Why Grass-Fed Trumps Grain-Fed | Chris Kresser
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Why Grass-Fed Trumps Grain-Fed

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There are great benefits to eating grass-fed meat. istock.com/Photitos2016

 

This article is part of a special report on Red Meat. To see the other articles in this series, click here.

In my recent post on red meat, I showed you why red meat of any kind is a healthy choice, and doesn’t deserve the bad reputation that it’s given by the media and mainstream medical establishment. But although conventional beef won’t give you cancer and is an important source of highly bioavailable nutrients, we can’t ignore the fact that grass-fed meat is still superior to grain-fed.

The classic idiom “you are what you eat” applies just as well to cows as it does to humans, and there are some pretty significant differences in the quality of red meat based on how the animal was fed. I’ve talked about this in the past here, here, and here, but this post will give you a more detailed summary on why grass-fed meat is a better choice than grain-fed.

Grass-fed vs. grain-fed: it goes way beyond omega-3s! Tweet This

Fatty Acid Composition

I mentioned in my previous post that the ratio of saturated to monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fat in beef stays about the same regardless of what the animal is fed. (1)Those ratios might shift slightly depending on the animal’s diet, but the shifts are still relatively small. On average, grass-fed beef tends to have slightly lower levels of MUFA and slightly higher levels of PUFA than grain-fed, but these differences are at most five percentage points, depending on the breed of cattle and the study in question. So regardless of whether your beef is grain-fed or grass-fed, you’ll be getting about 40-50% saturated fat, about 40-50% monounsaturated fat, and somewhere near 10% polyunsaturated fat.

However, the diet of the cow does significantly influence the types of each fat present. Within the broad categories of SFA, MUFA, and PUFA, there are several individual fatty acids with different chemical compositions, and each has unique effects on the body.

Omega-3 and Omega-6

The two fatty acids you’re probably most familiar with are our old friends omega-3 and omega-6, both of which are PUFAs. This might come as a surprise, but the most current research indicates that beef contains consistent levels of omega-6 regardless of diet. (2) This is good news if you can’t afford grass-fed beef, because at least grain-fed beef won’t slam you with more omega-6 than you can compensate for. What you’ll be missing out on are the significantly higher levels of omega-3s found in grass-fed beef. (3) Depending on the breed of cow, grass-fed beef contains between 2 and 5 times more omega-3s than grain-fed beef, and the average ratio of n-6:n-3 in grass fed beef is 1.53:1. In grain fed beef, this ratio jumps all the way up to 7.65:1.

Saturated Fat

While I’m not particularly concerned about saturated fat of any kind, it’s worth noting the differences in SFA composition of grain-fed vs. grass-fed meat. There are three main types of saturated fat found in red meat: stearic acid, palmitic acid, and myristic acid. (4) Grass-fed beef consistently contains a higher proportion of stearic acid, which even the mainstream scientific community acknowledges does not raise blood cholesterol levels. (5) This higher proportion of stearic acid means that grass-fed beef also contains lower proportions of palmitic and myristic acid, which are more likely to raise cholesterol.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a type of PUFA that is found naturally in milk and meat products, primarily from ruminants such as cows or sheep. As I’ve explained before, CLA exhibits potent antioxidant activity, and research indicates that CLA might be protective against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Beef is one of the best dietary sources of CLA, and grass-fed beef contains an average of 2 to 3 times more CLA than grain-fed beef. (6)This is because grain-based diets reduce the pH of the digestive system in ruminant animals, which inhibits the growth of the bacterium that produces CLA. It’s interesting to note that as a whole, Americans consume far less CLA than people from countries such as Australia, where grass-fed beef tends to be the rule rather than the exception.

Antioxidants, Vitamins and Minerals

Another reason grass-fed meat surpasses grain-fed is that it contains considerably more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, are precursors to vitamin A that are found as pigments in plants. Grain-fed beef does not contain appreciable levels of carotenoids, for the simple reason that grains don’t contain them. However, cows that eat carotenoid-rich grass and forage incorporate significant amounts of these compounds into their tissues. These carotenoids make the fat from grass-fed beef more yellow than the fat from grain-fed beef, so fat color can be a good indicator of how nutrient-rich your meat is. (7)

Grass-fed beef also contains significantly more of the antioxidants vitamin E, glutathione, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and catalase than grain-fed beef. (8) These antioxidants play an important role in protecting our cells from oxidation, especially delicate fats in the cell membrane such as omega-3 and omega-6. (9)

Antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene also work together synergistically to protect the meat itself from damage during the journey from butcher to plate. (10) These antioxidants are especially important if you choose to fry or grill your meat, because those high-heat cooking methods can be more damaging to meat than wet or low-heat methods such as stewing or braising.

Grass-fed beef also contains higher levels of the beneficial nutrients I discussed in my last red meat post, including zinc, iron, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium. (11) It’s safe to say that grass-fed meat gives you more bang for your buck on all fronts, with its significantly higher levels of omega-3s, antioxidants, minerals, and other important nutrients.

Other types of red meat

Although I’ve primarily referenced research on beef in this post, the benefits of pasture-raised meat extend to red meat from other animals as well. For example, several studies show that the meat and milk of grass-fed lambs is significantly higher in omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid than the meat and milk of grain-fed lambs. (12, 13, 14) Another study shows that the fatty acid composition of grass-fed bison is similar to that of grass-fed beef, and both contain higher levels of omega-3s and CLA than that of grain-fed bison. (15)

I hope it’s clear by now that when it comes to red meat, quality makes a big difference. However, I realize that price is a common concern, and not everyone can afford grass-fed meat. That’s why I made it a point in the last post to focus on why even conventional red meat is a healthy choice. Just remember that grass-fed red meat is more nutrient dense than grain-fed, so even though grass-fed is more expensive, you’re getting more nutritional bang for your buck. And although it wasn’t the topic of this post, it’s always worth considering the ethical and environmental implications of grain-fed vs. grass-fed meat. If you’re looking for an easy, convenient way to purchase great quality meat, I recommend ButcherBox.

Now I’d like to hear from you. Do you purchase grass-fed beef? If so, what are some of your reasons for choosing grass-fed rather than grain-fed beef? Share in the comments below!

175 Comments

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  1. I only eat grass fed. Simply as I go not want all the GM grains and hormones and antibiotics. I live in South Africa and can eat game meat like Gemsbok Kudu and Springbok and game biltong (jerky) If I ever eat beef it has to be grass fed Thank for you great website and tweets:) Di

  2. There is a major difference between grain and grass fed meat that you didn’t mention and that may have major effects on health, and that is the widespread use of hormones and antibiotics in grain fed meat. I would personally choose to eat no meat rather than grain-fed meat.

  3. Chris,

    Based on Peter Ballerstedt’s AHS 12 lecture (http://grassbasedhealth.blogspot.com/2013/02/ruminant-reality.html) and what he’s written on his blog (http://grassbasedhealth.blogspot.com/2011/10/is-grass-fed-beef-really-rich-in-omega.html), I got the sense that the Omega-3/Omega-6 benenfits of grassfed beef are a little overstated.

    NevadaSmith,
    Take a look at the above posted AHS 12 lecture and read this post. http://grassbasedhealth.blogspot.com/2011/06/hormones-and-nitrites-and-antibiotics.html which addresses both hormones and antibiotics.

    Having said all that, I belong to a meat CSA which delivers me 20 lbs of beef and chicken per month. Plus they sell eggs, bones, organ meat, suet and all sorts of other good stuff. Belonging to the CSA is only a bit more expensive than buying conventional meat at the supermarket. The potential for additional vitamins and minerals, supporting a local business and supporting a more sustainable form of food production makes the added cost worth it for me.

    • I’m working from several peer-reviewed studies. They show a range of ratios depending on the breed of cattle, season, etc., but I’ve never seen a study that didn’t indicate at least a 2x greater amount of n-3 in grass-fed beef than in conventionally raised beef. Sometimes the ratio is much higher.

      • The ratio is better. I guess his point is that the total amount is so small, especially once you cook the beef, that the actual health impact is quite small if not non-existant.

        From his article: “Grass fed ground beef contains 100 mg of n-3 per 4 ounces (raw). Considering that one 3.75 ounce (106 g) can of Vital Choice’s albacore solid white tuna (yes, tuna!) in extra virgin olive oil contains almost 3 grams (2,926 mg) of n-3 fatty acids it is, at best, an exaggeration to call grass fed beef a “rich” source of n-3 fatty acids. Even a comparison of grass fed ground beef with grain fed ground beef doesn’t justify the label: This same source shows only a 22 mg difference per 4 ounces of raw meat. What happens when the meat is cooked? A 4 ounce (cooked weight), pan-browned ground beef patty only contains 20 mg, so cooking loss appears to be significant.”

        • I’ve never called beef a “rich” source of EPA or DHA. That said, there are some studies indicating that grass-fed beef can have a meaningful impact on serum EPA and DHA levels, so it can clearly play a significant role.

          • Todd, just checked independent tests of our grass fats in the ground indicating over 200mg/100g (actual 217mg) Ala is 140mg and the rest longer chain n3’s inc DHA . Of course much higher levels are in the organ meats and marrow. As I understand it Brisket is equal to wild salmon but I have not had ours tested. And ground beef of over 200mg of Omega3 is about the average of most fish except the cold water oily fish like mackerel, sardines and Wild salmon

          • No, you didn’t call it a “rich” (those were Peter Ballerstedt’s words not yours or mine). But you say in this article that “What you’ll be missing out on are the significantly higher levels of omega-3s found in grass-fed beef.” If you mean signficantly higher in a relative sense as compared to grain fed, then yes. But if you mean signifcantly higher in an absolute sense, I don’t think the case is as strong. Just my opinion.

            In 4 ounces of raw beef, grassfed will have approximately 30-50 milligrams more Omega 3’s than grain fed. That difference is even less once the meat is cooked as about 70% of Omega 3s are lost in the cooking process (while less than a third of the Omega 6 is lost in cooking). Eat some fish and you will dwarf any difference in the Omega 3 difference in the beef.

            With regard to the higher levels of omega-3 in their plasma and platelets of grassfed beef eaters, as you say in your January 4, 2011 article that Alyssa posted above:
            “I suspect the answer lies with the difference in omega-6 content in the diets of both groups… This is why I constantly tell people that the most important step they can take in normalizing their omega-3:omega-6 ratio is not boosting omega-3 intake, but reducing omega-6. And this is likely what explains the higher levels of omega-3 in the grass-fed meat eaters in the study, even though grass-fed meat doesn’t have a lot more omega-3 than CAFO meat.”

            Hopefully there are some new studies that isolate the grassfed beef consumption and take into consideration the rest of the diet. That would be great!

            Again, I’m not trying to diminish grassfed beef. As I said above, that’s pretty much all I eat. I would just like to see a lot more with regard to the Omega 3/6 issue before I conclude that it makes a difference w/r/t beef consumption.

            Again, just my view. Thanks for your effort!

  4. My family eats grass fed beef which we obtain from KolFoods.com
    I don’t have any scientific proof that grass fed is better than grain, but I do want my beef to be hormone and antibiotic free.
    Thanks for the great article.

  5. Seems like a bit of a superfluous article if you ask me, since this is most likely basic knowledge for the people that visit this site. Though naturally I agree with everything said.

    One thing that I do wonder which was left unanswered, is all the omega-3 in these animals EPA and DHA or does it still contain a significant amount of ALA?

    • Maybe a little “preaching to the choir,” but I appreciated the in-depth treatment of the differences between the two…so, “Thank you!” The worst is knowing that grass-fed is superior, yet having such a difficult time finding it. Any words of wisdom re: that would be appreciated.

    • ALA is the primary fatty acids found in green leafy plants and is also a precursor of DHA and EPA so I would speculate that the ALA consumed by bovine would be converted to their essential DHA and EPA fatty chains and would expect these fatty acids to be the majority of the omega-3s present in grass-fed beef. In general beef isn’t a high source of ALA so I wouldn’t expect grass-fed beef specifically to be any different.

  6. Does anyone know if there are parts of the cow (organ meats, marrow, oxtail) that are much healthier grass fed or is it the fattier cuts? I for one don’t like liver/kidney/heart unless its 100% grass fed. Chris or anyone’s input would be appreciated.

    • From a health standpoint the organ meats have the most concentration of beneficial nutrients, omega 3’s in balance and the best balance of fats and fat soluable vitamins. The marrow for example contains roughly the same fats and in concentration similar to our brains. There is no doubt in my mind that northern tribes evolved in a synergistic and symbiotic relationship with cattle and their wild ruminant forebears . I have also come to believe that it is no accident that humans have the same gestaion period as cattle and that we survived the winters, the lighter our skin colour by consuming their fats as a source of vitamin supplementation , in particular vitamin D.
      I have been involved in grass fattening beef on cool season grasses and high carotenoid plants for over 60 of my 71+ years and was preached to in my youth that we evolved from the fat of the land and to eat such beef daily for a long healthy life with all your marbles.
      It is therefore very gratifying to me to be living to see the whole truth emerging, verified by the very scientific enquiry vested interests used to discredit the ancestral evidence and wisdom’s dismissed as old wife’s tales and anecdotal.
      The essential nutrients for best health are in the fat profile as the ancients knew. The flower of the field, fat of the land.
      The beef needs to be fattened to US select or low choice or Canada A+. It can be accomplished to 88% the efficiency of grain finishing, with a now being proven 2to5 times the consequent nutrient concentration in balance. In my youth compensatory gain was very important for grass fattening and mimics nature. This is what we try to do and works best.
      No mention is being made of the carbon and human health benefits, which are many times the current value retail value.
      Finally I believe Chris may have mentioned, definitely some one, that grass fed liver is mother natures most perfect multi – vitamin food in balance and most babies in history were weaned onto it and egg yolks before modern grain driven science produced pablum. Canada health has quietly indicated this in recommendations but it is not yet mainstream and very concerning personally as a great grandfather, who’s grand daughter lives away and is being advised to wean onto pablum and commercial baby formula.

  7. Chris,

    Great article! I do think the cost differential between grass-fed vs. grain fed is overblown. I pay around $1250/year to a local farm for all of my meat and eggs. It’s high quality, tastes great, I get to see the farm, etc. I would definitely pay the same or more than that at a grocery store to eat grain fed beef.

  8. Do you also get some of the similar benefits from wild game? I have family members who go elk hunting every year, and we always end up with elk in our freezer. I buy grass-fed beef not only because of everything you mention above, but because it’s local, and I can meet and shake hands with the farmer who raised the animal. I can see where the animals lived and know it’s a healthy spot and that they were raised humanely and with respect. Grass-fed tastes better too. Cost is really good when we buy a share every year. We get it for less than $4/lb total, which for some cuts is cheaper than the cruddy grain-fed in our grocery stores.

  9. This is spot on. Real science once again validates what we already know from intuition and experience—eat real food that once ate real food. Thanks for this, Chris. I’ve been a fan since the early days of the healthy skeptic; keep breaking down the “common knowledge”!

  10. I would have appreciated some mention of hormones or antibiotics in the meat and the health aspects of that. Is it true that grass fed beef contains less antibiotics because the cows are eating the diet they were designed to eat and thus less antibiotics are needed if any?

    • Regarding hormones, I’d recommend looking at this post: http://chriskresser.com/grass-fed-vs-conventional-meat-its-not-black-or-white

      As far as antibiotics, I think the biggest problem with them in the meat industry is that feedlot animals are often given low-dose antibiotics to fatten them up, even if they aren’t necessarily sick. As far as I know, “grass-fed” and “antibiotic-free” are not mutually exclusive claims, but if a farmer is mindful enough to raise the animal on grass, I would assume they would only administer antibiotics in the rare event that they actually get sick.

  11. I have access to grass fed venison year round but also buy grass fed beef locally. To me, the health benefits are a bonus. I choose grass fed meat because it tastes better.

  12. I’m curious to know if beef from cattle fed GMO grains transfers negative health effects to humans? I have always assumed so, but one of my WAPF members asked me about it and I realized I did not really know. I’m researching now, but if you can shed any light, I would appreciate it. Thank you.

    • GMO grain contains usually two toxins.
      The worst one is Bt toxin. A gene is changed so that this toxin is produced by the seed in every cell of it. When a pest insect eats it it gets sick and after a while its intestine leaks and eventually ruptures so it dies. Monsanto claim no danger to animals or humans, but all their (published) studies are very short. Now butchers in the US say that they cannot use the intestines from GMO fed cows any more to make sausages as they are too thin and easily rupture.

      They think it is because the GMO because it was fine before and intestines from New Zealand cows that are not fed GMO are ok and will not crack. Also pigs fed with GMO grains/corn often get bad diarrea that has shown to go away without the GMO corn. IBS in humans is similar so many people now believe there is a strong link, as if the Bt toxins are causing increase of IBS also in humans.
      Maybe from eating GMO products or from eating beef and other meats fed with GMO. Since no tests are being made and no or poor GMO labelling exists, organic grass fed is the only safe way to go, as I see it. HIgher cost but less required!

      The other toxin is high levels of Glyphosate, when the GMO plant has been made resistant to that toxin. Glyphosate is also called Roundup and longer tests than Monsanto have published, in France and Britain have shown brain damage and tumours on mice. Seralini is one researcher.
      Apart from this, ordinary non-GMO grain is often killed with glyfosate just before harvest, which increases the harvest output, but leaves the grin with the lethal for the grain toxin levels going to the mills and for us or livestock to eat.
      I would say “unsafe at any meal” .
      My 5 cents today !

  13. My husband and I bought a whole (smallish) cow and a chest freezer. The butcher vacuum packed the meat, and it has kept well over 15 months (we are down to the last 12 pounds of hambuger). The cost per pound (including the cost of the freezer) works out to a little less than we can buy grass fed hamburger at the store. BUT that means that roasts/steaks are also a little less expensive than that store-bought hamburger, which is great.

    We haven’t had any issues with tough meat on the “fancier” cuts. Cuts such as top round were a disappointment till I started cutting up the pieces into small chunks and cooking them fast for a brown outside and pink interior.

  14. Hi Chris,
    Are the differences significant in a scientific sense or a real world sense? I.e. Not down to chance or meaningful?

  15. I eat grass fed beef. I order online because no local retailer in my area offers it, but I do feel it is very important. I am getting my body ready to have a baby and want to have the most natural foods I can before attempting a pregnancy. I want to give a baby the best possible start.

    • Kate, very wise, check out my remarks in later post and look up the benefits of choline etc in liver and eggs for protection of babies brain, IQ, and health in later life. All have declined since grain fattened meats and grain processed foods replaced our traditional, grass fed centre of the plate. Recent science is indicating a 180 degree change from previous accepted industry driven recommendations of the last few decades. Check out ‘thought for food’ UK Parliamentary enquiry circa 2009? Crawford and Richardson et al evidence. Good luck.

      • I agree with the liver statement. When I was pregnant with my first child, I tried to eat grass fed liver as much as I could choke down…from grass fed cows and chickens…I found the easiest way (because I truly can’t stand the taste) is to cook it, freeze it, and then cut them into pill sizes and swallow them like a supplement… Worked like a charm!

        • WOW Cassie! That is such a great idea. I can’t stand the taste of liver either but I have found that I can eat it and even LIKE it when I make a spread or pate out of it. I put it on toast or a cracker and cover it with onion slices. It’s actually pretty good. I also stuff celery with it. But your idea sounds so straight forward and easy. I’m going to try it.

          • Chris (and others on the subject of liver),– It was you who referenced it as- ‘Liver: nature’s most potent superfood’. circa 2008, and according to Google, I had visited the page 3 times previously.
            From school meals in the 40’s-50’s when liver and onions was a weekly mandatory meal until the last ten years when I started retailing our own grass fattened beef, I like most did not like the iron taste and only ate it occasionally because ‘it is good for you’.
            Since then research led me to discover Chris is right, Liver has 5 to 50 times the essential vitamins, nutrients and ant-oxidant values of fruit and vegetables per serving of even the best such as raw blueberries or kale. I also read somewhere that cooking denatures, or reduces the value available in most food but it actually increases by cooking in liver. Unfortunately I do not have time to check this out at moment. (Chris?)
            When first retailing our beef I had to give liver away with less than 5% asking for it and most of these wanting it for dog food or to seed/feed their rural septic system, a local custom.
            As a result of articles such as Chris and others write, I now cannot keep up with demand. I had taken to eating at least 2 servings per week and changed my preparation as a result of customers recipe’s and only to cook until the red disappeared, less than 4 minutes total. By accident I discovered that searing in butter for less than a minute each side and leaving the center practically raw is best for my taste and all that ‘iron ‘taste disappears. Also it is tenderer than tenderloin and I can fully understand babies being weaned onto it in history.
            I can also attest that the liver is the most carefully inspected organ under our Local inspection system as it is in Federal Plants, yet many still believe it is a filter organ for toxins in the body, which is partially true, but the toxins are not present in healthy liver. It is still the least expensive form of nutrition available at retail. Knowing the system of inspection I would not hesitate to eat inspected Beef liver, including that from grain fed, feedlot beef, because fatty livers or any slightly suspect for any reason are immediately condemned.

            • Great info. I’ll have to try searing mine in butter next time. Just last night I made some “liver jerky” from grass fed beef liver. The smell is VERY strong and a bit off putting. I put no seasonings or salt on it as it’s for our cat. She LOVES the liver, so much so that I’m thinking maybe I should try it too so I can see what all the fuss is about!

  16. Great article! I’d love to know how Jerica gets her grass fed cows nice and fat. We bought 1/4 cow a year ago from a friend that was 100% grass fed (except for apples!) and it’s so incredibly lean and frankly mostly tough. We are still working our way through it, but mostly it’s not been enjoyable as all the steaks are dry and hard. The ground beef is okay as long as I season it well, but I’d never want a hamburger with it. The only thing that works is braised roasts. If not for this cow, we buy grass fed from the store, but I believe that has been finished with grain.

    • Hi Deborah,
      Fat grass-fed beef takes 3 ingredients: 1. Good genetics, 2. Good nutrition/management (i.e. plenty to eat), and 3. Time. There are a handful of breeds that will never get good marbling no matter what because their genetics were destroyed by feedlot up-breeding efforts. The best grass-fed cows are short and fat. They look like barrels with legs. And breeds contain a lot of variation. Just because one Black Angus finishes well on grass (or not) doesn’t mean all Black Angus will follow suit. We look for a particular phenotype when separating breeding stock from eating stock. Good nutrition means that the cows are never starved. Too many cows in a non-rotated paddock only spells disaster and poor quality beef. We get our cows fat in the spring by making them eat plenty of grass hay before turning them out on lush spring pasture–that slows down their digestion and they put on weight very efficiently–much more so than if we kept them for longer and fed them less per day. Can’t starve the critters! My third point is simple: don’t harvest until the cows are ripe! We look at body condition score to make sure a cow is going to have good intramuscular fat before she goes to slaughter. Sometimes this is later than the USDA cutoff age for allowing spinal cuts like t-bones (30 months–stupid mad cow disease feedlot rule). Some butchers won’t take cows older than 30 months because of regulatory issues, but many cows won’t finish well on grass only before that. So you have to find a new butcher.

      If we have a skinny cow that will never finish out well, she goes for hamburger, and we use fat of some of the other cows to boost the fat content up to at least 20%. So there you go. Our grass-fed beef strategy. 🙂 If you’re a shopper, ask your farmer how he knows when the cows are ready to slaughter. If it is strictly based on age, be wary.

      • Wow – as much as I appreciated the main article – this was awesome! This is awesome information that will help me as a regular consumer of grassfed beef. Thank you!

        • Seadanes,
          Well, if you’re in East Texas or Shreveport, you can buy locally from us. We don’t ship at this time–your best bet to find a good grass-fed producer is to check with your local Weston A. Price Chapter leader. Be sure you ask questions before buying, and you may even want to purchase a pound of hamburger. Not all grass-fed is equal!

      • Very well stated, Jerica! We also raise grass-fed beef, and ours are never skinny looking, and our meat is wonderful. Patience in the field is just as important as patience cooking is later for a tasty, marbled piece of meat. Good quality beef is not to be rushed!

    • It is my understanding from talking with my farmer, it does no good to buy grass fed beef that has been grain finished. You might as well buy grocery store meat that has been fed on a CAFO. It only takes 3 to 5 days before all the benefits outlined in Chris’ article to disappear once grain feeding begins. In addition, the chance for E-coli development increases significantly. I am always very careful when buying from other farmers. I make sure they are not grass finished!

        • Annie, Oops! you’re right! I meant GRAIN finished. So sorry. Such an important point. At one of the farmers’ markets that I go to, a (devious) farmer has big banners up touting his “grass-fed” beef. Upon further questioning, he admitted his beef is grain finished. I told him I would not be purchasing any of his beef and why. I am sure there are many people buying his meat and thinking they are eating wholesome grass-fed beef.

          • That is terrible. You should report him to the market manager. I once bought what I thought were organic local onions at a farmers market. I got home and removed them from the ziplock bag they were sold in and discovered that they had conventional PLU stickers that indicated they had been grown in Peru! You really have to ask whether foods are really local, organic, etc. It helps to get educated about the crops you buy so you know which questions to ask. The best idea is to go see the farm!

    • You may have already tried this but have you lessened the cooking time? We ran into the problem of toughness too then realized that because the meat was leaner it often took a 1/4 to 1/3 of the normal cooking time for grain fed meat. We also learned to pull it off before it was done because it would keep cooking for a bit. Just a thought…good luck!

    • Same thing here – i have read about the benefits of grass fed beef and have bought sampler packages at least 3 times at about $500 each. So disappointed, the beef has never been tender, from the steaks to lower cuts. Also the taste is not what we are used to. I have tried cooking quicker, and also slow cooking usually tender cuts, to no avail. I want to eat healthier and more sustainable, but it’s money down the drain for me.

    • we raised our own beef several years ago and during the last 6 months we fed alfalfa pellets and it was the juiciest, most marbled, tasty meat we’d ever had! you can’t just throw them out on a dusty pasture and expect them to get fat. they need tons of forage and if it’s not growing (during winter) you need to supplement with the highest quality hay you can obtain. patience will elicit the best meat. never process before the animal is nice and fat.

    • My father was a meat cutter for over35 years. The main reason most red meat is tough when cooked was that the meat wasn’t aged properly after it was killed. The longer you age beef the more tender it will be. Beef should be aged 21-28 days. Most butchers won’t do this because they either do not know this or that they do not want to tie up there coolers aging it that long. Change butchers or slaughter house and you will solve this problem

  17. Thanks for your article–it’s refreshing to finally hear that the benefits of grass-fed are NOT because it is leaner. We raise our own grass-fed beef, and one of the principles we incorporate is to make sure the animal is nice and fat before slaughter. In most grass-fed breeds, it is possible to get a nice fat animal if the grazing is generous and the time is allowed for the animal to put on fat. The time and effort is well worth it, because a fatter beef is easier to cook, more flavorful and tender, and easier to digest for many people.

  18. I eat grass-fed meats and free ranging chicken and duck eggs and anything else that can be purchased from friends and farmers in my community. Why? for all the reasons you write about and also to support my local small farms. AND to NOT support the cheap, non-nutritious, often toxic food stuffs sold by the food industry. It feels good to my body to eat this way and it feels good to my spirit to turn my back on the corrupt corporations that have continually deluded and misinformed the public. I’m very sad about that and understand that I am very lucky to have access to REAL food.

  19. On grass fed beef…besides the reasons you mention…. I only by grass fed beef because I am allergic to corn. So in order to stay on the safe side I this is another reason ….because I’ve been told they may get fed with corn or anything related to it.

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