Phytonutrient Advantage: Building Better Beef
Research conducted by a science team headed up by Dr. Stephan Van Vliet had a goal of performing deep metabolic and nutritional profiling of grass fed beef samples submitted by a number of farms in various regions of the U.S. Nutritional profiling included fatty acids, amino acids, phytochemicals, vitamins, and oxidative stress markers. To fully understand the contributions of soil health parameters, plant species diversity, and the actual absorption of nutrients in the animal’s gut, researchers collected and analyzed soil, plant and animal fecal data. Additionally, beef samples were analyzed for their complete nutritional profile. This data provided significant insight into the nutritional composition of meat and the metabolic health of the animals.
The data is benchmarked against the average values for typical feedlot grain-fed beef samples. The grain-fed beef samples were collected from feedlots in the Nutrient Density Project database.
This nutritional research trial is among the most comprehensive nutrition trials ever conducted. Most nutritional research starts and ends with the actual food products that people consume. This research examined the soil that grew the plants the animals ate, the plants themselves, the fecal matter of the animals, the end-product, and even includes human clinical trials.
Outline of data collected:
- Soil – Physical, Chemical and Biological Characteristics
- Plants – Diversity, phytonutrient profile, everything the animals were observed eating
- Fecal Matter – Collecting samples from fresh manure patties
- End Product – Grass Fed beef compared to conventional feedlot beef
- Human Clinical Trials
What are Phytonutrients?
Phytochemicals are naturally occurring bioactive compounds derived from plants that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in both animals and humans. Numerous studies have found that phytochemicals play a key role in the prevention and management of many chronic diseases.
Phytonutrients include classes of nutritive compounds such as carotenoids, terpenes, phenols, and tocopherols. Scientific words for nutrients that are profoundly important to our lifetime health. All diseases and disorders start with inflammation in the body. If we can routinely consume foods that are high in phytonutrients, we are able to effectively reduce inflammation and greatly improve our overall health.
Key Benefits of Phytonutrients:
- Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in the cells of our body
- Scavenging of reactive or toxic chemicals from our body
- Enhances the gut absorption of essential nutrients and their stability in our body
- Acts as selective growth factors for beneficial gastrointestinal bacteria
- Encourages and facilitates beneficial oral, gastric and intestinal bacteria
- Inhibits deleterious (bad) intestinal bacteria
Key Findings from Prior Research:
- Higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and CLA’s in our diet.
- Improved cardiovascular health.
- Improves mitochondrial/energy metabolism.
- Positively impacts our gut microbial population diversity which improves health and metabolism.
- Powerful anti-inflammatory effects linked to reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease and cancers.
- Reduced oxidative stress and has anti-tumor activity.
- Vit E, Vit C, Vit B3, B5, B6 significantly higher.
- Higher in favorable Fatty Acids, such as Omega-3 and CLA.
- Decreased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Key Steps in the Research Process:
- Sample collection at the farm. This included soil samples, plant samples, fecal samples and beef samples after animals were harvested.
- Sample processing to prepare for analysis.
- Mass-Spec analysis of the samples using Liquid Chromatography with Tandem Mass Spectrometry.
- Individual metabolite identification (actual phytonutrients).
- Bioactivities and pathway analysis.
- Data interpretation of: Amino Acid Metabolism, Phytonutrients, Fatty Acid Metabolism, Vitamin & Nucleotide Metabolism, Microbiome Metabolism.
These key steps are scientific terms for a very in-depth analysis. Analysis that goes far above and beyond any prior nutritional analysis ever attempted.
What scientists have found is that plants respond biochemically to sunlight, rainfall, nutrients, other plants, and the herbivores that eat them, by producing a broad array of health-altering phytonutrients. When the animals eat these plants, the phytonutrients are effectively incorporated into the meat and fat.
The research results revealed that fresh forages contain anywhere from 5 times to more than 20 times the total phytonutrients and antioxidants than the typical total mixed ration. Additionally, the antioxidants that were found in the total mixed rations were derived predominantly from hay in the ration and not the corn. This results in significantly higher antioxidants in grass fed meats compared to grain fed meats. Interestingly, soil produced metabolites (produced by diverse soil microbial populations) were found in significant quantities in the grass-fed beef. Since feedlot cattle are fed an TMR diet, they cannot benefit from these soil metabolites.
Soils in diverse pastures had significantly higher soil organic matter, total exchange capacity, zinc, iron, phosphorus and potassium when compared to soils in conventional corn fields.
When oxidative stress indicators were measured, it was found that these indicators were significantly higher in the feedlot cattle compared to the cattle finished on pasture. This explains why health issues are significantly lower in grass fed cattle compared to feedlot cattle.
Presentation of Research Findings by Nutrient Category:
- Hippurate – Has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Associated with improved gut microbial diversity and improves metabolism.
- Grass Fed beef is 57% higher in Hippurate than grain-fed feedlot beef.
- Cinnamoylglycine – Powerful anti-inflammatory effects. Decreases risk of Parkinson’s disease and various cancers.
- Grass Fed Beef is 65% Higher in Cinnamoylglycine compared to feedlot beef.
- Ergothioneine – Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Helps to protect against an array of diseases and disorders. This compound is produced by soil fungi and microbes, so the healthier the soil the more Ergothioneine in the meat.
- Grass Fed Beef is 59% higher in Ergothioneine compared to feedlot beef.
- 4-Ethylphenylsulfate – Strong anti-fungal activity, so it confers fungal disease protection. It also has benefits in producing a pleasant fruity taste (flavor profile) to the meat.
- Grass Fed Beef is 85% higher in 4-Ethylphenylsulfate than feedlot beef.
- Histidine Betaine – Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory. Produced by soil fungi and microbes, so highly dependent on healthy soil.
- Grass Fed beef is 67% higher in Histidine Betaine compared to feedlot beef.
- Dimethyl Sulfone – Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory. Found in native plant species.
- Grass Fed Beef is 71% higher in Dimethyl Sulfone compared to feedlot beef.
- Alpha-Tocopherol (Vitamin E) – Antioxidant that is key in regulating cell function and provides immunity against a number of disease-causing organisms. Important for immune function, heart function, eye health and muscle function. Found in fresh forages that animals eat.
- Grass Fed Beef is 64% higher in Vitamin E compared to feedlot beef.
- Vitamin A (Retinol) – Essential nutrient that plays a key role in vision health, cell growth, cell division, reproduction and immunity. Carotenoids are a precursor to Vitamin A and are found in abundance in fresh forages.
- Grass Fed Beef is 34% higher in Vitamin A compared to feedlot beef.
- Vitamin C – Anti-Viral and antioxidant properties.
- Grass Fed Beef is 33% higher in Vitamin C compared to feedlot beef.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – An essential nutrient. Important for lipid and cholesterol metabolism in our body. Provided by fresh forage.
- Grass Fed Beef is 25% higher in Niacin compared to feedlot beef.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) – An essential nutrient and potent antioxidant. Important for glucose metabolism, nerve function, immune function, brain function, and red blood cell function. It is found in legume forages (clovers, native legumes).
- Grass Fed Beef is 27% higher in Vitamin B6 compared to feedlot beef.
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) – An important Omega-3 Fatty Acid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Helps lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and liver disease. Improves brain function. Found in the plan precursor ALA, so highest in animals eating fresh forages from diverse pastures.
- Grass Fed Beef is 50% higher in EPA compared to feedlot beef.
- Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) – Essential fatty acid for our diet. Potent Omega-3 fatty acid that helps reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and improves healthy brain function. Can be found in fresh forages from cattle grazing on pastures.
- Grass Fed Beef is 69% higher in ALA compared to feedlot beef.
- Arachidic Acid – Associated with decreased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Grass Fed Beef is 52% higher in Arachidic Acid compared to feedlot beef.
- Heptadecanoic Acid – Associated with lower risks of cardiometabolic diseases.
- Grass Fed Beef is 36% higher in Heptadecanoic Acid compared to feedlot beef.
- Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) – Anti-Cancer and Anti-Obesity properties. Rich in meat from animals eating fresh forages.
- Grass Fed Beef is 75% higher in CLA compared to feedlot beef.
- Omega 6 to Omega 3 Ratio (O6:O3) – A lower O6:O3 ratio is considered highly beneficial for our daily diet. Higher Omega 6’s in our diet leads to significant inflammation and an array of diseases and disorders. The American Medical Association and American Heart Association recommend an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio in our diets of 4:1 or less. The typical American diet is a ratio of 20:1 or higher. Grass Fed beef is a great way to lower Omega-6 consumption and increase Omega-3 consumption.
- Grass Fed Beef has a ratio of 2:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3 compared to a ratio of 11:1 to over 50:1 in feedlot beef (the ratio in feedlot beef varies dramatically depending on the ration the cattle are fed in the feedlot). The problem with feedlot beef is that the consumer has no idea whether they are consuming beef that is 11:1 or over 50:1.
Oxidative Stress Markers:
- Homocysteine – Higher Homocysteine levels in the body are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Lower levels reduce this risk and improve metabolic health.
- Grass Fed Beef is 67% lower in Homocysteine compared to feedlot beef.
- 4-hydroxyl-nonenal-glutothione (4-HNE) – Higher levels of 4-HNE are an indicator of oxidative stress and increased risk of metabolic disease. Lower levels are desired.
- Grass Fed Beef is 20% lower in 4-HNE compared to feedlot beef.
- Malate – Higher levels indicate metabolic health benefits for the animal.
- Grass Fed Beef is 53% higher in Malate compared to feedlot beef.
- Palmitoylcarnitine – Higher levels are associated with improved cardiovascular health.
- Grass Fed Beef is 46% higher in Palmitoylcarnitine compared to feedlot beef.
- Linolenoylcarnitine – Higher levels are associated with improved cardiovascular health.
- Grass Fed Beef is 50% higher in Linolenoylcarnitine compared to feedlot beef.
Grass Fed Beef Phytonutrient Advantage
In numerous nutrient categories, Grass Fed Beef is found to be significantly better for our health when compared to commodity feedlot beef. When looking at important phytonutrients, vitamins, fatty acids, and oxidative stress markers, grass fed beef is superior to commodity grain fed beef. This has significant health implications when considering our lifetime diet and resultant health status.
As discovered through rigorous research and data sampling, the application of regenerative principles and practices are resulting in healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy animals and healthy foods. The depth of this research shows that regenerative agriculture not only is beneficial to our ecosystems but to our own health.
Very few farms have the depth and breadth of data to substantiate health benefit claims. By submitting to this extremely rigorous research conducted by independent scientists, we now know that farms with greater biodiversity and soil health parameters are able to deliver food you can trust.