Why Grass-(fed) is Always Greener
Grass-fed vs. conventionally-raised. What’s the difference? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans are on course to eat a record amount of meat this year – most of it from cows. Yet only a fraction of all beef consumed is organic or grass-fed.
Why does this matter?
Let’s start with a few definitions. Grass-fed means that the animal has been allowed to forage and graze for their own fresh food. They may be given close substitutes like alfalfa during the winter, but unlike grain-fed animals, the emphasis is still on providing the closest thing to a natural diet as possible.
In contrast, the goal of commercially-raised animals is to meet the increasing demand for beef, which means they need to get their cows grown, fattened and butchered – fast. Cows get fatter faster when they are fed grain and contained in feedlots. This causes a host of new problems – cows can get sick, so they’re given antibiotics and hormones…all of which finds its way into your meat.
You might think that seeing the “organic” label on your beef means you are good to go. However, beef that is labeled “organic” can be raised in a feedlot and fed grain, as long as the grain they are fed is organic. On the flip side, an animal can be grass-fed but raised on a farm that uses synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
Why is it so confusing?
Bottom line, you need to know where your beef is coming from. I make it a point to talk with the guys behind the meat counter at my grocery store, so they know me and know what I’m looking for. Whole Foods does a good job of labeling their meats based on how the meat is raised, from Step 1 – “No cages, no crates, or crowding. ” to Step 5, “Animal-centered, entire life on the same farm.”
Here are a few additional reasons to buy grass-fed beef:
1. The meat is more nutritious. Grass-fed meat is higher in protein, omega-3 fats, B-vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin K, and trace minerals like magnesium, calcium and selenium. A pasture-raised animal eats a wide variety of greens, making their micronutrient profile extremely rich. Feedlot animals bred on corn and soybeans are not going to have this variety of nutrients in their meat.
2. It’s better for the environment. Feedlots produce more waste than the ground can handle, polluting our water and air. Controlled grazing fertilizes the land naturally. Also, by not growing and shipping grain to feedlots, we’re saving energy. The corn we feed our feedlot cattle accounts for a staggering amount of fossil fuel energy.
3. It’s better for the animals. Simply put, the animals have a better life. Feedlot animals are packed in like sardines, knee-deep in their own manure. Grass-fed animals roam, chew grass, and take naps in the pasture. They eat the diet they were born to eat, which means they are healthier – which in turn, means we are healthier when we choose to eat them!
But…it’s so expensive!
There is no question that grass-fed meats cost more than meats from animals conventionally-raised. However, with a bit of planning, you can find a way to make it fit within your budget. Keep your eyes open at the grocery store. When grass-fed meat goes on sale, stock up and keep it in your freezer! Choose the cheapest cuts – maybe you’re not eating ribeye, but sirloin can do the trick when you’re craving a steak. Short ribs and stew meats break down beautifully in your Instant Pot or slow-cooker. Bone-in cuts are cheaper than boneless. You get the idea.
You can also subscribe to services like Butcher Box and get great deals on quality meat, delivered right to your door! Right now you can get $20 off and free bacon!
In the end, it matters what the things you eat, eat. Whether you follow a paleo diet or are just trying to eat high-quality, healthy foods, grass-fed beef deserves a place at your table.
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