Is Organic Beef Healthier?
Organic beef comes from cows that have not been treated with hormones or antibiotics.
Organic beef carries a heavy price tag and has a reputation among environmentalists and health food enthusiasts as the superior choice. While organic beef isn't vastly nutritionally different from traditionally grown beef, choosing it over traditionally grown beef may offer some health benefits, such as decreased exposure to pesticides and hormones. The American Heart Association recommends eating any type of beef in moderation to help minimize heart disease risk.
Organic foods contain nearly the same nutrient profiles as conventionally grown or raised foods, according to research conducted by Mayo Clinic, Florida. That means organic beef won't give you more iron, protein or vitamins and minerals than conventional beef. Organic beef may have less fat because of the livestock's vegetarian diet, slower weight-gain and increased physical activity. The fat content of your beef will vary by cut and by animal, no matter how it's raised. Even lean, organic beef contains some saturated fat and trans fat, which is the leading cause of high cholesterol.
Antibiotic and Growth Hormone Content
Organic beef comes from cows that have not been treated with hormones or antibiotics. Hormones help increase appetite, speed weight gain in increase milk production in cattle, which means more meat and milk in a shorter span of time. Antibiotics also speed growth and help keep the animals free of diseases and infections that can spread rapidly when thousands of cows live in close proximity. Their use sparks controversy due to links with early puberty in girls, increased risk of breast cancer, resistance to antibiotics and increased dairy allergies. According to Cornell University, limited research and contradictory findings mean we don't yet understand if or how these additives negatively affect the human body.
Minimised Exposure to Pesticides
Overexposure to pesticides can affect your nervous and endocrine systems and may increase your cancer risk, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In order to obtain USDA-certified organic status, livestock must be fed organically grown grain and have access to pesticide-free pastures for grazing. While farmers may not add or use pesticides or chemical fertilizers, foods still run the risk of exposure due to overspray from neighbouring farms and contaminants that leech into soil and groundwater.
Decreased Disease Risk
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or "Mad Cow Disease," spreads among livestock when cows eat feed that contains meat and bone meal from other infected cows. The U.S. Centres for Disease Control reports only three total cases of the disease in humans up to 2010, which makes it a rare condition. Beef that is USDA-certified organic comes from cows that have not ingested feed made from other cows, minimizing disease transmission. Buying organic doesn't eliminate your risk for foodborne illness. For example, a 2009 study conducted by the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University found Escherichia coli O157:H7, or E coli, in over 14 per cent of organic and naturally raised cows.