Beef can be a delicious and healthy treat for dogs and cats because of the nutrients it can provide. But if you want only the best for your pet, then you should make sure to get the highest quality beef there is, which is grass fed. Grass fed beef is the polar opposite of meat raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The cows are free to roam and feed on pasture rich in their natural diet consisting of grass.
This humane treatment of cattle results in a more superior product with an impressive nutrition profile. A 100-gram serving (about 3.5 ounces) of grass fed beef contains:1
- Protein — 23.07 grams
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) — 0.052 milligrams
- Niacin — 6.703 grams
- Iron — 1.85 milligrams
- Vitamin K — 0.9 micrograms
- Choline — 65.1 milligrams
- Alpha-linoleic acid — 0.015 grams
- Potassium — 342 milligrams
- Phosphorus — 212 milligrams
Another benefit of choosing grass fed beef is a lower risk of exposure to infected meat, because CAFO beef may be infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria,2 which can contribute to the spread of foodborne illnesses.3 Aside from the mentioned benefits, several studies have found that grass fed beef also has higher levels of other nutrients, such as:
- Omega-3 fats4
- Conjugated linoleic acid5,6
- Antioxidants (glutathione and superoxide dismutase)7
Benefits of Beef for Your Pets
The nutrients in grass fed beef can benefit many biological processes in humans, and the same can be said for your pet's well-being. Beef contains various B vitamins,8 which are required by pets.9 Thiamine (vitamin B1), for example, "has a critical role as a cofactor in carbohydrate metabolism, in the production of nucleotides and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH), and for nervous system function," according to a 2017 study in Veterinary Sciences journal.10
When it comes to healthy fats, the grass fed variety trumps conventionally raised beef . As indicated in a 2010 study by the Nutritional Journal, the sample of grass fed beef the researchers cited has 5.53 grams of linoleic acid per 100 grams, while grain-fed beef has only 0.48 grams.11
Healthy fats have been found to benefit heart health in dogs through their antiarrhythmic effect, as well as minimizing the "loss of heart muscle in dogs with congestive heart failure."12 In another study, dogs with naturally occurring osteoarthritis that were fed a diet high in omega-3 fats exhibited better health for their day-to-day activities.13
Lastly, beef is a good source of protein14 and, just like humans, your pet needs constant intake to support their well-being. In a 2008 study, researchers noted that protein deficiency in dogs will eventually lower lean body mass. Furthermore, increasing protein intake (around 50%) becomes more important as they age in order to maintain proper health.15
Is Beef Safe for Your Pet as a Treat?
Yes it is, as long as it is fed in the right amounts. Take note that human-grade foods like grass fed beef, when given as treats to pet, should constitute only 10% of their daily caloric intake. You can serve it either raw or cooked with the bones removed.
When purchasing grass fed beef, make sure the product is certified by the American Grassfed Association (AGA), because it has stricter standards compared to the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) by the USDA (Department of Agriculture). The AGA certification can help assure you that the beef you're about to buy:
- Has been fed a 100% forage diet
- Has never been confined in a feedlot
- Has never been given antibiotics or hormones
- Was born and raised in American family farms
Go Ahead and Give Your Pet Beef Treats
Giving your pet organic grass fed beef treats is a delicious way of adding more nutrients to their diet. The collection of healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals can help boost your pet's nutrition intake.
Sometimes, grass fed beef may cost more than a processed product, but your pet's health is important, too. Supporting grass fed beef products also helps your local livestock growers, promotes the humane treatment of animals and helps protect the environment.
Frequently Asked Questions About Feeding Beef to Your Pets
Q: How many beef treats can I feed my pet?
A: Treats made with beef should constitute only 10% of your pet's daily caloric intake. Consult with your integrative veterinarian to come up with a proper feeding plan that also incorporates other healthy foods.
Q: What is the criteria when buying grass fed beef?
A: Ideally, grass fed beef products should have a certification by the AGA because it follows more stringent rules compared to the AMS by the USDA.
Q: Is grass fed beef healthy for my pet?
A: Yes, grass fed beef can be a good source of nutrition for your pet, thanks to its assortment of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Make sure the beef comes from a reputable grass fed source, rather than a CAFO, to lower your pet's risk of contracting foodborne pathogens.