Anyone who eats meat has heard of grass-fed beef. Stroll through the grocery store and you’ll find ‘grass-fed’ or ‘grass-finished’ beef. You’ll also notice it’s more expensive than regular meat.
Despite the higher price, many choose grass-fed meat because it’s healthier.
But what exactly is grass-fed beef? Does the cow’s diet really affect it’s quality? The good news is it’s actually better for your health. Here’s what I learned about grass-fed meat and why it’s the best choice.
What is Grass-Fed Beef?
Grass-fed beef comes from cows that eat a healthy, natural diet. Real grass-fed cows consume 100% grass after it stops drinking milk. Grass-fed cattle are also allowed to eat and grow at a normal rate. This means they are not genetically modified. They’re free from antibiotics and steroids that make them grow faster.
Moreover, farmers make sure they don’t feed pesticide-sprayed grass. These cows have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. They remain grass-fed up to the time they meet a humane death.
Grass-Fed Beef vs. Regular Grain-Fed Beef: Which is Better?
To understand the difference, we should look into a cow’s stomach. Cows have a unique digestive system that breaks down plant material. Many mammals, like humans and dogs, can’t fully digest plants. Cows, on the other hand, have a large stomach that allows them to eat wild grass. In fact, a fully grown cow can store up to 55 gallons of grass.
Basically, a cow’s natural diet consists of lots of grass.
This is obviously not the case for grain-fed beef. Regular cows are removed from pastureland and shipped to feedlots. These are called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The cows are fattened with grain, corn and soy products. They’re given antibiotics and hormones to produce bigger cattle in a short amount of time.
What’s wrong with grain-fed meat? Grains aren’t a good source of nutrients for cows. This affects their overall health. In fact, regular beef has low levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Grass-fed beef has 5 times more omega-3 than regular beef.
Compared to regular beef, grass-fed meat has the following health benefits:
- High-quality protein – Leaner meat has lower overall fat. It also means it has less calories. Eating lean meat is linked to higher levels of good cholesterol in your blood.
- More omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 is a great source of good fats. It’s good for heart health, reducing the risk of heart attacks by 50%. It’s is also good for your brain. Studies show an omega-3 rich diet makes people less prone to Alzheimer’s disease.
- Higher levels of carotenoid – Grass-fed meat basically has more beta carotene, a substance that helps produce vitamin A. This supports your immune system and even helps fight cancer.
- Rich in Vitamin E – Vitamin E is actually a powerful antioxidant. It promotes cell renewal and protects against cell damage. It also helps slow down the aging process.
5. Higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) – Grass-fed meat has twice as much CLA as grain-fed beef. CLA is a fatty acid that helps reduce certain types of cancer.
Beware of Unverified ‘Organic’ and ‘Grass-Fed’ Meat Claims
To be honest, I thought grass-fed meat was the same as organic meat. Though grass-fed meat is usually organic, I learned NOT ALL grass-fed meat products pass standards.
Cows may be ‘grass-fed’ and still given steroids and antibiotics. Also, even if they only eat grass, some cows are still kept in feedlots. In other cases, some farmers even fatten “grass-fed” cows with grains during the last months of their lives. Real grass-fed meat takes longer to raise, that’s why it’s a bit more expensive. So always check if you’re buying from a legit farmer.
How Do I Make Sure I’m Buying 100% Grass-Fed Meat?
The trick is to look for grass-fed meat verified by trusted organizations. Look for the following seals:
- PCO 100% Grassfed certification
- American Grassfed logo
- Food Alliance seal
These groups make sure cows are raised in pastures with 100% grass diet. They also make sure your meat does not have growth hormones or antibiotics.
Another way is to go directly to a local organic farm that you trust. This allows you to assess farming practices yourself. It’s the best way to ensure your meat’s quality.
The next time you cook burgers or steak, think about where your meat comes from. Grass-fed beef is definitely the healthier, more ethical choice. It may be a bit expensive, but the benefits far outweigh the cost.
Do you eat grass-fed beef? If not, will you try it soon?
Tell us in the comments below!