Beef: Safe or Scary?

Filed under: Nutrition: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Nutrition: Big Kids, Nutrition: Tweens, Nutrition: Teens

What exactly is in your hamburger? Credit: uhuru1701, Flickr

It feels like every other week we're hearing about a beef recall due to E. coli or salmonella contamination. Either that or we're reading how eating beef will cause everything from heart disease to cancer to global warming. What to do? Can beef be a healthy part of your family's diet, or should you shun those Styrofoam trays of rib steaks and ground sirloin in the meat case?


Grain-Fed Beef, a.k.a. "Regular Beef": Aside from the fact that, as a red meat, beef can raise our risk of contracting such diseases as colon cancer, studies are starting to show that not just the beef, but how it's raised, is a problem for us health-wise. A report in the International Journal of Obesity indicates that the hormones in conventionally raised, grain-fed beef could be a contributing factor to our nation's obesity crisis. In addition, the corn fed to our cattle--natural grass-eaters--makes them sick, necessitating the continuous use of antibiotics. It's best to limit your consumption of this kind of beef.
Grass-Fed Beef: While generally more expensive than conventional beef, grass-fed beef is worth the money. It's lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and conjugated linoleic acid. Plus, grass-fed cattle are generally pastured on smaller farms where they're not pumped full of steroids and antibiotics or made to live their lives in pens knee-deep in their own waste. However, grass-fed beef is still a red meat, so avoid eating more than 18 ounces of it per week. (The higher price of grass-fed beef may make it easier to cut back!)

Fast-Food/School Cafeteria Beef: It's no mystery that fast-food burgers aren't so great for us (tons of calories, saturated fat, and salt). But what is surprising was the recent report that a lot of the ground beef used in these restaurants--and by our schools--is injected with ammonia in an attempt to kill off pathogens. This news, coupled with the finding that the agency that purchases beef for our school lunch programs often takes meat that would be deemed unacceptable even by fast-food chains, offers yet another reason to avoid this stuff. Skip the fast-food burger, or eat it only a few times a year. As for the school beef? Lean on your school's administrators to get better-quality food into your child's cafeteria. There are many organizations out there working toward this end, including and

Jennifer Schonborn is a certified holistic nutrition counselor. Sign up for her newsletter and free consultation at

Related: Fat - Ground Turkey Can Have More Than Ground Beef

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.