If you’re shopping for a steak lately, you must have heard of a lot of buzzwords like dry-aged beef, wet-aged beef, grass-fed beef, grain-fed beef, corn-finished beef, wagyu…etc.
To help our audience demystify these words so they don’t sound like idiots at a BBQ party, we took a deep dive again and did some research.
Today the word of interest is Grass-fed beef. What does it mean? What is the difference between Grass-Fed beef and Grain-fed beef? Why do you want to eat it? Why is that good for your health? Where to buy it?
Everything you need to know is in this article, so fasten your seat-belts and prepare for the ride.
First things first…
For starters we want to talk about some meat principles you might want to keep in the back of your head when shopping for a steak :
- You have to read the labels, a lot of important information is presented to you on the label. These labels contain important information like product name, inspection legend, quantity, etc.
More information about labels on the American Meat Science Association website
- When you buy ground beef, always look for an 80/20 beef to fat ratio; that is going be nice and juicy.
A lot of people keep reaching for a 90/10 beef to fat ratio. That’s too lean, it is going to overcook and it doesn’t have that beefy flavor. Always look for ground chuck because it is juicier.
This chart from our friends at Businessinsider will certainly help you :
- Color, smell and touch matter
Color : If you go to a store that sells both grass-fed beef and grain-fed beef, you’ll notice a huge difference in color. Grass-fed beef tends to be much darker red color than a well-marbled grain-fed steak. The marbling on grain-fed beef should be white or creamy. While yellow in grass-fed beef.
Smell : If the meat you are buying smells bad, it’s not fresh. Don’t Buy It!
Fresh steaks should have a slightly meaty smell but never off smelling. If you take it home and it doesn’t smell right, bring it back immediately to where you purchased it and let them know.
Touch : If when you get your steaks at home, they feel sticky to the touch, there’s a good chance they are past their prime and should be returned to the store.
- Don’t buy blade tenderized steak unless you want to cook it well done. This process introduces a lot of bacteria that you will have to cook it well-passed medium-rare.
For more do’s and don’ts feel free to check this excellent article by Food Network
Now these principles are out of the way, let’s talk about our main subject.
What is the difference between Grass-Fed beef and Grain-fed beef?
The key difference between grain-fed beef and grass-fed beef is the farming process and the health/environmental benefits.
Whereas grass-fed cattle are allowed to roam and graze freely without being confined in tiny spaces and forcefully fed, grain-fed cattle farming conditions are a lot more inhuman.
This cruel farming process introduces a lot of stress to the cattle, waste management problems, and diseases.
Why is Grass-Fed beef good for your health and the environment?
With so many of us looking for healthier choices in our steaks, grass-fed beef may be healthier to eat than grain-fed beef.
As a matter of fact, it contains a healthy amount of Omega 3 fatty acids and less Omega 6 bad acids.
It is also jam-packed with antioxidants and vitamins; such as carotenoids, Vitamin A, and E, and up to 400 % more levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid. These components have been tied to better immunity and anti-inflammation actions.
Nevertheless, the grass-fed label doesn’t mean always 100 % organic feeding practices. You need to look for Organic grass-fed label which USDA defines it as coming from cows raised entirely without antibiotics or hormones.
The environmental benefits of grass-fed beef are well established; it allows better waste management and less use of antibiotics and hormones then conventional beef production.
Wastes are allowed to fertilize the land hence less use of fertilizers and more sustainable agriculture.
Where to buy Grass-fed Beef?
Luckily demand for grass-fed beef continues to rise, environmental consciousness as well. This interest comes not only from consumers looking for an improvement in the quality of the product they purchase; but, it also comes from producers looking to fill a niche market, maintain cattle welfare and environmental sustainability of their farming practices.
As of availability, it is widely available in supermarkets but you need to be cautious about the label. Aim for 100% organic grass-fed label, it guarantees and safe and antibiotics free meat.
The foodprint organization did a pretty amazing job of summarizing the difference between both farming styles and their environmental impacts on this nice chart :
We hope we answered all the questions when it comes to Grass-fed beef so you the consumer has a more educated purchasing decision. For that, we invite our dear readers to vote with your wallet for more healthy and environmentally friendly beef.
For more guides, tips and tricks feel free to consult our How-to section.