Alternative Proteins: Better Than Real Beef?

It seems like every time you open a health or fitness magazine, a lean celebrity is promoting the newest power protein food. And for good reason — a healthy, balanced diet includes a variety of protein sources. As such, alternative proteins are gaining attention, space in the fridge and on the plate for their health benefits. However, the perceived benefits may not outweigh the unintentional nutritional consequences of not including lean meats in your diet.

Real Beef Packs a Punch

Plant-based food advocates like to offer other foods to bolster protein content in plant-based diets such as black beans, quinoa and edamame. However, you may be surprised that choosing beef is actually a calorie-saver. Beef supplies significantly fewer calories and more nutrients than many plant proteins.

A cooked three-ounce lean beef burger patty averages around 154 calories while providing approximately 25 grams of protein, which is nearly half of the recommended daily value.[1] On the other hand, a veggie burger patty may be lower in calories, but only contains 13 grams of protein per serving,[2] which could lead to filling up your plate with high-calorie side dishes.

Caloric content of varied protein sources

Caloric information sourced from USDA ARS

One of the many benefits of protein-dense beef is the feeling of satiety that occurs after a beef meal. Eating protein-rich foods like lean beef helps keep cravings at bay and can assist with healthy weight loss and maintenance.

Stick to the Real Deal: Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner

 It’s true that nothing comes close to the taste of real beef. Some alternative protein products, such as in-vitro or “faux” meat, may mimic the texture and flavor of beef, but thus far those alternatives have been expensive to develop and in short supply. With 63 percent of whole muscle beef* in the meat case meeting the government guidelines for lean and a multitude of ways to save on beef purchases, why not include real beef as a weekly meal-planning staple?

Today’s lean beef is a delicious source of protein that supports weight loss goals, satisfies a heart healthy diet and is packed with nutrients, not excessive calories. Nutrition facts show that calorie for calorie, it’s hard to beat the nutrients you get from a single serving of lean beef. Just a 3-ounce serving contains 10 percent or more of your daily needs for all of these essential nutrients – protein, zinc, vitamins B12 and B6, iron and selenium.

Beef is a great tasting, high-quality protein package that can help strengthen and sustain your body. There are endless exciting, flavorful recipes that combine delicious beef and colorful veggies in the recipe box on the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. website. So choose beef and enjoy mealtime!

* When cooked with visible fat trimmed.

[1] The “daily value” percentage helps you determine how much of a particular nutrient a food contributes to average daily needs. Each nutrient is based on 100% of the daily requirements for that nutrient (based on a 2,000 calorie diet).
[2] Based on a Boca Burger brand veggie burger, “Boca Original Vegan Patty”
[3] US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory

How Beef Goes from Pasture to Plate

The beef lifecycle is a complex system that requires a broad community of people working together to create high-quality beef. These people – farmers, ranchers, animal caretakers, veterinarians, nutritionists and those involved in packing/processing — are committed to responsibly raising beef. There are a variety of steps in the lifecycle, and ‘How Beef Goes from Pasture to Plate’ gives a firsthand look into the beef community.

Beef. It’s What’s for the Holidays.

Myth: It’s impossible to shop for beef lovers.

Fact: Nothing says happy holidays like the gift of beef. From beef jerky to boxed beef to Schmacon, there are some great beef gift options.

Whether you’re staying home or traveling, spending time with friends or family, the one thing that connects all of our plans and traditions during the holiday season is food. As we gather over meals at home and at parties, this season is not only an ideal time to reconnect with your family, but also with your food.

As you dig into your holiday roast consider gaining a deeper understanding of how that delicious and wholesome food, including beef, made it to your plate through a look into the lives of the folks who made it possible.

Farmland is currently available for digital download.

Farmland,” a documentary by Oscar® award-winning director, James Moll, offers a way to connect with those who grow and raise our food and get an inside glimpse into their livelihood.  This documentary chronicles the lives of farmers and ranchers in their 20’s – the future of our food system. Many Americans don’t know a farmer or rancher, let alone have the opportunity to step foot on a farm or ranch and experience where their food comes from. The film illustrates how food and family are inseparable – not only for us as consumers, but also for those who raise it.

The good news for the holidays is that it’s now available for rent or purchase on platforms including iTunes, YouTube, Amazon, PlayStation and vudu – buy it for your family or purchase a gift card for others to do the same.

And in case you’re in the market for any beefy holiday gifts, here are a few ideas…

  1. We already know wine and beef are a perfect pairing, but wine infused beef jerky? Winery Clos du Bois winery and Krave jerky launched a limited-edition, wine-infused beef jerky flavor: Cabernet Sauvignon Balsamic Blackberry
  2. Steaks, whether the well-known Omaha Steaks, Strassburger Steaks or any other steaks that can be delivered, steaks are always great gift ideas. Or, if you have an inquisitive foodie on your hands, consider checking out Schmacon, the “un-bacon” for your holiday morning feast.
  3. Beef is delicious no matter how you slice or dice it, but slicing and dicing it is easier with the right tools. A good carving knife and a solid cutting board make wonderful holiday gifts for the beef-lover on your list.
  4. Have a music fan or a comedy lover on your list? Get some schwag from the Peterson Farm Brothers, brothers and Kansas-based cattle ranchers who produce entertaining and educational videos about how they raise food, such as “I’m Farming and I Grow It.” Check out their website and their e-store.
  5. Does the man (or woman) in your life love steak? Consider a steak-scented candle. ManCave Candles has an “Off the Grill” candle. While we haven’t tried it ourselves, the warning that intense hunger may occur is pretty enticing.

Hypertext links to other sites are for information purposes only and do not constitute any endorsement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Beef Checkoff.

Antibiotic Use in Cattle 101

Myth: Big beef uses antibiotics without regard for animal welfare or human health.

Facts: Antibiotics are just one tool beef farmers and ranchers use to keep cattle healthy by treating and preventing the spread of illness. Cattle can pick up illnesses, just like humans, whether they’re out on pasture or in a feedlot with other animals. Cattlemen work closely with veterinarians to develop a comprehensive health program, which may include nutritious diet, proper housing, hygiene, vaccinations and antibiotics.

Antibiotics CattleHere are the basics on antibiotic use in cattle:

How are they used?

  • When an animal gets sick, farmers, ranchers and veterinarians carefully evaluate when to administer antibiotics and use specific dosages and treatment protocols to treat the animal.
  • Cattle farmers and ranchers believe not treating cattle that become sick is inhumane as part of their ongoing commitment to animal health and welfare. When administering antibiotics, they follow precise label directions, meaning they adhere to usage guidelines to protect both animals and humans that have been rigorously tested and approved by the United States Food & Drug Administration. Just like in human medicine, there are many protocols developed by veterinarians and scientists that they have to follow diligently.
  • Antibiotics are used in animal medicine to prevent disease, which is important to animal and human safety.
  • Antibiotic use to prevent disease differs from growth promotion purposes in three ways: dose, duration and level of veterinary oversight.
  • Some farmers and ranchers choose to use ionophores – a special class of antibiotics not used in human medicine – to promote lean muscle growth in animals, which results in leaner beef choices.

Who ensures antibiotics are not overused?

  • There is no reason to overuse antibiotics, but reasons why they might be used at specific times and in targeted ways. For one, it’s the law not to overuse them, but antibiotics also are expensive for the small businessmen and women who raise cattle for beef.

How are antibiotics given to cattle?

  • Depending on the circumstance, antibiotics may be given to cattle as individual injections or added to feed or water to treat a larger group who has been exposed to the same illness.

Are antibiotics safe?

  • All antibiotics must go through rigorous government scrutiny before being approved for use in livestock.
  • Unlike human medicine, animal medicine goes through three layers of approval, is the medicine safe for the animal, the environment and the humans who will consume the meat. All three areas must be evaluated before approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
  • Even after they’re approved, antibiotics are continuously monitored and must be re-evaluated annually. They only stay on the market if they continue to be proven safe.

What’s being done to improve antibiotic use?

  • Cattlemen and the entire livestock community are working together to continuously improve the way antibiotics are used in animals, because they care about how their practices impact antibiotic safety and efficacy.
  • The beef community is also working to avoid using antibiotics that are important to both human and animal medicine, as identified by the World Health Organization. For example, Food & Drug Administration Guidance 209 and 213 will eliminate growth promotion uses of medically important antibiotics and extend veterinary oversight.

For consumers who want beef raised without antibiotics, the beef community has listened and provides choices to meet those needs.

Learn more about judicious use of antibiotics and what farmers and ranchers do to keep animals and humans safe.

Surprise?! Saturated Fat May Not Be As Bad As We Were Led to Believe

This is a topic of discussion within the beef industry. The following article does not represent the opinion of the Beef Checkoff or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Nina Teicholz, former near vegetarian/flexitarian, investigative journalist and author of a new book, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet".

Nina Teicholz, former near vegetarian/flexitarian, investigative journalist and author of a new book, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet”.

Ever question whether low saturated fat diets are all they are cracked up to be? From followers of Paleo to South Beach to Atkins types of diets, there are many who believe that restrictive low saturated fat diets are unnecessary and may even have unintended consequences. Nina Teicholz, former near vegetarian/flexitarian, investigative journalist and author of a new book, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet,” is one of those believers. We recently sat down with Nina to provide thoughts about the fat debate.

Why did you decide to write “The Big Fat Surprise”?

I had started to write a book about trans fats and quickly realized that there was a far larger mystery about dietary fats in general—which is the element in diet that American authorities have obsessed about most. Almost none of our commonly held beliefs about fat seemed to be true, and this appeared to be an almost unbelievable story. At the same time, I was writing a small restaurant review column for a paper that couldn’t afford to pay for meals, so I had to eat whatever the chef decided to send out to me. At the time, I was nearly a vegetarian and like so many Americans, on a low-fat diet. My inclination would have been to order stir-fry vegetables and a chicken breast, but I found that chefs weren’t interested in sending out those foods. Instead, they wanted to send me red meat, foie gras, pate, cream sauces—foods that I had rarely, if ever, eaten. And I found them to be rich, earthy and delicious. Plus, I lost the stubborn 10 pounds that I’d been fighting for many years, and my doctor told me that my cholesterol levels were fine. So there was a mystery, and as a journalist, I wanted to get to the bottom of it.

What process did you undergo to develop the conclusions and recommendations in the book?

I researched the science of nutrition for nearly a decade. It was important to me to go back to the original studies rather than rely upon summary review papers, because erroneous summaries of those early studies have been passed along over the years uncritically. These studies needed to be reexamined. By reading the criticisms of the scientists themselves, I learned how to dissect scientific studies and look for flaws. Beyond the science, I aimed, in my book, also to tell the story of how we got our current nutritional recommendations: who are the personalities? What were the institutions involved? I wanted to write a “nutrition thriller” about the last fifty years of nutrition science.

So do you think there are specific health benefits to saturated fat?

Yes. Saturated fats are the only known fat that raises the “good” HDL-cholesterol. And although saturated fat also raises the “bad” LDL-cholesterol, the current heart-disease science reveals that LDL-C is a relatively a poor predictor of heart disease. Better are LDL-C “subtractions” and the LDL particle number, and by these, more up-to-date biomarkers, saturated fat consumption looks just fine, if not actually positive.

Moreover, saturated fats are the only fats that are stable when used to cook at high temperatures–meaning that, unlike vegetable oils, saturated fats don’t degenerate into harmful oxidation products when heated. Fats like lard and butter are far more stable for cooking. They’re also long-lasting.

Finally, there’s some evidence to show that saturated fats are essential for lung functioning and immune-system health.

Your book discusses how nutrition science often gets “muddled” when it’s translated and applied to public health recommendations. How would you suggest we remedy this?

This is a very big question, but one remedy would be to rely less on epidemiological data, which can show only association and not causation. This type of weak science is the source of many of our flip-flopping health headlines that confuse consumers and has been at the root of most of our health advice over the past 50 years—going back to that original American Health Association (AHA) anti-saturated fat guideline in 1961. It was based only on an epidemiological study. Epidemiological studies can suggest hypotheses but not prove them. Going forward, I believe that our nutrition recommendations should only be based on evidence coming from randomized, well-controlled clinical trials, which is the type of study that can conclusively demonstrate cause and effect.

What do you believe are the unintended consequences of following a low-fat diet?

The principal unintended consequence to following official low-fat dietary guidelines is that Americans now eat more carbohydrates. We’ve reduced our saturated fat intake by 11 percent over the past 30 years while at the same time increasing carbohydrate consumption by 25 percent. In practical terms, that means we’re eating less meat and more pasta. Diets high in carbohydrates, regardless of whether they are refined or unrefined, have been shown to worsen outcomes for heart disease, diabetes and obesity, than diets higher in fat and low in carbohydrates.

How do you think this book will add to the national dialogue taking place to improve public health?

Our nutrition recommendations since the 1950s have been obsessed with dietary fat over every other element of the diet. My hope is that my book, by laying out the history and the science of this issue, will budge the nutrition conversation in a new direction.

How should people apply the recommendations/conclusions in the book?

In my opinion, based on my research, people should not be afraid to eat meat, cheese and eggs. Proteins, such as food from animals, are extremely dense in essential nutrients. Some of these nutrients, such as vitamins B12, iron and selenium, are hard if not impossible to obtain in plant foods, and the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K, are only properly absorbed when consumed with fat that naturally accompanies them. Animal foods are therefore excellent, natural packages of protein, fat and nutrients. We should not be avoiding these foods based on our long-standing fear of saturated fats, but should instead feel free to incorporate them into an overall healthy diet.

Meet Your Rancher: Brad Bellah – Throckmorton, TX


Name: Brad Bellah
Location: Throckmorton, TX
Age: 28
Segment: Cow/Calf, Stocker, Feedyard

FactsAboutBeef: What does sustainability mean to you?
Brad Bellah: Sustainability means responsibly and efficiently producing beef. That includes managing resources both for today and tomorrow. One way we do this is through rotational grazing, which helps to utilize native grasses as efficiently as possible by intensively grazing one pasture for a short period of time then providing a long-term rest period. This is based on season and forage availability. Essentially, I want to ensure that future generations of my family will be able to feed future generations of America.

FAB: Why did you decide to move back to the farm after college?
BB: I always knew I would move home eventually but thought it would be after I had done something else for five or 10 years. Despite my plans, I moved home right after college. My dad needed help, and I needed a job. It has worked out really well, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else over the past few years.

FAB: What is a “typical” day like for you?
BB: My work schedule is seasonal. Right now, we’re preparing to receive a shipment of cattle at the ranch, in addition to our home-raised calves. The first couple weeks of September, weather permitting, we’ll be planting wheat for our cattle to graze.

FAB: How important is animal welfare on your ranch?
BB: Animal welfare is an integral part of what we focus on every day. As an animal caretaker, it’s second nature and a priority for me to make sure our cattle aren’t stressed or uncomfortable. We’re constantly looking to professionals for advice and best practices, including our veterinarian and cattle nutritionist as well as animal handling experts like Temple Grandin and the late Bud Williams.

FAB: How do you use technology on your ranch?  
BB: What we do has changed so much because of technology. From checking markets on my iPhone when I’m in the middle of a pasture to keeping detailed inventories of cattle on the iPad while chute-side, we generally use some form of technology in everything we do. Technology has also greatly impacted research within animal genetics, health and nutrition. Cattlemen and women now have more data and resources available to them to ensure herd health.

Throckmorton, TX

Location of Throckmorton, TX. Source: Google Maps

FAB: You raise both “conventional” and “natural” cattle—what does that mean and how does that work?
BB: Essentially the all-natural cattle are marketed differently than our conventional calves. At birth cattle are designated for the all-natural or the conventional herd. The only real difference is that neither antibiotics nor growth promotants are used in the all-natural herd. There are specific guidelines put in place by the program, and if a calf gets sick and requires antibiotics, they have to be moved out of the all-natural program and do not return. This doesn’t mean that growth promotants and antibiotics are always used in our conventional herds, but we haven’t enrolled those cattle in the program so we can leave our options open.

FAB: How are you working to build on your dad’s legacy on your family’s operation?
BB: My ultimate goal is to not only maintain but also improve and grow what my father and grandfather have built. I’m constantly striving to do better.

FAB: What does it mean to you to be raising your twins on your family farm?
BB: The one room school that my Pop and his nine siblings attended sat on a ranch my dad now runs. I can’t put into words how I feel when my dad and I ride past those school steps, and I can’t wait for the day that the twins are riding alongside us. Raising my kids where so many generations of my family grew up and raised their own families adds an element to life that few people today get to experience and that I do not take for granted.

FAB: What is your favorite type of beef and how do you like it prepared?
BB: Nothing in this world compares to a medium-rare ribeye on the grill.

Editor’s Note: Brad is featured in a documentary that focuses on the next generation of farming and ranching, Farmland. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. For more information, visit

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