Myths & Truths About Beef
Excerpts from: It's the Beef by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD.
With the exception of butter,
no other food has been subjected to such intense demonization
in recent years as red meat, particularly beef. The juicy hamburger, that
delicious marbled steak and the Sunday roast have been accused of terrible
Beef causes heart disease, say the Diet Dictocrats.
Beef causes cancer, particularly colon cancer, beef causes osteoporosis, beef
causes autoimmune diseases like asthma, beef harbors
E. coli leading to food-borne illness, beef causes Creutzfeldt Jakob disease.
Recently a vegetarian group
called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals placed billboard ads warning
men not to eat beef because it causes impotence! Red meat is an acid-forming
food, say the vegetarians, which putrefies in the gut because humans can't
Beef production destroys the environment, according to the
zealots, and takes away land that could be dedicated to grain for starving
millions. Let's examine these accusations one at a time.
Does beef cause heart disease?
First is the notion that beef
causes heart disease. This actually dates back to the 1950's when the lipid
hypothesis was taking hold on the American consciousness. At that time,
scientists were grappling with a new threat to public health—a steep rise in
heart disease, especially myocardial infarction (MI)—a massive blood clot
leading to obstruction of a coronary artery and consequent death to the heart
MI was almost nonexistent in 1910 and caused no more than three
thousand deaths per year in 1930. By 1960, there were at least 500,000 MI
deaths per year in the US.
Many scientists believed that
the culprit was cholesterol and saturated fats found in animal foods like
butter, eggs and beef. They reasoned that saturated fat and cholesterol raised
the level of cholesterol in the blood which in turned caused the deposition of
cholesterol as plaques in the arteries, leading to obstructions and heart
disease. This, in a nutshell, is the lipid hypothesis.1
This theory was tested in
1957 when Dr. Norman Jolliffe, Director of the
Nutrition Bureau of the New York Health Department, initiated the Anti-Coronary
Club. With great media fanfare, a group of businessmen, ranging in age from 40
to 59 years, were placed on the so-called Prudent Diet.
Prudent Dieters used
corn oil and margarine instead of butter, cold breakfast cereals instead of
eggs and chicken and fish instead of beef. Anti-Coronary Club members were to
be compared with a "matched" group of the same age who ate eggs for
breakfast and had meat three times a day.
an overweight diabetic confined to a wheel chair, was confident that the
Prudent Diet would save lives, including his own.
The results of Dr. Jolliffe's Anti-Coronary Club experiment were published in
1966 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.2 Those on the Prudent
Diet of corn oil, margarine, fish, chicken and cold cereal had an average serum cholesterol of 220, compared to 250 in the
meat-and-potatoes control group.
However, the study authors were obliged to
note that there were eight deaths from heart disease among Dr. Jolliffe's Prudent Diet group, and none among those who ate
meat three times a day. Dr. Jolliffe was dead by this
time. He succumbed in 1961 from a vascular thrombosis, although the obituaries
listed the cause of death as complications from diabetes.
The truth is that in spite of
all the propaganda you have heard, the lipid hypothesis has never been proved.
In fact, inadequate protein intake leads to loss of myocardial muscle and may,
therefore, contribute to coronary heart disease.3
There are many societies
where the populace consumes high levels of animal food and saturated fat but
remains free of heart disease. Dr. george Mann, who
studied the Masai cattle herding peoples in Africa,
found no heart disease, even though their diet consisted of meat, blood and
Butterfat consumption among Masai
warriors, who consider vegetable foods as fodder for cattle, can reach
one and one half pounds per day. Yet these people do not suffer from heart
disease. Mann called the lipid hypothesis "the greatest scam in the
history of medicine."
It is a scam that has been used to convince millions
of healthy people that they are sick and must take expensive drugs with serious
side effects, a falsehood that has persuaded Americans to adopt a bland,
tasteless diet simply because their cholesterol has been defined as being too
It is true that beef
consumption in the United States has gone up during the last eighty years, the period
of huge increases in heart disease. Today we consume 79 pounds of beef per
person per year versus 54 in 1909, a 46% increase—but poultry consumption has
increased a whopping 280%, from 18 pounds per person per year to 70.
of vegetable oils, including those that have been hydrogenated, has increased
437%, from 11 pounds per person per year to 59; while consumption of butter,
lard and tallow has plummeted from 30 pounds per person per year to just under 10. Whole milk consumption has declined by almost 50%,
while lowfat milk consumption has doubled.
Consumption of eggs, fresh fruits (excluding citrus), fresh vegetables, fresh
potatoes and whole grain products has declined; but consumption of sugar and
other sweeteners has almost doubled.
Why, then, do today's politically correct
dietary gurus continue to blame beef consumption for our ills? Is it because it
is the one wholesome food that has shown an increase over the past ninety
What's the likely cause of heart disease?
The most likely causes of
increased heart disease in America are the other changes in our diets—huge
increases in consumption of refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils,
particularly hydrogenated vegetable oils; and the
decline in nutrient levels in our food, particularly minerals and fat soluble
vitamins—vitamins found only in animal fats.
The only claim that can be
made against beef as a cause of heart disease is that some studies have shown
beef consumption to temporarily raise cholesterol levels in short term feeding
Other studies have shown that beef consumption, including beef fat
consumption, lowers cholesterol levels. But even if all studies show that beef
consumption raises cholesterol levels, the only conclusion you can draw is—so
There is no greater risk of heart disease at cholesterol levels of 300
than at 180, and people with cholesterol levels below 180 are at greater risk
of death from other causes, such as cancer, intestinal diseases, accidents,
violence and suicide.5 In other words, it's much more dangerous to have
cholesterol levels that are too low than cholesterol levels that are too high.
Cholesterol is your best friend
The truth is that cholesterol
is your best friend. It is vital for the function of the nervous system and the
integrity of the digestive tract. Steroid hormones that help the body deal with
stress are made from cholesterol.
Sex hormones like estrogen
and testosterone are made from cholesterol. Bile salts that the body uses to
digest fats are made from cholesterol. Vitamin D, needed for thousands of
biochemical processes, is made from cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a powerful
antioxidant that protects us against cancer. It is vital to the cells because
it provides waterproofing and structural integrity. And, finally, cholesterol
is the body's repair substance.
When our arteries are weak and develop fissures
or tears, cholesterol is sequestered and used for repair. When cholesterol
levels in the blood are high, it's because the body needs cholesterol. Blaming
heart disease on cholesterol is like blaming a fire on the firemen who arrive
to put out the flames.
Does beef cause cancer?
What about the accusation
that beef causes cancer, in particular cancer of the colon? The genesis of this
myth involves more than just muddied thinking, but actual skulduggery. In 1965
an influential physician, Ernst Wynder, took the data
for the mostly processed vegetable oils, called them animal fat (which they
were not) and compared them with worldwide colon cancer mortality.6
he produced showed high rates of colon cancer in European countries and low
rates of colon cancer in Japan, and concluded that there was a positive effect,
in other words, that saturated fat, the kind found in beef, caused colon
What the data actually showed was that consumption of polyunsaturated
vegetable oils, not saturated animal fats, was associated with the incidence of
colon cancer. And Wynder forgot to mention that
Asians have much higher rates than Americans of other types of cancers,
particularly cancers of the liver, pancreas, stomach, esophagus and lungs.
Then in 1973, William Haenszel and his colleagues from the National Cancer
Institute reported the findings from a study that relied on dietary recall and
lacked matched controls—in other words, a very poorly designed study.7 The researchers stated that they found a relationship
between beef and colon cancer that fit the earlier work of Wynder.
Actually, what they really found was that among westernized Japanese Americans,
those who said they consumed lots of macaroni, green beans and peas, as well as
beef, had the highest rates of colon cancer; while among traditional Japanese
Americans, those who said they consumed lots of dried cuttlefish, Chinese peas,
bamboo shoots, rice and fermented soy products had the highest rates of colon
Thus, the researchers singled out beef as the culprit from a choice of
several foods associated with cancer in Westerners and ignored politically
correct foods like soy products, fish and vegetables as a potential cause of
cancer in Japanese Americans.
Instead, this second-rate and inconclusive study
has become firmly fixed in the consciousness of the scientific community as
providing evidence for the assertion that beef causes colon cancer.
Two American studies
conducted in the 1990's have found a higher risk of colon cancer among those
who eat red meat.8 However, no study done in Europe has ever shown an
association between meat consumption and cancer.9
This suggests that European
sausage and luncheon meat, included in the rubric of "meat
consumption," are prepared by traditional methods that require few
additives, while the similar products in the United States contain many
carcinogenic preservatives and flavorings.
Unfortunately, the American Cancer Society's 1996 recommendation that Americans
cut down on their consumption of meat—particularly fatty meat—in order to avoid
cancer makes no distinction between fresh meats and those that have been
embalmed with modern chemicals.
While two US studies have implicated meat consumption as a cause
of colon cancer, there are several that contradict these findings. In 1975,
Rowland Philips compared Seventh-Day Adventists physicians, who do not eat
meat, with non-Seventh Day Adventist physicians, and found that the vegetarian
doctors had higher rates of gastrointestinal and colon-rectal cancer deaths.10
National Cancer Institute data show that Argentina, with very high levels of
beef consumption, has significantly lower rates of colon cancer than other
western countries where beef consumption is considerably lower.11
A 1997 study
published in the International Journal of Cancer found that increased risk of
colon and rectal cancer was positively associated with consumption of bread,
cereal dishes, potatoes, cakes, desserts and refined sugars, but not with eggs
And a 1978 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer
Institute found no greater risk of colon cancer, regardless of the amounts of
beef or other meats ingested.13 The study also found that those who ate plenty
of cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, had
lower rates of colon cancer. So just because it's all right to eat beef doesn't
mean you shouldn't eat your broccoli.
Actually, we know one of the
mechanisms whereby colon cancer is initiated, and it does not involve meat per
se. Colon cancer occurs when high levels of dietary vegetable oils and
hydrogenated fats, along with certain carcinogens, are acted on by certain
enzymes in the cells lining the colon, leading to tumor formation.14
explains the fact that in industrialized countries, where there are many
carcinogens in the diet and where consumption of vegetable oils and carcinogens
is high, some studies have correlated meat-eating with colon cancer; but in
traditional societies, where vegetable oils are absent and the food is free of
additives, meat-eating is not associated with cancer.
Riding piggy back on the
alleged association of beef with colon cancer are
supposed links with other cancers, such as breast cancer. Here the evidence
shows a similarly inconsistent pattern.
Cancer is a disease of rich countries
where numerous factors can be fingered—altered fats, fabricated foods, low
levels of protective nutrients, high levels of carcinogens—and rich countries
consume lots of beef.
But association is not the same as cause. Countries where
there are more telephones have more cancer, but that does not mean that
telephones cause cancer. Fat consumption in general also gets the blame for high
rates of breast cancer. But a recent survey showed that women on lowfat diets have just as much breast cancer as those on
high fat diets.15
High protein diets are said
to cause osteoporosis and Americans are now being advised to avoid beef in
order to protect their bones. Once again, it's important to look at the studies
Research that showed a link with bone loss and protein consumption
was done with purified protein powders.16 With meat, a
natural protein food, there was no negative calcium balance. New evidence
indicates that women who eat lots of meat had fewer hip fractures compared to
those who avoided it.17
High protein diets are said
to contribute to kidney problems but, again, the evidence is contradictory.
Although protein restriction can be helpful for those who are suffering kidney
failure, there is no evidence that eating meat causes kidney disease.18 The
fat-soluble vitamins found exclusively in animal fats are very important for
healthy kidney function.
Does beef cause autoimmune diseases or asthma?
What about the accusation
that meat contributes to autoimmune diseases and asthma? This hypothesis is
predicated on the fact that meat contains arachidonic
acid, a fatty acid from which the supposedly pro-inflammatory Series Two prostaglandins—local
tissue hormones—are formed.
This is one of the nuttiest notions to take hold in
the scientific community for a long time. It was promulgated by Barry Sears,
author of The Zone, and taken up with a vengeance by the anti-meat forces.
These people know nothing about prostaglandins. Some of the prostaglandins that
the body makes from arachidonic acid do indeed
promote inflammation—which is a very important protective response when you
have injured yourself.
But the same arachidonic acid
also forms the basis of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins that the body uses,
when appropriate, to reduce inflammation.19 And besides, the amount of arachidonic acid in beef is very low—less than half a
percent of total fat content.
It is much lower than the amount of omega-3 fatty
acids, the current darlings of the nutritional community, yet none of the
voices promoting omega-3 fatty acids ever tell us that we can get them from
What about "Mad Cow Disease"?
Beef consumption in England plummeted recently with the "Mad Cow Disease"
scare. Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is a wasting
disease of cattle characterized by nervous disorders and weakness, said to be
related to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans.
Scientists have not been
able to link a virus to this disease, so they theorize that an abnormal protein
particle called a prion, found in the brains of
cattle with BSE and humans with CJD, is the cause.
The theory is that these prions are infectious agents, passed along to cows though
the practice of animal part feeding and then to humans who eat infected meat,
particularly meat from the nervous system, like brain.
There's a lot wrong with this
theory. For one thing, BSE is nonexistent in the USA, where animal part feeding has been going on for
almost one hundred years.
Another is recorded cases of CJD among vegetarians;
yet another is the absence of CJD in the Shetlands where scrapie,
a disease similar to BSE, is common in sheep and where potted sheeps brain is a national dish.
The research of Mark Purdey, a diary farmer in England, indicates that the mad
cow disease epidemic in England occurred in areas where farmers were forced to
treat their cattle with organophosphate pesticides in a warble fly eradication
The warble fly makes holes in the cows' backs—not dangerous in
itself, but it reduces the value of pelts sold to leather manufacturers. These
holes are open doors to the spinal cord and organophosphate pesticides are very
toxic to the nervous system.
By a complex process, these compounds seem to
cause certain proteins to fold in pathological ways–these are the prions that are found in the brains of animals with BSE and
humans with CJD. Mineral deficiencies are also involved, particularly
magnesium, which is a mineral that protects the nervous system.
Finally, a similar disease
occurs among wild animals living in areas of volcanic soils, whose diets are
high in aluminum and manganese, minerals known to be toxic to the nervous
Clusters of human CJD cases are also found in areas where the soil has
mineral imbalances, where there are cement factories and where high levels of
organophosphate insecticides have been used.
So the answer to CJD and BSE
is good soil management and the elimination of neurotoxic
compounds in farming–but it's easier to just blame it on beef. By the way, now
that animal part feeding has been outlawed, feedlot operators are turning to
soy feeds as a protein substitute.
Soy is very toxic to cows' livers. Does the
use of soy in cattle feeding explain why beef—lean beef—has become politically
correct again? After all, the other politically correct meats—chicken and
salmon—use up vast quantities of soybean meal in battery feeding and fish
What about E.Coli?
A final slur against beef is
that beef is a vector for pathogenic E. coli and therefore a major cause of foodborne illness. Nevermind that E. coli shows up in plant foods like apple juice and salad
dressings; and never mind that E. coli is relatively benign and never caused foodborne illness in small amounts until recently.
Once again, it's easier to just blame it on beef.
Charles Walters of Acres USA
points out that old fashioned all-meat hamburgers,
when handled with reasonable care, did not formerly pose a foodborne
Why, then, are we getting outbreaks of foodborne
illness from fast food outlets, where food handling techniques are rigidly
controlled—from frozen patty to the grill?
He believes that the problem lies in
the fact that hamburgers are now bulked out with hydrolyzed soybeans, also
called textured vegetable protein, much of it made from genetically modified
soybeans. With modern processing, 100 pounds of ground meat can be bulked out
to 124 pounds.
E. coli DNA is used as a
vector in genetically modified soybeans. The E. coli causing problems in fast
food hamburgers is called facultative bacteria, which means that it operates
with or without air.
Does this bacteria come from the
genetically modified soy and is it more dangerous than E. coli that occurs in
the guts of cattle? It's a question that needs answering. Says Walters:
"This E. coli the news releases keep talking about is not a consequence of
slaughterhouse personnel not washing their hands enough, Involved is the
negative spin, which is what it lives on. It is in the tissue. It is not errant
E. coli leaving the intestinal tract and infecting the product. The scientists
know this and this is why they're trying to fall back on irradiation and heavy
There are studies that
support Walter's theory. One found that spoilage was greater and most rapid in
"extended" than in "nonextended"
(meaning pure) ground beef.22
Another study showed that coliform
counts were significantly higher in beef mixed with textured soy protein after
one day of storage in comparison to the 100% ground beef.23
Does beef cause impotence?
The accusation that beef
causes impotence is a tactic that can definitely be described as "below
the belt." Beef causes impotence by "clogging arteries, limiting
blood flow to the extremities." So goes the argument proffered by People
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Nothing could be more unethical than the
implied suggestion that vegetarianism is good for your sex life. We know that
vegetarianism–the practice of not eating animal foods–can lead to many
deficiencies that directly contribute to impotence, infertility and
reproductive difficulties—deficiencies in protein, zinc, vitamins B6 and B12,
and fat-soluble vitamins A and D.
The notion that beef is an "acid-forming"
food is another favorite vegetarian argument. Beef contains lots of sulphur and
phosphorus, which technically form an acid when dissolved in water, but that
does not mean that eating meat causes the body to be too acid.
provides both high-quality protein and vitamin D (if you eat the fat and organ
meats, that is), both of which are needed to maintain proper acid-alkaline
balance in the body.
Meat does not putrefy in the gut. Humans are admirably
equipped to digest meat. That is the main job of the human stomach,
which–unlike the stomach of the cow or rabbit–contains millions of cells that
secrete hydrochloric acid.
Our intestinal tract is much shorter than that of
the vegetarian animals, but somewhat longer than that of purely carnivorous
animals. Man is an omnivore—with teeth, stomach, intestines and bowel all
designed to handle both animal and plant foods.
Do cattle use land that should be planted with grain?
Vegetarians argue that cows
and sheep require pasturage that could be better used to raise grains for
starving millions in third-world countries. This argument ignores the fact that
a large portion of our earth's land is unsuited to cultivation.
The open range,
desert and mountainous areas yield their fruits in grazing animals. Grasslands
perfectly suited to grazing cover an area in China's interior equal to three
times the entire amount of land under cultivation in the rest of the country.24
Citing the arguments of vegetarians, the Chinese government has opted for more
intense cultivation of existing agricultural lands rather than development of
these untapped regions in order to supply much-needed animal products to the
A far more serious threat to
humanity is the monoculture of grains and legumes, which tends to deplete the
soil and requires the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides.
educated consumer and the enlightened farmer together can bring about the
return of the mixed farm, where cultivation of fruits and vegetables is
combined with the raising of livestock and fowl in a manner that is efficient,
economical and environmentally friendly.
Cattle providing rich manure are the
absolute basis for healthy, sustainable farming. On marginal land, wise grass
feeding practices can actually improve soil quality and restore pasture land.
It is not animal cultivation that leads to hunger and famine but unwise
agricultural practices and monopolistic distribution systems.
Do vegetarians live longer than meat eaters?
Since we're talking about
vegetarianism, let's examine the claim that vegetarians live longer than meat
eaters. The late Dr. Russell Smith, who was a statistician, took a close look
at the studies purporting to show that vegetarianism was a healthier
In a review of some 3,000 articles in
the scientific literature, he found only two that compared mortality data for
vegetarians and nonvegetarians. One was a 1978 study
of Seventh Day Adventists (SDA's).
analyses of this study claim that it showed that the vegetarians lived longer,
Smith's analysis of total mortality rates as a function of the frequencies of
consuming cheese, meat, milk, eggs and fat attached to meat found that the
total death rate decreased as the frequencies of consuming cheese, eggs, meat
and milk increased.
The second study was
published by Burr and Sweetnam in 1982.26. Once
again, although the authors claim that their study showed that vegetarians
lived longer, Smith found quite the opposite when he looked carefully at the
He found that the all-cause death rates were slightly greater for
vegetarian men compared to nonvegetarian men; and
significantly greater for vegetarian women compared to nonvegetarian
Vegetarians never mention a
study by Dr. Emmanuel Cheraskin who surveyed 1040
dentists and their wives. Those who had the fewest problems and diseases as
measured by the Cornell Medical Index had the most protein in their diets.27
Yet almost all the treatments for chronic disease found in
alternative publications these days begin with the recommendation of a
vegetarian diet. Typical is an article by a Dr. Brodie
that appeared in Issue #13 of Alternative Medicine Digest, published by Burton
Dr. Brodie recommends a "balanced
vegetarian diet" of raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans with
no "refined sugars, red meat, caffeine and chemically preserved
foods." This is truly guilt by association!
But wait! In order to get
well, Dr. Brodie recommends certain supplements
including vitamin A, vitamin B6, thymus extracts, zinc, cysteine,
and bovine cartilage, all of which are largely absent in plant foods and
plentifully available in beef!
At least they are available if you are eating
the whole animal as our ancestors did–meat, organs, cartilage, bones and fat.
Is beef good for you?
What a shame we have
demonized red meat because this is one modern food, enjoyed by almost
everybody, that is rich in nutrients. Red meat provides complete protein,
including sulphur-containing proteins like cysteine.
Beef is a wonderful source of taurine and carnitine, needed for healthy eyes
and a healthy heart. Beef also provides another key nutrient for the
cardiovascular system—coenzyme Q10.
Beef is an excellent source
of minerals like magnesium and zinc—you need zinc for clear thinking and a
healthy sex life. The fuzzy-headedness that vegetarians mistake for heightened
consciousness is really the fog of zinc deficiency.
Vitamin B6 is abundant in
meat, especially rare meat. Red meat is one of the best sources of vitamin B12,
which is vital to a healthy nervous system and healthy blood. Vegetarians are
especially prone to vitamin B12 deficiency.
One of the first signs of vitamin
B12 deficiency is a tendency to irrational anger-—so much for vegetarian claims
that we will have a more peaceful, harmonious world if we all just stop eating
If you use the animal bones
and hooves to make stock, and use the stock as our ancestors did in soups,
stews and sauces, you will get plenty of calcium and the components of
cartilage to give you healthy bones and cartilage.
If you eat organ meats, as
our ancestors did, you will get vital fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A and
D, both of which are essential for protein utilization and mineral absorption.
What about saturated fat?
In fact, the one warning we
could give you about meat is not to eat it lean. In spite of claims to the
contrary, the diet of the cave man was not one of lean meat. Paleolithic man always ate his meat with fat.
Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who spent many
years living with the Eskimos and Indians of Northern Canada, reports that wild
male ruminants like elk and caribou carry a large slab of back fat, weighing as
much as 40 to 50 pounds.
The Indians and Eskimo hunted older male animals
preferentially because they wanted this backslab fat,
as well as the highly saturated fat found around the kidneys. Other groups used
blubber from sea mammals like seal and walrus.
"The groups that depend
on the blubber animals are the most fortunate in the hunting way of life,"
wrote Stefansson, "for they never suffer from
This trouble is worst, so far as North America is concerned, among those forest Indians who depend
at times on rabbits, the leanest animal in the North, and who develop the
extreme fat-hunger known as rabbit-starvation.
if they have no fat from another source–beaver, moose, fish–will develop
diarrhea in about a week, with headache, lassitude, a vague discomfort.
If there are enough rabbits, the people eat till their stomachs are distended;
but no matter how much they eat they feel unsatisfied.
Some think a man will
die sooner if he eats continually of fat-free meat than if he eats nothing, but
this is a belief on which sufficient evidence for a decision has not been
gathered in the north.
Deaths from rabbit-starvation, or from the eating of
other skinny meat, are rare; for everyone understands the principle, and any
possible preventive steps are naturally taken."29
Normally, according to Stefansson, the diet consisted of dried or cured meat
"eaten with fat," namely the highly saturated cavity and back slab
fat that could be easily separated from the animal.
Another Arctic explorer,
Hugh Brody, reports that Eskimos ate raw liver mixed with small pieces of fat
and that strips of dried or smoked meat were "spread with fat or lard."30
Pemmican, a highly concentrated travel food, was a mixture of lean dried
buffalo meat and highly saturated buffalo fat. (Buffalo fat, by the way, is more saturated than beef fat.)
Less than two pounds of pemmican per day could sustain a man doing hard
physical labor. The ratio of fat to protein in
pemmican was 80% to 20%. As lean meat from game animals was often given to the
dogs, there is no reason to suppose that everyday fare did not have the same
proportions: 80% fat (mostly highly saturated fat) to 20% protein–in a
population in which heart disease and cancer were nonexistent.
The beef industry has been
forced to be apologetic about its product because it's very difficult to get
the fat out of beef. You can reduce the fat content by using hormones, but you
end up with a product that is tough and tastes terrible, not to mention full of
Beef producers need to recognize that the fat is the most important
part of the beef, rich in components that promote good health and that help you
utilize the nutrients in all the other parts of the beef.
In addition to
vitamins A and D, fat contributes many important fatty acids, including palmitoleic acid, an antimicrobial fat that protects us
against pathogens in the gut. If you want to be sure that you don't get foodborne illness from your hamburger, use full fat ground
Fat also provides a substance
called conjugated linoleic acid or CLA, at least it
does if the animals have been on green grass.31
CLA is a substance that
protects us against cancer and that promotes weight loss—that's right, fat can
make you thin, if it's the right kind of fat.
And the right kind of fat is
also saturated fat which, in spite of what we've been told, plays many
important roles in the body chemistry. The scientific literature delineates a
number of vital roles for dietary saturated fats—they enhance the immune
system,32 are necessary for healthy bones,33 provide energy and structural
integrity to the cells,34 protect the liver35 and enhance the body's use of
essential fatty acids.36
Stearic acid and palmitic acid, found in beef tallow and butter, are the
preferred foods for the heart.37 As saturated fats are stable, they do not
become rancid easily, do not call upon the body's reserves of antioxidants, do
not initiate cancer, do not irritate the artery walls.
In fact saturated beef fat is
one of the most useful fats in the culinary repertoire. As it is very stable
and doesn't go rancid when heated to high temperatures, it's perfect for
frying. While we don't recommend a lot of fried foods, we know that our
children and grandchildren are going to eat them.
Fast food outlets used to fry
their potatoes in healthy stable beef tallow. They were crisp, tasted delicious
and provided many important nutrients. But the phony
cholesterol issue has forced these outlets to switch to partially hydrogenated
vegetable oil, which is known to cause a host of chronic diseases including
cancer, heart disease, bone problems, infertility and autoimmune disease.38
What about the beef industry?
The beef industry should know
these things but it doesn't. Instead the National Beef Checkoff
Board, funded by mandatory payments from cattlemen, officially endorses
consumption of only three and one-half ounce servings of lean beef, about the
size of a pack of cards, and runs ads that say things like this:
". . .
when it comes to lowering 'bad' cholesterol levels, lean red meat has the same
effects as white chicken meat. That means eating lean beef may reduce the risk
of heart disease. Since seven cuts of beef fall between a skinless chicken
breast and chicken thigh in terms of total fat, consumers can feel good about
This is damning a good product by faint praise. The Checkoff Board had bought into the phony
cholesterol theory and sides squarely with the Diet Dictocrats,
calling for irradiation to kill "emerging pathogens" and subsidies to
Steve and Jeanne Charter,
ranchers from Shepherd, Montana, have refused to make the checkoff
payments and are willing to take on the Beef Checkoff
Board in court.
At preliminary hearings the judge listened while Checkoff bureaucrats defended the Department of
Agriculture's food pyramid, based on seven to eleven servings of grain per day,
while the Charters championed the juicy steak—to cheers from fellow ranchers.
We need to stand up and
support people like the Charters because beef is not the demon food we've been
told it is. Beef does not cause disease. In fact beef contributes to good
health by providing many important nutrients. All this can be found in the
scientific literature. So what's the beef, then, about beef?
Perhaps it also has to do
with the characteristics of cattle-herding peoples. Unlike agriculturists, who
require an organized social structure highly susceptible to centralized
control, the pastoral way of life favors the
And the beef industry, for all its faults, is far less
subject to monopolistic control than the grain industry is. And it's easier to
manipulate prices on grain, a commodity controlled by just a few families,40 than it is to control prices on an industry supported by
thousands of cattlemen.
While it is not as true today
as it was in the days before the barbed wire fence, cattle keeping families
enjoy the luxury of greater independence than those who till the soil or tend
vines. They inhabit the wide open spaces and are more accustomed to fending for
themselves than relying on their neighbors.
This is not to say there is
anything wrong with relying on one's neighbors—in
fact, to survive and revive, more cooperation in the beef industry will be
needed–but democracy needs a critical mass of the kind of free thinking,
independent businessman that you find in the cattle industry.
This may be the
real reason the Chinese decided not to develop their western grasslands–even
small numbers of forward thinking Chinese cowboys would be a threat to that
People who raise beef not only tend to be free
thinkers, they are also good thinkers, because beef provides many factors needed
for the modern equivalent of the quick draw–keen, quick minds–including zinc,
B12, cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids, trace minerals, saturated fat and
complete protein. In fact, when it comes to good health–it's the beef.