Meat can be a great source of protein, fat, iron and vitamin D that are more readily available in meat than other food sources. But not all meat is created equal. Organic ruminant meat like beef, lamb, and goat, can contain more of the good omega-3 fatty acids, less cholesterol, and more antioxidants than non-organic ruminants, because organic regulations require the animals to graze on certified organic pasture throughout the entire grazing season for the geographic region.
Organic ruminant meat may have more healthful fat
The diet of the grazing animals, especially the amount of grass, can change the type of fat in the meat. Eating organic beef, lamb, or goat may supplement the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. A large scale review of 67 studies on the nutritional profile of organic meat in the European Union (EU) shows that organic meat contains nearly 50% higher levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic meat due to required grazing and feeding practices. While research in the United States (US) is limited on the nutritional content of organic meat (and some aspects of the organic standards are different between the EU and the US), this study is encouraging, because it shows that focusing on pasture can amplify omega-3 fatty acids in meat.
Because our bodies don’t produce omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, it is essential for us to obtain them through our diets. However, we need to have a healthy balance of the two omega fatty acids – with a ratio of about 1:1 (Omega-6 : Omega-3). Unfortunately, the typical western diet results in ratios closer to 15: 1. This bombardment of high omega-6 levels and low omega-3 levels has been linked with several common diseases such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, osteoporosis, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Organic beef and lamb may be helpful with a diet focused on balancing that ratio.
Organic beef can also have lower cholesterol and fat. One study from Spain found organic beef had 17% less cholesterol, 32% less fat depending on the beef cut, 16% fewer fatty acids, and 24% fewer monounsaturated fatty acids than its conventional counterpart. Researchers suggest that the pasture-based diet of organic ruminant livestock is largely responsible for the differences in the fatty acid profiles.
Organic beef has more antioxidants
According to a study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, organic beef in the EU can have higher antioxidant levels, with 34% more Q10 and 72% more taurine depending upon the beef cut, and 53% more β‐carotene than conventional beef. Organic beef was especially beneficial when it came to heart-healthy α‐linolenic acid, with 170% higher levels than non-organic beef. Finally, the researchers found that organic beef had 24% more α‐tocopherol, which is a type of Vitamin E.