Is Grass-Fed Beef Better Than Grain-Fed?

By Andrew Knepper

In recent years, folks have become more aware of the healthfulness of the food that they are eating. And it is no surprise. With the ever increasing use of artificial flavors and dyes, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s), etc., most people have had quite enough. But what is grass-fed beef and is it a passing trend or a return to how beef cattle used to be raised, and thus a clean way of eating?

To answer this question, we need to consider how beeves (the plural of “beef cows” in case you’re wondering) were designed by God to work. Cows are ruminants. A ruminant is any hooved animal that consumes grass and other plants for its sustenance. Cows, goats, sheep, deer, antelopes, among others comprise this class of animal that I like to call the “vegetarians of the field.” Ruminants are named after one part of their digestive system, the rumen, which is the supercenter of microbial fermentation – i.e. ruminants derive their nutrition from the fermentation of plants in the rumen.

Going back hundreds of years, North American fields and prairies were filled with buffalo and bison roaming in large herds. What did these animals eat? Grass. They ate good, old fashioned, all natural grass. This is what God designed their digestive systems to eat. 

Fast forward a few hundred years and many, many iterations of genetically modified Einkorn crops later and we have the mess that the beef industry is today. Einkorn, by the way, is the original plant that the current-day corn is derived from, albeit in a genetically-modified way!

Corn is a crop that is relatively easily and cheaply grown and harvested. It has been supported by the government for decades in order to support the development of ethanol (a corn-based fuel that destroys engines), High Fructose Corn Syrup, and (you guessed it!)…. Animal food. 

But the problem is that ruminants weren’t designed to eat corn. Corn is a grain that packs on the pounds (in the form of saturated fat) in a very economical way (in other words, corn fattens the steers quicker and more cheaply than grass). Big beef companies pile steers into large buildings or feedlots and give the cows corn to eat. And lots and lots of antibiotics. See, the thing is, if you make animals eat food that they are not supposed to eat, the result is really sick animals. So the antibiotics help to stabilize the steer’s health until slaughter day. Antibiotic regimen in your food is not cool and it contributes to antibiotic resistance but that is a Blog article for another day!

Much of the beef that most of us have grown up on was grain fed. And, as a people, we have become accustomed to the taste, texture, and fattiness of grain-fed beef along with the negative health effects that go with it. You know how doctors advise against too much red meat? It is not the cows’ fault – it is the big agricultural companies’ fault – the GMO corn just is not what the doctor ordered!

Grass-fed beef, on the other hand, presents a better value proposition for those of us concerned about our health. Grass-fed beef is leaner and tastier than grain-fed beef, so you consume fewer calories. So the larger piece of steak does not come with a caloric cost! Grass-fed beef contains up to five times the Omega-3 fatty acids of grain-fed beef, and Omega-3’s come with loads of health benefits! Grass-fed beef is also packed with Beta-Carotene (thus the yellow rather than white fat color in grain-fed beef). Speaking of the fat, grass-fed beef replaces grain-fed beef’s saturated fat with unsaturated fat and makes grass-fed beef a heart healthy choice. But don’t take my word for it, head on over to Mother Earth News to see the full host of health benefits of switching to grass-fed beef.

At Mary’s Meadow Farm, we take pride in offering only grass-fed and grass-finished beef that is raised in the verdant pastures of Virginia. Our beef is free of antibiotics and growth hormones that you will find in grain-fed cows. If you are interested in trying some of our grass-fed beef offerings, whether it be a single cut, a box of beef, or even a quarter steer – please place an order right here on our website or contact us at yourfarmers@marysmeadow.farm.

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