Good news for all those planning to fire up the grill this Labor Day weekend: Turns out, there might be some health benefits to indulging in a burger or a plate piled high with beef brisket. At a recent Texas A&M beef conference, university researcher Dr. Stephen Smith told cattle producers that he has found subjects whose health benefitted from eating literally dozens of burgers over the span of six weeks.
"Brisket has higher oleic acid than the flank or plate, which are the trims typically used to produce ground beef," he told conference-goers, according to the University's AgriLife blog. "The fat in brisket also has a low melting point, that's why the brisket is so juicy. That's also why we like it so much here in Texas, and it's by far the most popular choice for Texas barbecue."
Red meat isn't usually touted for its health benefits. In fact, the World Health Organization added it to a list of carcinogens last year, publishing a study that found processed meats and red meat cause cancer. While sausages, bacon, ham, baloney, pancetta, and all fine charcuterie and salumi are, according to WHO, considered carcinogenic to humans, beef, pork, and lamb were labeled "probably carcinogenic."
But according to Smith, when cooked properly and when the cow is fed a proper diet, beef can contain high levels of oleic fatty acids, which are also found in avocados and olive oil. The more marbled a cut of beef, says Smith, the healthier its fat composition.
One of Smith's recent studies found that those who were fed beef high in oleic acid found that their HDL cholesterol — the good kind of cholesterol — increased, while LDL levels decreased. In that particular study, subjects consumed five Wagyu or Angus beef patties a week for six weeks.
It's worth pointing out that Smith is not without his critics. Certain animal welfare groups have said his studies lack "academic rigor." Also worth noting? Some of his past studies have been funded by the beef lobby. His research on marbling, for instance, was funded by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
Perhaps it's no wonder that Smith is quoted as saying "ground beef is not going to kill you." Of course, if it does, a plate of brisket might not be the worst way to go.
• Brisket Has Some Health Benefits, Texas A&M Says [Austin American-Statesman]
• Beef Brisket Discussed at Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course [Texas A&M AgriLife]
• All Beef Coverage [E]