I’m sure you’ve heard the debate….but being a farm girl myself, I had to explore it. On my family farm, along with our hunting harvests, we used to butcher one cow a year to help feed the family. However, I noticed when I moved away and bought a steak from the local grocery store (we’d never “bought” beef) – it looked and tasted totally different…and not in a good way.
What was going on? Here are the surprising facts about why you and your family might consider talking to your local farmer to see if they have grass-fed and finished beef for you and your family.
The Differences Between Grass-fed and Grain-fed Beef:
1. Grass-fed is has More Nutrients.
Grass fed is the way it has always been done. It’s tradition in America…and it’s how my family did it. You rotate pastures, you have cattle that have lived off the land, and they give you back all the nutrients in the meat you eventually get. Eating all the grass and clover makes their meat full of Omega-3s.
Factory-farming largely stuffs these cows with corn and grain to fatten them faster, and the nutritional content changes. Want the proof? The Nutrition Journal took a look at grass fed vs grain fed and found that grass fed provides more nutrients, less cholesterol and better overall health profile.
2. Grass-fed is better for the Land.
When you use a rotational grazing system, grass-fed beef helps to make the nutritional intake for the animal high, while helping the soil and forage recover. It’s a method that doesn’t strip and damage the land and can then sustain beef for centuries. Corn or grain fed methods don’t care about the land and often just look like mud pits that hold fattened cows that can’t move around.
3. Healthier Animals = Healthier Beef Product.
In these big factory farms, cows often don’t have room to move, are shoved in with other cows with the goal to just fatten and slaughter them. They are bound to get sick more often, have a higher rates of illness (we all hear about the antibiotics, etc.. used), and that is even considering that they usually will never reach their first year of life due to slaughter.
Most will never run, graze, or be able to develop in a healthy natural way. Being raised in cramped spaces without roaming has an impact on the final product, which some like because it is fattier. That fat is due to lack of movement, containment, and diet. It’s not healthy for people to live that way, and it’s certainly not as healthy for the final beef product. Grass-fed and finished beef roams, grazes and has space. Many live to two years old before they are large enough to slaughter. It’s like eating controlled wild meat that is the way nature intended…and you’ll notice a different flavor immediately.
4. Why the Different Flavor in Grass-fed beef?
Most cows from factories have more fat because they don’t move around…so that might be the first thing you notice, how it cooks. Grass fed cattle move around, so they tend to have more protein (they have more muscle), be a little leaner, and can get a tougher quicker. It’s not “tough meat,” you just have to adjust cooking times. You might also notice that grass fed beef tastes “beefier!” The cows mature naturally, so they get a more intense and mature beef flavor. I love using grass-fed beef products in soups, stews, jerky and burgers – it really gets brought out on the grill.
Overall, I can’t recommend grass-fed highly enough. You are going to notice that unless you buy from a local farmer, this stuff usually costs more than grain-fed…but think about it, these farmers have to keep an animal for over a year longer than a factory farm would just to do it right.
I support the little guy and the families that respect the land and animals, and who produce high quality beef. When I can, I try to put my money where my mouth is.