When it comes to feeding friends and loved ones, home chefs generally aspire to produce healthy and delectable meals without too much hassle or strain on the wallet. Yet, it has become increasingly difficult to decipher just exactly which may be our healthiest options in this day and age, what with misleading food packaging jargon and debates over eating conventional versus organic versus local. It’s enough to leave a person with no appetite at all.

Drumroll please. With your sanity and limited cooking time in mind, it’s time to demystify some of the facts behind a popular meal time stable, beef, and the many (often confusing) ways it can be labeled and marketed to the consumer. When purchasing quality beef, is grass-fed really healthier?

Why is the difference important?

According to the USDA, cows deemed “grass-fed” are able to forage and consume clover, alfalfa, and other grasses as they enjoy continuous access to pasture during growing seasons.1 Essentially, this is how any cow was fed and raised prior to the increase in factory farms using Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) with feedlots. Grain-raised cows confined to feedlots become fatter faster because of their restricted movement and a rich diet containing less roughage. Animal welfare expert Temple Grandin likens the soy, corn, and grains that make up the majority of their diet to “cake and ice cream” for cows. As anyone with common sense knows, cake and ice cream, while fattening and delicious, should be enjoyed in moderation. Additionally, grain-fed cows can also be fed animal by-products and even bizarre things like candy and Fruity Pebbles cereal.2 When many of these animals grow ill due to diet, they’re often given antibiotics. CAFOs can even implant cows with steroid hormone implants designed to increase animal growth rate and the efficiency with which the animal converts its feed mixture into meat on the body.3

Why should we eat grass fed beef?

With the aforementioned in mind, grass-fed beef is better in terms of nutrient density and healthy fat content. Overall, the meat has a lower fat content than conventional beef, making it less caloric by the ounce. Levels of healthy fats it does have, like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3s, are indeed higher in grass-fed cuts.

When you purchase grass-fed beef you are supporting local producers.  It is important to understand that it cooks a little differently and definitely tastes different.  You will certainly know when you have had grass-fed beef.  Grass-fed beef is often more expensive but it is worth every penny to know where your beef comes from and have no concerns – perfect for feeding your family.

Some tips for cooking grass-fed beef:

  • Add moisture through marinating and/or adding onions and other vegetables
  • Cook more slowly at a lower temperature
  • With beef burgers, it is important to realize the lower moisture keeps the burgers from sticking together like a snowball.  It needs something added to it to help it stay together.  A suggestion is to add some oats.

Sources:

1Haspel, T (2015, February, 23). Is grass-fed beef really better for you, the animal and the planet?. retrieved January 27 2017, from The Washington Post Web Site: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/is-grass-fed-beef-really-better-for-you-the-animal-and-the-planet/2015/02/23/92733524-b6d1-11e4-9423-f3d0a1ec335c_story.html?postshare=531485523756026&tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.5eb5b2e43c01

2Passarella, E (2009, March, 12). Grass-Fed vs. Grain-Fed Beef: What’s The Difference, And Why Does It Matter?. retrieved January 27 2017, from Kitchn Web Site: http://www.thekitchn.com/grassfed-vs-grainfed-beef-what-79032

3U.S. Food and Drug Administration, (2015, October, 20). Steroid Hormone Implants Used for Growth in Food-Producing Animals. retrieved January 28 2017, from U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web Site: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ProductSafetyInformation/ucm055436.htm