze. It's worth it!
Check out these resources:
http://www.eatwild.com/ - Find Grass-fed beef and other food
http://www.westonaprice.org/It-s-the-Beef.html - Great article about beef
http://www.westonaprice.org/chapters/index.php - This organization can help you find local grass fed beef