does beef have omega 3 fatty acids

Omega-3 FA concentration is higher in red meat (beef, lamb and mutton) than in white meat (pork, poultry and turkey), due to the fibre types present in muscle tissues and the specialised digestive systems of ruminants.

GRAINFED beef is getting a bad rap in the popular belief that grassfed beef is a healthier option based on its higher levels of omega 3 oils, says a respected US meat scientist visiting Australia for last week’s National Wagyu Conference.

Professor Stephen Smith, from the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University is regarded as a global export in fatty acid profiles in beef. He has studied oleic acids in beef in the US, Japan, Australia and Chian for the past 30 years.

He spent much of his presentation to Wagyu conference delegates last week highlighting the exciting potential to exploit high levels of beneficial oleic acid in grainfed beef, and especially Wagyu.

While the abundance of oleic acid in grainfed beef was a positive dietary story that would benefit the industry, he also admitted, with some frustration, that much consumer attention continues to focus on the widely perceived dietary benefit in grassfed beef, because of its higher levels of omega 3 oils.

Prof Smith dismissed the omega 3 impact as insignificant, in comparison with grainfed beef’s oleic acid advantages.

The grainfed beef sample contained 30mg of alpha-Linolenic acid (the only significant omega 3 oil found in beef) per 100g pattie sample. The equivalent grassfed sample contained triple the amount – 90mg.

“There’s no contesting that the omega 3 in grassfed beef is higher. But the key point is, a woman’s requirement for alpha-Linolenic acid is 1600mg per day, while a man needs 1800mg,” he said.

“I absolutely agree with the need to eat more omega 3 oils, but beef (regardless of whether it is grass or grainfed) will never be a good source of omega 3s, or omega 6s.”

“Yes, you can change the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in beef through grassfeeding – no question. But it has zero dietary implications.”

“That’s because grassfed beef is unable to satisfy a person’s nutritional requirements for omega 3. Just a teaspoon of canola oil has all the daily dietary requirements for omega 3 that a human needs. You simply can’t get that from beef – only proteins like salmon offer any real dietary benefit,” Prof Smith said.

“But that’s why I’m so excited about the oleic acid story with beef. We can tweak the oleic acid levels to increase concentrations by grams per sample, versus just milligram quantities per sample with omega 3.”

Prof Smith said he was greatly frustrated by the amount of misinformation on social media and elsewhere about the relative value of grain and grassfed beef, led by misleading information about omega 3.

New England Wagyu breeder Lock Rogers asked Prof Smith about the ‘paleo’ diet movement, led by superstar TV chef Pete Evans, which heavily advocated for grassfed beef over grainfed, on the basis of healthfulness.

“What you are describing is the complete opposite of what’s being said: how do we reverse the message?” Mr Rogers asked Prof Smith.

“What social media is pushing out, over and over again, is the evils of grainfed beef,” Prof Smith said.

“The messages include that it’s not sustainable, when it fact it is more sustainable than grassfed beef; that it produces more greenhouse gases, when in fact it produces less; and that grainfed beef is fattier, and hence less healthy.”

“We all have to help spread the message, by getting it out there into the social media and other channels – we have to overwhelm their message with our message. It has to get out there.”

“I’m the only one doing these type of studies – that’s not enough critical mass – we need to take the science based information we currently have and push it out there, and have more people doing similar studies to press home the message.”

“But it’s a huge, frustrating problem when people simply say, ‘Grainfed beef is bad for you’,” Prof Smith said.

“The issue we are running up against – and I’m sure it is happening as much in Australia as in the US – is that we are having to defend (the health attributes) of marbled beef. There’s a small, but very vocal minority, active in many countries, that does not want cattle fed in feedlots, using perceived health issues as part of their campaign.”

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Cows grazing in a pasture.

Next time you shop for groceries, you can find a wide variety of choices at the meat counter, including grass-fed beef, an alternative to conventionally farmed beef.

Grass-fed cattle spend their entire lives grazing from pastures. Here in Iowa and the Upper Midwest, grass-fed cattle are also fed hay in the winter, when the grass isn’t growing and pastures are covered in snow.

Both grass-fed and grain-fed cattle similarly spend the majority of their lives grazing in pastures, with the key difference in the finishing process. During the process, conventionally farmed cattle are fed a balanced diet of grains, local feed ingredients, and hay or forage in the feedyard.

Iowa – the nation’s top corn producing state – is recognized worldwide for its USDA Prime-grade, corn-fed beef.

Food marketers and health influencers often claim that grass-fed beef provides more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered “good” fats for heart health.

Studies have shown that grass-fed beef has more omega-3s than conventional grain-fed beef.

However, that doesn’t mean grass-fed beef is a significantly better source of omega-3s than grain-fed beef, says Ruth Litchfield, an Iowa State University nutrition scientist.

A 3-ounce serving of grass-fed ground beef has about 0.015 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database. “So 100ths of a gram of omega-3s,” Litchfield notes. (For a real-world visual, 1 gram is equal in size to one raisin.)

In comparison, a 3-ounce serving of conventional ground beef has about 0.003 grams of omega-3s, according to the National Nutrient Database.

Even though conventional beef has less omega-3s than grass-fed beef, it isn’t a clinically significant difference to human health, Litchfield says.

Beef in general – whether grass-fed or conventional – isn’t considered a good source of omega-3s, Litchfield explains.

Seafood, in comparison, is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. A 3-ounce serving of wild-caught Alaskan salmon has about 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, much greater than the 0.015 grams of omega-3s in grass-fed beef, according to the National Nutrient Database.

“You would have to consume 100 times the amount of (grass-fed) ground beef to get the same amount of omega-3s as the similar portion of salmon,” Litchfield says. “So in the scheme of things, you can’t eat enough (grass-fed beef) to make a significant impact on your (omega-3) intake.”

However, all beef – grass-fed and grain-fed – is considered an excellent source of many other micronutrients, including B12, iron, zinc and high-quality protein, that are essential for human health, Litchfield says.

The USDA also recommends lean beef as part of a heart-healthy diet in its MyPlate dietary guidelines.

So whether it’s grass-fed or grain-fed beef, both are nutritious choices, Litchfield says.

Iowa farmers remain committed to continuous improvement to ensure the safety, nutrition and sustainability of the foods they grow for all of us.

To learn more about how farmers work to ensure meat quality, food safety and animal well-being, visit the “Real Farmers. Real Food. Real Meat” website.

Want more news on this topic? Farm Bureau members may subscribe for a free email news service, featuring the farm and rural topics that interest them most!

“There’s no contesting that the omega 3 in grassfed beef is higher. But the key point is, a woman’s requirement for alpha-Linolenic acid is 1600mg per day, while a man needs 1800mg,” he said.

Prof Smith referenced a 2012 study backed by the US National Cattleman’s Beef Association based on a consumer study using lean (low fat) beef. While the study did indeed note a decline in LDL (bad) cholesterol among test subjects, it completely ignored the fact that there was also a significant decline in HDL (good) cholesterol.

Prof Smith said he was greatly frustrated by the amount of misinformation on social media and elsewhere about the relative value of grain and grassfed beef, led by misleading information about omega 3.

Prof Smith dismissed the omega 3 impact as insignificant, in comparison with grainfed beef’s oleic acid advantages.

“I absolutely agree with the need to eat more omega 3 oils, but beef (regardless of whether it is grass or grainfed) will never be a good source of omega 3s, or omega 6s.”

Omega-3 FA concentration is higher in red meat (beef, lamb and mutton) than in white meat (pork, poultry and turkey), due to the fibre types present in muscle tissues and the specialised digestive systems of ruminants.

FAQ

Is beef fat high in omega-3?

A standard serving of grass-fed top sirloin beef has about 65 mg of omega-3 fats, about 50% more than grain-fed. There is no “official” recommended intake level for omega-3 fatty acids, but the Institute of Medicine noted that healthy adults take in 1,100 (women) and 1,600 (men) per day.

Is omega-3 in beef better than fish?

[15] But there is little comparison, as the amount of omega-3 in fatty fish is about 10 times the amount in grass-fed beef.

Does beef and chicken have omega-3?

Results from this study demonstrate that our pasture raised chicken, pork, and beef, have significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids including EPA and DHA, the long-chain omega 3s.

Does beef have EPA and DHA?

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are animal-based fatty acids that are found in grass-fed beef. (EPA and DHA are also easier to say.) Your body cannot make Omega-3s on its own, so you have to get an appropriate amount of Omega-3s from your diet.

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