Cows are sacred in Hinduism and thus forbidden in the Hindu diet, but God granted us permission to eat beef and placed cows on the list of clean animals. Many popular pork products are substituted with beef (beef hot-dogs, beef ribs, etc.), but beef has a myriad of popular dishes on its own: steak, veal, hamburgers, etc. As a cattle raiser, beef is probably the hardest for me to eat mentally; my cows are like dogs to me and I have a hard time thinking about murdering them for food. Unfortunately, out of all the meats in the world, beef also tastes the best to me. God gave us permission to eat beef, but He didn't say we had to eat beef. Let's look at if there are benefits to eating beef or if beef is as hazardous as an unclean meat?
Benefits of Beef
Like most meats, beef is an excellent source of protein. It also provides a large quantity of Iron. Beef can also provide you with Vitamin B12, which aids in red blood cell production and Coenzyme Q10, which is an antioxidant that protects your cells from harmful toxins.
A link has been found between lean beef and heart health. A study featured in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has proven that the inclusion of lean beef in your diet can reduce harmful cholesterol and improve heart health. Participants in this study witnessed a 10% decrease in LDL cholesterol, which is what is considered "bad" cholesterol.
Beef from grass-fed cattle provides a myriad of nutrients to the human diet. During Moses' era it is likely the animals were grass fed; they definitely didn't have unnatural, artificial, and manufactured foods to feed them. The graph below shows the percentage of daily value (%DV) achieved with a 4oz steak from grass-fed cattle, according to World's Healthiest Foods. In addition to these nutrients, the expectation is that grass-fed beef aids in immune and inflammatory health. Large scale studies have not been conducted to prove this hypothesis, though minerals such as selenium and zinc, Vitamin E and beta-carotene are antioxidants and CLA is an anti-inflammatory fatty acid which are increased by consuming the grass-fed beef.
More information on the health benefits of beef can be found courtesy of beef.org.
Hazards of Beef
There are risks to eating beef, which is not surprising as God's original diet consisted only of fruits and veggies.
Red meat in general is considered dangerous. It has been shown to decrease the life span of a person, increase your risk of diabetes, and cancer. Red meat includes both pork and beef. Prevention lists ten reason to quit eating red meat, which includes the damage done in raising livestock and cruelty to the animals, meat glue (which is used to stick smaller cuts of meat together), the longevity of vegetarians, and added hormones.
Beef (along with other red meat) can be contaminated with E. coli, which is said to be linked to the unnatural habitats and lifestyles in which cattle are kept.
Mad Cow Disease
Danger also lies in mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which is transmissible to humans and fatal. According to the FDA, cows are infected with BSE by eating feed that is contaminated with a cow who had BSE.
We know that cows shouldn't be eating cows, and obviously by keeping the cows on a grass-fed diet as God intended, you eliminate this possibility. The FDA does not specify how the first cow was infected with BSE; if cows today are infected by the feed, is it possible that simply eating ground up cow meat (cannibalism) can trigger the disease? Mad cow disease was not a problem until 1986 and would likely still not be a problem if humans had not tinkered with God's design.
Like the unclean pork, beef has pros and cons as well. Since God did create us to be vegetarians, it seems fitting that clean meats would have some risk as well. There are a few denominations that recommend a vegetarian diet for Christians. While this is probably the healthiest option, I have not found anything in the Bible to suggest that God has forbade us to eat meat today; this implies that as long as you follow His instructions for clean versus unclean food, you should be relatively safe.
- Waibel, Ruth A. "Religion and Dietary Practices". Diet.com. 2015
- Tremblay, Sylvie. "What Are the Benefits of Lean Beef?". SF Gate: Healthy Eating. 2015
- Roussell, Michael A., et al. "Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet study: effects on lipids, lipoproteins, and apolipoproteins11-3". The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.016261. December 2011
- "If millions of grazing animals went with the Israelites, what did they eat?". ThisIsYourBible.com. 2015
- The George Mateljan Foundation. "Beef, grass-fed". The World's Healthiest Foods. 2015
- "All About BSE (Mad Cow Disease)". FDA. October 2015
- CNN Library. "Mad Cow Disease Fast Facts". CNN. June 2015
- Wein, Harrison. "Risk in Red Meat?". National Institute of Health. March 2012
- Melone, Linda. "10 Reasons to Stop Eating Red Meat". Prevention. January 2014