Categorized | Diet & Nutrition

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Grass-Fed Beef?

There is now an ongoing, and may I add quite intense debate concerning the advantages of grass-fed beef versus grain fed beef. As with any arguments that becomes so emotionally charged, there are quite a few claims and misinformation that goes into either argument. This short article will attempt to only touch on some of the issues, but will take out the “meat politics” that goes into the argument.

First, a couple of definitions are in order. Grass-fed beef, we will refer to here, is beef that is entirely fed on grass throughout the animal’s life. Grain fed beef does not mean that it was fed on grain throughout its life. For most of its existence it has been fed grass, and then just prior to slaughter the cattle were “finished” on grain. Many nutritionists and organic farmers have shed a bad light on this method, saying that it compromises the nutritional value of the beef.

So let us take a look at the two using price, taste and nutrition as the three basis of comparison:

1. Price. As the argument for grass-fed beef has gained momentum, to answer this demand we are seeing more grass-fed meats showing up in markets. The first thing you’ll notice is the higher price. The reason for this is pretty simple: grain feeding gives the cattle much more bulk, and as a result brings the cost per pound down. This is reflected by lower costs in the store.

2. Taste. Just looking at grass-fed beef as compared to grain fed in the market there will be a noticeable difference. Grass-fed will be much darker, and this is due to the fact that it won’t have the fat marbling you will see in high-grade grain fed meat. By feeding the cattle grain prior to slaughter the cattle will not only add pounds at a faster rate but will add fat. This will give this beef a much richer taste.

3. Nutrition. This is the area where proponents of grass-fed beef will make their case. They will point out the facts that they are lower in calories, have more vitamin A and E, plus have a higher level of antioxidants. You also hear how this beef contains healthy omega-3 fats. While this may be true, the amount of omega-3 fats in beef compared to, let’s say salmon is negligible.

The savings in calories however is noteworthy. If you ate 67 pounds of beef per year, which is the average per person in the United States, by switching completely to grass-fed beef you could save over 16,000 calorie per year. That does translate into quite a few pounds, and if you’re trying to control your weight you would be wise to eat a lot less of those tasty, marbleized steaks.

The debate will go on concerning this issue. And we haven’t even gotten into the antibiotics question, and there’s a lot there. But considering the fact that each side has an argument, and then throw in all the environmental issues (such as do we have enough grasslands to support grass-fed beef only) we will probably always be offered choices. It will be up to us individually to determine what is best for us.

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