Beef: A Sustainable Choice for the Modern Diet

Sustainability.  It’s a global focus on food, farming and the environment.  As a dietitian I see the interest from consumers of all ages about this issue.  As a food professional I also see the interest of the food industry on meeting consumer demands – and making the food supply safer and more sustainable.

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In 2018, I had the privilege of visiting Nebraska, one of the largest beef producing state in the country.  I got a first-hand view of the efforts of the beef industry to raise cattle and produce meat that is more wholesome and sustainable.  Beef sustainability means producing safe, nutritious beef while balancing environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic viability.  Today beef farmers and ranchers produce the same amount of beef with 33% fewer cattle as compared to 1977.  To do that, they improved efficiency and animal well-being, and achieved a 16% lower carbon footprint.  Fewer natural resources are used for every pound of been produced.

There’s a lot in the media about the benefits of grass-fed beef.  However, consumers should know that all cattle in the U.S. are grass feed.  Their feeding cycle is 6-10 months on grass and other human-inedible plants.  In the “finishing” stage they may stay with grass or switched to grain.  From a nutritional point of view there is no superiority to consuming completely grass fed meat.  There is a flavor difference and, personally, traditional beef is my preference.

The nutrient profile of beef is impressive.  A 3-ounce serving of cooked beef provides 50% of your Daily Value (about 25 grams) of protein, and 10% of the Daily Value for 10 essential nutrients including iron, zinc, and many B vitamins.  Beef is versatile in how it can be prepared: grilling, roasting, and braising are just a few ways to do it.  Whether it’s an Asian stir-fry, Texas chili or grilled beef salad, there’s a beef recipe to satisfy any eater.

For those concerned about the environment, beef is a sustainable food choice!

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