NZ’s grass-fed livestock is a missed marketing opportunity
Leading British ruminant nutritionist Dr Cliff Lister says that “you are what you eat” is as true for livestock as it as for humans.
For New Zealand’s sheep, beef and dairy industries, he says that translates to meat and milk with a higher omega-3 content, thanks to a grass-based diet, and a “missed marketing opportunity.”
“Grass-based diets encourage lean muscle development rather than fat, meaning that grass-fed beef and lamb is typically leaner than meat produced from silage or grain-fed stock and contains a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids.”
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids for human and animal health with vital roles boosting immunity and disease resistance, creating an anti-inflammatory response to infection and reducing the risk of heart disease and blood clots. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found at high levels in certain fish oils and linseed, or flaxseed.
Dr Lister says this not only means the animal is in better health and condition throughout its life, but also contributes to a leaner source of meat with a more healthy profile of fatty acids, making the meat produced from the animal a healthier choice for the consumer. He said the same was true of dairy cows, which when fed a grass-based diet produce milk with a higher omega-3 content then that of grain-fed counterparts.
He shared the grass-fed opportunity during a speaking tour talking to farmers about the benefits of the Crystalyx range of dehydrated molasses blocks exclusively distributed by farm nutrient supplier Altum in New Zealand.
“Crystalyx enhances grass intake and digestibility, therefore the animal makes better use of the omega-3 content in the grass,” Dr Lister says.
A study from RMIT University in Melbourne demonstrated that only grass-fed beef reached the target of more than 30 mg of long chain n-3 FA/100 g muscle as recommended by Food Standard Australia and New Zealand for a food to be considered a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
“Omega-3s in beef that are fed on grass represent 7% of the total fat content, compared to 1% in grain-only fed beef, Dr Lister says.
“That’s because around two-thirds of the oil found in grass and clover is omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid), which is known to have huge health benefits not only to stock but also to humans.”
26 October 2011