If you would have mentioned “grass-fed beef” to me a few years ago, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. What is grass-fed beef? How is this different from any other beef that I buy? Aren’t cows supposed to eat grass? Does grass-fed beef taste better or something? Can’t I just buy whatever beef is cheaper?
It wasn’t until I started to take the paleo diet seriously that I decided to do research on grass-fed beef and figure out what the hell that term actually meant.
It turns out that grass-fed beef means exactly what it states. It refers to cows that have eaten grass for most or all of their lives. If you are wondering if cows are supposed to eat grass the answer is yes. Their digestive systems are designed in a way to allow them to thrive on grasses and plant vegetation.
This all seems pretty simple, but if cows are supposed to eat grass, then why do we have a special name for grass-fed beef? Why don’t we just call it “beef”?
When you’re done reading and you’re salivating for some juicy meat, check out U.S. Wellness Meats who has an amazing selection of quality grass-fed meats.
Most Beef is Grain-Fed
It is estimated that 99% of US beef cattle are fed corn and soybeans at some point in their lives. Grass may be a cow’s natural diet, but using grains as a replacement allows beef suppliers to raise full grown cattle in nearly half the time. What would normally take 2-3 years for a pastured cow to get up to slaughter weight only takes 14 months on a grain-based diet (hmm…that seems to work on humans too). Also, because corn and soybeans are large subsidized crops of the US government, beef from grain-fed cows can be sold for close to half the price of their grass-fed counterparts.
Grain-fed beef is clearly cheaper and easier to produce, so what’s all the fuss about grass-fed then?
3 Reasons Why I Buy Grass-Fed Beef
1) Grass-Fed Beef is More Nutritious
When compared to conventionally raised beef, grass-fed beef has higher level of Omega 3 fats, CLA, Vitamins A and E, as well as several antioxidants including glutathione and superoxide dismutase. You are what you eat. But you are what you eat eats!
2) Grass-Fed Beef is Safer
Factory farming can lead to all sorts of problems. In 2003, a cow in Washington State tested positive for mad cow disease and it was later discovered that it was being fed meat and bones made from other cows (ewww!). Grass fed cows have also been shown to have far less instances of E. Coli. In order to combat the higher rates of disease in conventionally raised beef, 25 million pounds of antibiotics are used every year.
3) Grass-Fed Beef is Better For the Environment
In 2006, The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization released a report that attributed 18% of the world’s man made greenhouse-gas emissions to livestock. But most of that carbon footprint is the result of factory farming’s reliance on grains as a nutrition source. Many farmers believe that when cows are grass-fed and rotated between different pastures, they actually become carbon negative, meaning they contribute more back into the land then they consume.
This knowledge, combined with some of the images of factory farming shown in Food Inc., are more than enough to convince me to buy grass-fed beef whenever I can find it. Yes, it can be more expensive and difficult to find, but at least I don’t have to hunt and kill the cow myself.
I think it’s also important for people to realize that every purchase you make in a store is like casting a vote. When you consistently purchase grass-fed beef (as well as wild caught fish, and organic produce), you are proving to food manufacturers that quality food and animal practices are important in your buying decisions.
Small decision like these can eventually mean huge differences in the environment and your health.