Protein-HappyCowBandHow healthy is the protein and fat from feedlot cows?

Cows in feedlots may or may not be happy and healthy!

  • Cows are herd animals. They love being with their buddies whether in a pasture or in a feedlot. I speak from experience; it takes a well built fence to keep cows away from one another.
  • A big deal for many humans is universal healthcare. Cows in a feedlot have just that. They have all their medical needs taken care of so they must be healthy?

Have I gone bonkers?

If you have been following my blogs for very long you know that I am the daughter of a beef cattle rancher. My son followed in his granddad’s footsteps and manages a beef cattle ranch.

Recently my husband and I were having a conversation with our son. He unknowingly gave me the title for this blog. He said the picture of feedlots is not necessarily as grim as painted. He pointed out the fact that cows in a feedlot are with their buddies – that makes them happy. Also they basically have universal healthcare to keep them healthy.

He also pointed out that we need to give more credit to the role feedlots play in our food supply. The ranch he manages has a grass-fed beef program as well as grass-fed beef that is finished in a feedlot.

So… where’s the beef?

  • Domestication of cattle started around 8000 BC to provide labor, beef, milk and leather.
  • Grass-fed beef cattle roam free on grasslands.
  • Grain-fed beef cattle normally roam free on range grass but are grain-finished in a feedlot. Many ranchers supplement their range cattle with balanced feed especially developed for cattle during winter months or periods of drought. In the feedlot their normal feed is a balanced ration of grain, protein roughage and a vitamin/mineral blend.
  • Organic beef is cattle raised without added hormones, pesticides or other chemicals. Keep in mind that all organic of anything, including beef can be varied. (Only 70 percent of the product must be certified organic ingredients.)* Organic beef is not necessarily strictly grass-fed. *
  • Humans have eaten meat since prehistoric times proven by hunting scenes in cave paintings.
  • There are several grades of beef in the US. These grades indicate one of two criteria: the degree of marbling (amount of fat) and the estimated age of the animal at slaughter. These grades basically have to do with tenderness and taste. The USDA has put these grades in place with the 2 most popular being:
  • US Choice or Select Beef – sold by most supermarkets
  • US Prime Beef – served at most upscale restaurants 

Protein-WhatsYourBeefSo… what’s in your beef?

Protein and fat

‘Protein’ means ‘number one’ – the word ‘protein’ literally means ‘to be first’

  • Protein builds genes and hormones
  • Blood is largely protein
  • Cell replacement depends on protein
  • The immune system depends on protein
  • Vital organs need protein
  • Water balance depends on protein
  • Protein controls energy and mood
  • A protein deficiency affects every part of the body
  • All 9 essential amino acids must be present in order to function properly. If any one of the 9 essential amino acids are missing in the diet there could be a deficiency.
  • In children growth can slow or stop if there is a protein deficiency
  • Bones can become porous and brittle
  • Teeth and gums can deteriorate – the framework of bones and teeth is protein, calcium enhances the strength
  • Healing can be slow
  • You will be more susceptible to disease and infection
  • Body fluid imbalance can result in puffy arms or legs
  • Moods can be low
  • Blood sugar may be out of balance – diabetes often do not get adequate protein versus carbs
  • Energy levels may be low
  • Sources of complete protein – foods with all 9 essential amino acids in proper balance (when all 9 essential amino acids are available in proper ratios, your body can synthesize the rest of the 22 amino acids your body needs)
  • Animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy
  • Plant foods such as legumes, seeds, grains and vegetables are sometimes complete protein
  • When one or more of the 9 essential amino acids is missing or out of balance your body cannot properly utilize the amino acids that are present.
  • The right combination of plant foods is most often necessary in order to get all 9 essential amino acids in balance on a daily basis. Vegetarians need to understand this in order not to have a protein deficiency.

Protein-Fat-FreeRangeCowsFat – what about it?

  • Low intakes of healthy fats like CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and omega-3’s increase risk of disease such as:

Cancer, depression, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, allergies, asthma, dementia, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke

  • Levels of healthy fats like CLA and omega-3’s are increased in grass-fed beef
  • Grain-fed animals have 2 to 3 times more unhealthy saturated fat than grass-fed
  • Grain-fed animals have less than half the omega-3 healthy fats of grass-fed
  • Grain-fed animals have 2 to 5 times less healthy CLA than grass-fed
  • Grass-fed beef has lower total fat than the skinless thigh of a grain-fed chicken ounce for ounce
  • Impact of the cow’s diet on beef’s fatty acids whether grass or grain fed
  • Still provide monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids needed for a balanced healthy diet
  • Grain feeding can actually increase monounsaturated fat which can lower cholesterol. These are the same monounsaturated fats found in olive oil.
  • As I mentioned before, grass feeding influences the amount of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Remember, feedlot beef cows have been mainly grass-fed
  • Levels of healthy fats versus unhealthy fats are in all dairy products like milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, ice cream as well as the meat.

Protein-Fat-hand-feeding-on-the-ranchAre the cows in feedlots unhappy and unhealthy?

Not necessarily – they are living with their herd and they eat a balanced diet

They spent most of their life out on the free range so are grass-fed until going to the feedlot

Are grass-fed free roaming cows happier and healthier?

Yes, it seems they would be!

So… what does this all mean to you?

  • Do you care if your steak is thick, juicy and tender?

You’ll probably want your beef to have been fed some grain by either the rancher or a feedlot. What comes out of the feedlot really depends on what goes into the feedlot.

  • Do you need to consider price when purchasing your beef?

You’ll probably need to purchase beef that spent some time in a feedlot.

How about giving the feedlot happy cows a break?

  • They are an important part of our food supply.
  • They enable the masses an opportunity to have the Choice, Select or Prime Beef available in supermarkets and restaurants.
  • Feedlot beef still has the complete protein and fat necessary for good health.

Yes, health wise, I would rather have grass-fed, pure organic beef but it is just not always realistic.  

Share in the comment section below what you do to guarantee you get complete protein and healthy fats.




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PatMoon  Pat Unlocks the Key to Your Future Health with Wisdom, Knowledge and Common Sense

Pat has been married to the same man for 52 years, is the mother of 3 adult children, and grandma to 8 grandchildren. Growing up in the country gave her a head start to living a healthy lifestyle.  This grandma became interested in nutrition as a mother and for the past 27 plus years she has specialized in teaching others the importance of good nutrition.  Challenges along the road have been many; her father overcoming congestive heart failure with nutrition, her husband's battle with GERD and dealing with major heart issues, her daughter's battle with a brain tumor, her grandson beating Hodgkin's Lymphoma, her mother's stage 4 lung cancer, her mom-n-law's dementia, and others.  Her goal is to empower the future health of others with wisdom, knowledge and common sense so they can have the BEST REAL HEALTH possible. 


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Comments on this entry are closed.


1 Goody Bag Mall August 7, 2014 at 10:17 am

Great information about the differences. I no longer eat meat, maybe once every few months really. My children still consume it though. Great to know the differences in how the meat is cultivated. 

2 Pat Moon August 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Hi Goody Bag Mall,

Yes, lots to learn about meat and the way it is grown.

Is there a special reason you do not eat meat? People take that stand for various reasons. It’s interesting to me to know why people make that decision.

Thanks for your comment.


3 Roslyn August 6, 2014 at 2:34 pm

What a vast amount of information about cows and the beef I eat. Always been a city gal so I never heard of feedlots but have noticed cows. In fact, I have a cute cow post scheduled for my facebook page. To answer your question, I only buy my beef from a few reputable places, not local supermarket and limit it to 1 or 2x a week.

4 Pat Moon August 7, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Hi Roz,

Growing up and being exposed to ranch life in the southwestern US does give me an advantage to understanding just where our beef comes from. Good for you on purchasing your beef from reputable markets. So many people buy only by price which does not always give them the best quality. I even learned a lot about grades of beef and the differences in fat content of beef doing my research for this blog. I liked the ‘Happy Cow’ concept our son gave me.

I’ll watch for your cute cow post on FB.


5 Meryl Hershey Beck August 6, 2014 at 11:13 am

This is very interesting that cows in feedlots are not necessarily unhappy! We do in fact need to give more credit to the role feedlots play. Thank you for sharing!

6 Pat Moon August 7, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Hi Meryl,

Our son is really very supportive of grass-fed beef… that’s a good part of what he does as manager of an 87,000 acre ranch. However, I picked up on his statement about cows in feedlots not necessarily being unhappy. He gave me a new perspective on feedlots.

Thanks for your supportive comment.


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