Cattle used to produce the beef sold at the average grocery store meat counter are typically fed a grain-based diet. However, a grain-based diet is not natural for cattle. These ruminant animals are designed to graze on fibrous grasses, not to eat corn and grains from feed bunks at fixed times throughout the day. When cattle are fed a grass-based diet, the end result is healthier animals, along with beef that is more nutritious and better for the environment. Here's a closer look at grass fed beef and its many benefits.
What qualifies as grass fed beef?
In order to be considered grass fed by the American Grassfed Association (AGA), beef must be from cattle that have eaten nothing but their mother's milk, fresh grass, and hays from birth until harvest. Grass fed cattle, according to the AGA, are also raised without antibiotics or hormones, and they are allowed to roam in large pastures, rather than being confined in feedlots.
Some companies may try to market beef that has been finished with grain as grass fed beef, but true grass fed cattle, like those raised by Western Grassfed Beef, are never, ever fed grain. This is very important as the nutrient content of beef is dependent on what the cattle were fed during their entire lives—all the way to harvest.
What are the health and nutrition benefits of grass fed beef?
When you choose grass fed beef over conventional, grain fed beef, you can enjoy a number of health benefits.
Lower fat content: Grass is lower in fat than grains, and so the meat from grass fed cattle is lower in fat than beef from grain fed cattle. Switching to grass fed beef will reduce your fat intake, which can help you maintain a healthy diet.
Higher omega-3 content: Many Americans do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diets. Grass fed beef contains more omega-3 fatty acids than grain fed beef. Eating grass fed vs grain fed can increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake, offering a number of health benefits, including a reduced risk of cancer, improved cholesterol levels, and a lower risk of stroke and heart disease.
Increased antioxidant levels: Grass fed beef contains antioxidants such as vitamins A and E. Vitamin A is key for good vision, a heathy immune system, and cell growth. Vitamin E is important in keeping a healthy immune system and preventing various diseases. Since grass contains more of these nutrients than grain, grass fed beef is higher in these vitamins and antioxidants than grain fed beef. In fact, grass fed beef contains 4 times the levels of vitamin E than does grain fed beef. (Source: G.C.Smith, Colorado State University)
No antibiotic exposure: Cattle are not designed to subsist on grain, so when they are fed a grain-based diet, antibiotics often must be used to protect them from illness and also aid in cattle growing quicker. Grass fed cattle who are left to roam and graze on their natural diet are healthier and don't need these antibiotics—and are left to grow at a much slower pace. Thus, the beef that you consume has never been administered antibiotics. This is vitally important, since consuming food exposed to antibiotics contributes to the development of resistant bacterial strains and may make any infection you develop harder to treat.
*Note: We recommend knowing your source of grass fed beef. In some cases, just because “grass fed” is used as a descriptor, doesn’t guarantee there has not been antibiotic exposure or hormones added. At Western Grassfed Beef, we do not use antibiotics or added hormones, as we believe cattle should be raised naturally!
What are the other benefits of choosing grass fed beef?
When you choose grass fed beef, you're not just doing your own health a favor; you're also making a wise choice for the environment and for the animals. Factory farms, like those used to produced conventional grain fed beef result in larger amounts of air, land and water pollution along with high levels of animal stress. Grass fed beef producers, like Western Grassfed Beef, care about environmental stewardship, which means taking care of the land and animals. Since the animals roam around on large pastures, their manure is scattered over large acreage where it can fertilize the soil and break down naturally. The cattle help keep the soil healthy, which in turn creates healthy grass, which in turn creates healthy, grass fed cattle.
How do you cook grass fed beef, and how does it taste?
Because the cattle feed on various types of grasses and the meat has a lower fat profile than grain fed beef, grass fed beef does have a slightly different "beefier" flavor than conventional beef. Try and think of grass fed beef like grapes from a wine vineyard, the cattle are eating various grasses in many different areas and their meat will pick up those flavors, which bring you a delicious tasting, healthier beef.
The higher protein and lower fat levels of grass fed beef mean it will take less time to cook than grain fed beef. So, when you cook grass fed steaks, keep a close eye on them to ensure you don't overcook them. Use a thermometer to test for doneness. (Medium rare is 145 degrees F, and medium is 160 degrees F). Remember to adjust your cooking time so you don’t overcook your grass fed steak, as your steak will continue to cook after you pull it from a cooktop or grill.
You can use grass fed ground beef and stew meat just like you would any beef! Be ready for some of the juiciest, most flavorful burgers and meatballs you've ever tasted.
Where can you buy grass fed beef?
Try ordering online to have delicious grass fed beef delivered right to your doorstep. Western Grassfed Beef is very open and honest with customers, and we believe that in the importance of knowing where your food comes from and how it was raised. You'll enjoy steaks and burgers that are from humanely raised animals, high in nutritional value, and raised by ranchers that truly care about their animals and the land.