Health x Wellness

Common misconceptions and concerns about beef

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Meat & Livestock Australia and nutritionist Sonia Osbourne share about the benefits of balancing a healthy diet with beef by addressing common misconceptions and concerns.

Many consumers are inundated with confusing and conflicting messages about nutrition, especially when it concerns their red meat consumption. There are many fears about consuming red meat, covering fears about getting cancer. However, there are other articles that claim the link between health issues and red meat is too weak.

Nutritionists believe that red meat is an excellent iron-rich food source that is important for brain function, well-being and immunity. A popular source of red meat is beef. This is a protein-rich food with various essential nutrients, including iron, zinc, and other minerals and vitamins.


There are many ways to include beef in your diet, and the easiest way would be to explore recipes and see what you enjoy eating. A key principle is to look for a healthy balance between red meat and other food groups.

We had a discussion with Meat & Livestock Australia and nutritionist Sonia Osbourne about the common misconceptions about eating beef, its nutritional value and a comparison between a meat-based and plant-based diet.

the Active Age (AA): What are the top 3 misconceptions about beef?  

Consumers are overwhelmed by conflicting messages about nutrition, leading them to question their red meat consumption. The fears behind consuming red meat are exaggerated. Beef is a protein-rich food with various essential nutrients, including iron, zinc, and other minerals and vitamins. Red meat is an excellent iron-rich food source that is important for brain function, well-being and immunity.

According to Nutrition Australia, not only does beef contain more iron than spinach, but the form of iron (heme-iron) in red meat is more easily absorbed. Making healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a balanced diet rich in whole foods, staying at a healthy weight and exercising are more important than managing your intake of red meat.

We also hear that some consumers find beef an intimidating meat to cook. Cooking beef is no longer just steak; it can be stew, stir fry and more. It is just about letting the creative juices flow and finding out what you like. As long as you understand the best cuts for different dishes – you can tackle any red meat. It is easy to find out the best cuts for your dish – visit your local butcher and ask them for their opinion. Alternatively, visit the True Aussie Beef website, which contains cook-by-cut tried and tested recipes to explore. There is also a beef chart and a Meat Cuts App. 

The other emerging misconception is that red meat such as beef plays a considerable part in our emissions that impact the environment. However, Aussie cows that are grass-fed differs significantly from burning coal and oil. The Australian red meat and livestock industry has set the ambitious target to be Carbon Neutral by 2030 (CN30). The red meat and livestock industry currently contributes 10 percent of all of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions – this figure has halved since 2005.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the red meat and livestock industry have fallen by 56.7 percent since 2005. In addition, it now takes 65 percent less water to produce a kilo of beef. A number of other initiatives are being conducted towards this CN30 target. For example, there are studies by CSIRO Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organisation which show that introducing red seaweed (Asparagopsis) can significantly reduce methane emissions from cattle by up to 98 percent.  

AA: Can you explain the differences between grass-fed, grain-fed and grass-finished and which resulting beef is healthier to eat?  

MLA: Grass-finished means that the cattle consumed nothing but grass and forage for life. Most Australian cattle are raised exclusively on pasture, making them grass-fed. Grass-fed beef will have a more robust, earthy flavour and is said to have excellent texture. The fat on grass-fed beef appears more yellow or creamy in colour, due to the intake of carotene, a pigment found in plants.  

Grain-fed beef is derived from cattle that have been fed nutritionally balanced and high energy finished rations for a minimum specified number of days. This feeding regime results in a more consistent product and enhanced marbling that contributes to improved tenderness, juiciness and flavour. Grain-fed beef from Australia generally yields more consistent fat and meat colour.  

It depends on what you are looking for in your beef regarding which beef to choose from. Not all beef is the same, and they do not all cook the same either. Australian beef is the superior choice with a range of textures, tenderness, flavour profiles, and eating quality characteristics. Our vast range includes high-quality grass-fed, grain-fed, organic and breed-specific beef products such as Wagyu and Angus. 

AA: What does dry-ageing the beef do, and is it better?  

MLA: In steakhouses, dry-ageing meat is a recent trend (it can make your steak a little more expensive) as consumers seek out a unique sensory experience. Ageing beef – whether it’s wet-aged or dry-aged-does enhance the meat’s tenderness, flavour, and acceptability.

Wet-aged is more commonly practised due to the consistency achieved for shelf life and ease of storage. Dry-aging tends to bring out a fuller flavour profile of the beef, but you also need to be cautious when cooking it as you should not over season it or cook it for too long. If you are looking for a next-level eating experience, that’s what dry-ageing can bring to the table. 

Dry-ageing has been practised for thousands of years, before the advent of refrigeration, and simply described, it is the process of ageing meat, unpackaged, under controlled temperature and humidity. Dry ageing is traditionally carried out by hanging either the whole or cut pieces of the carcass in a cool room. The secret to dry-aged meat is the reduction in moisture which takes about 7-14 days, but can be up to a month or longer. With the reduction in moisture and with the trimming required, there is a moderate loss in yield of around 25-30%, contributing to the higher costs of dry-aged beef.

Dry-ageing and wet-ageing both have the same effect on tenderness. Some attest that dry-ageing enhances the flavour of the beef. Australian beef cuts such as rib-eye, sirloin and tomahawk are excellent for steak, whether dry-aged or wet-aged. And at the end of the day, it does come down to individual preference.  

AA: What’s the easiest way to include beef in a healthy, nutritious diet? 

MLA: Lean Australian beef is a delicious and healthy choice for beefing up your high-quality protein needs. There are many ways to include beef in your diet, and the easiest way would be to explore recipes and see what works for you. For inspiration, please take a look at our True Aussie Beef recipes on our website.  

However, the key thing to note when consuming beef is that we are looking for a healthy balance. If you are planning to eat a steak, have that with a light and refreshing salad. If you are making a spaghetti bolognese, add in some extra carrots and zucchini. 

AA: What are some of the health and nutritional benefits?  

MLA: I am delighted you asked! Australian cattle raised predominantly on pasture, Australian grass-fed beef products are lean and naturally contain 12 essential nutrients required for good health, including Iron, Zinc, Omega-3 and B vitamins.  

Iron is essential during early childhood and for maintaining well-being, particularly for women, who have a much higher iron requirement than men, due to the loss of monthly blood. Zinc helps keep a healthy immune system to fight infections, and zinc from red meat is more readily absorbed by our bodies compared to plant foods. Protein is vital for muscle health, which is especially helpful in maintaining independence in later years.  


Also, fun fact about beef, it has four times more iron than chicken and twice the amount found in pork!  


AA: Can eating beef help improve cholesterol levels? 

Everyone’s body is different, and many factors come into play when deciding what works best for every individual. When consuming beef, it is advisable to strike a good balance and not just micromanage your intake of one particular food source.  

If individuals would like to consume more beef for their health, we suggest eating it in moderation and talking to a professional to discover how beef can help your diet and overall health.  

AA: Are plant-based diets as good as one that gets proteins from beef?  

MLA: We encourage everyone to find out what works best for them. Whether you eat plant-based or enjoy your beef, it is essential to find moderation and balance in what we consume.  

Our bodies are complex ‘living’ machines, and we need to find out what they need. Many factors come into play – our activity levels, life stage/age, etc. We can make more informed decisions by talking to nutritionists and doctors and finding out the best way to provide our bodies with the nutrients they need to function and take on the day!