The following article was kindly contributed by Maeve Johnson. While I don’t agree with all aspects of the article (specifically that the main difference is simply the taste), Maeve brings up several useful and interesting points that are valuable to anyone wanting to understand more about why you might choose grass-fed beef over grain-fed.
Enjoy, and please feel free to comment below.
If you’re a meat lover, you may be aware that the best restaurants take pride in offering their clients grass-fed beef, as opposed to the mainstream grain fed cattle. The main reason cows that are grass-fed are more appreciated than the others is that their meat tastes so much better.
What animals eat has a direct influence on the nutrient composition of their flesh. When they are born, calves drink milk from the cows, and they are free to roam around and eat grass and other edible plants they can find. This stage goes on for about 6 to 12 months, and then the young cows are moved to feedlots where they are fed with feeds made from corn or soy. This fodder is developed especially to fatten the cattle very fast. Additionally, these cows are given drugs to prevent illnesses and hormones to accelerate their growth even more. After a few months spent in these poor living conditions, the animals are slaughtered.
On the contrary, grass fed cows continue to live and roam freely on grassland until they get slaughtered. Their nutrition is based mainly on grass, this having a direct influence on the fatty acid composition of their meat.
Overall, grass-fed beef contains less fat than grain fed beef. As fat contains more calories than lean meat, it’s easy to see that grass fed beef is lower in calories than traditional beef. Additionally, the Omega-3 content is up to five times higher in grass fed cattle. This is one of the biggest difference between the two types of meat and one of the main reasons grass-fed is the healthier option. Omega-3 fatty acids are very good for you, so you should eat them at least once or twice a week, either from grass fed beef or from fish.
In terms of vitamins and other micronutrients, grass fed beef is also superior to conventionally fed meat. It contains more Vitamin E, Potassium, Sodium, Phosphorus, Iron and Zinc. Additionally, it has a high content of Carotenoids such as beta-carotene, thus being good for eyesight and for the health of your skin.
All this being said the question is whether it is worth paying the extra cost. Depending on where you live, grass fed beef may be significantly more expensive than traditional beef, so many people may simply not afford it. Generally speaking, beef is one of the healthiest food choices, regardless how the cows were raised. However, many people prefer the taste of grass fed animals, as their meet is often leaner and nicer in terms of texture and taste. If you can go for the healthier option, you should do so. Nonetheless, if it isn’t readily available where you live or if it’s too expensive for you, you can always take the missing vitamins, micronutrients and Omega-3 fatty acids from other sources and eat grain fed beef, as the biggest difference is probably a matter of taste.