The popularity of grass-fed beef has risen and will continue its growth going forward. Most of us, including myself, have fallen prey to the many myths about red meat. Now, however, experts say cattle that have a grass diet are healthier and benefit the environment.
What does grass-fed mean? How is it different from grain-fed and organic? Is it healthier than the conventional type of beef? Here is what I’ve discovered about this high-quality meat.
This article will feature the health benefits of grass-fed beef and provide you with details of which brands and companies I use and recommend for you to purchase your beef.
My Top Grass-Fed Beef Brands In 2019
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- Meat From Local Farms/Ranches
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*The companies chosen above are based upon my personal opinion based upon me giving them a try and testing their quality.
What Does Grass-Fed Mean?
Grass-Fed Beef vs. Organic Beef
Just because beef is labeled grass-fed, all-natural, or organic; does it automatically mean that it’s of better quality? The labeling can be a little tricky and under-regulated. It’s important that you do your research. Here’s what we’ve been able to find out about the three standard labels:
The phrase ‘grass-fed’ applies to cattle that are fed natural grasses and forage for its own food its whole life after being weaned from its mother’s milk and not fed grain or pellets at any point. They live in open pastures and are never confined. During winter months, when no grass is available, cattle are fed hay or grass.
Strictly grass-only diets are expensive for ranchers to maintain and it results in a lower-weight gain for the cattle. According to Leslie Bonci, M.P.H., R.D.N., owner of Active Eating Advice, “Grass-fed animals take 20 to 24 months to be ready to go to market, whereas grain-fed animals take only 13 to 15 months. Also, grass-fed animals are lighter in weight and have less meat.” 
Below you will find two labels to look for when shopping for grass-fed beef. Their verification programs are more strict than what the USDA provides.
– American Grassfed, and
– Certified Grassfed by AGW (A Greener World)
When cattle are raised on organic, vegetarian feed to reduce chemical contamination. The feed can contain grains which are not a part of a cow’s natural diet. Organic is a tricky term because to acquire the organic USDA certification is challenging, expensive, and takes years to obtain. This is not just for meat but also for crops and farmland that grows crops or pasture. It’s impossible to say that the beef you purchased from your local supermarket is entirely organic.
Just because a cow is raised in a pasture does not mean that it is USDA Certified Organic. Also, cows labeled as organic are not raised on a 100% grass diet.
Is Grass-Fed Beef Better Than Grain-Fed Beef?
What Are The Benefits Of Grass-Fed Beef?
Produces More Healthy Fats
Grass-fed beef is leaner and has higher levels of healthy fats than regular or more conventional beef. “Research shows that grass-fed cows significantly improve the fatty acid composition of beef. Grass-fed meats are also richer in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fatty acids,” Jessica Handy, RD, tells us. In terms of omega-3 vs. omega-6; grass-fed beef possesses a more beneficial omega-3 ratio. This more powerful concentration will aid in the battle against inflammation.
“Grass-fed animals have a higher concentration of α-linolenic acid and other omega-3s, while grain feeding results in higher amounts of linoleic acid and other omega-6s,” Chad Clem, Director of Research and Development at Applegate Natural & Organic Meats, tells us. Your diet needs omega-3s to fight off inflammation. The American diet is already high in omega-6s and low in omega-3s. Grass-fed beef is one source for you to acquire the additional omega-3s needed for survival.
There are significant differences in the saturated fat composition of grain-fed beef versus grass-fed beef. According to Esther Blum, MS, RD, CDN, CNS, “There are three main types of saturated fat found in red meat: stearic acid, palmitic acid, and myristic acid. Grass-fed beef consistently contains a higher proportion of stearic acid, which does not raise blood cholesterol levels. 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.”
Excellent Source Of Protein
Grass-fed beef is a major source of protein. To produce 18 grams of muscle-building macro, all you need is 3 ounces of grass-fed beef; which is the standard serving size of red meat. According to Handy, “The amino acids are also more bioavailable than plant-based protein sources.” Unlike plant sources of protein, all nine essential amino acids are found in animal-based proteins, but the body cannot produce amino acids4jkr on its own and have to acquire them from food.
Full Of Antioxidants
“Glutathione (GT), is a new protein identified in foods that has the profound ability to get rid of free radicals within the cell,” Clem explains. Grass-fed beef have higher concentrations of GT compounds than grain-fed beef. At this high rate, the meat can help guard the cell against oxidized lipids or proteins, which will prevent DNA damage. Also, “Grass-fed beef is also higher in superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT)—which are coupled enzymes that work together as powerful antioxidants—than beef from grain-fed cattle,” Clem says.
Packed Full Of Vitamins
“Cattle finished on grass have higher levels of A-tocopherol (vitamin E) in the final meat product than cattle fed high-grain diets,” says Clem. His findings are from studies that prove that grass-finished beef has three times more vitamin E than grain-fed beef. The vitamin E acts as an antioxidant. According to Clem, “Vitamin E helps delay the oxidative deterioration of the meat, which causes the meat to turn brown in color.” The high levels of vitamin A, found in grass-fed beef, plays a vital role in skin and eye health. Clem adds, “Cattle that graze on solely grasses produce raw meat with a yellowish tint in the fat due to the carotenoids in the grasses. When making hay products for grain-fed cattle, around 80 percent of the carotenoid content can be destroyed.”
Better For The Planet’s Biodiversity
Biodiversity is basically the variety of life in the world or in a particular ecosystem that calls Earth their home. “Plants, wildlife, microorganisms, and fungi have evolved in a symbiotic relationship with grazing animals for thousands of years,” Handy tells us. “When we mimic these natural systems with cattle, a term also known as ‘biomimicry,’ we see improvements in the biodiversity and ecology of the land.”
“Well-managed cattle mimic the traditional patterns of wild herds by moving across grasslands, tilling and fertilizing the earth, aerating soils, and helping the grass to grow,” Mike Murray, CEO of grass-fed meat brand Teton Waters Ranch, tells us. “Holistic management of cattle promotes the landscape to flourish as it would naturally, encouraging native species to stay in these habitats and create a more diverse ecosystem, which in turn makes it more resilient. Because 100 percent grass-fed cattle are allowed to graze on a buffet of the best plants and grasses, they eat exactly what their body needs at the time.” This nutrient-rich diet produces high quality, healthy meats. “They get the nutrients from a more diverse diet, helping them to be healthier than feedlot-fed cattle. Healthy cows that eat a diverse diet of natural grasses and plants produce better-tasting beef with added vitamins and minerals, making it more nutritionally dense,” Murray says.
Carry Less E. Coli
A Consumer Reports study revealed that consuming grass-fed meat instead of conventional red meat lowered your risk of food poisoning and resulted in less antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The researchers discovered that out of 300 samples of raw ground beef tested, the conventional beef was two times likely to be infected with superbugs than all types of sustainably-produced meat. The most significant difference in the results was between the conventionally produced beef and grass-fed beef. Of the grass-fed samples, only six percent had superbugs.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) published a study and noted two things when comparing cattle that were fed grains versus fed grass. The researchers found that grain-fed cattle may increase E. Coli infections in humans. They also found that the pathogens from grass-fed cattle are destroyed by acid shock, which is much like the condition of the human stomach. Resulting in the reduction of the risk of contracting E. coli.
Takes A Longer Time To Reach Full Weight Goals
“Grass-fed cattle take a longer time to reach full weight in comparison to grain-fed cattle because grass-fed cattle are allowed to roam on pastures and eat natural grasses,” Handy says. “Unlike conventionally-raised meat, grass-fed animals are not fattened on grains in feedlots, nor given growth hormones to speed the process.” The slow process of roaming in pastures and the consumption of natural grasses keep the cattle from the exposure to unnecessary medication. It also leads to the assurance that antibiotics will work adequately on our immune system.
Benefits Section Source: 
Is Grass-Fed Beef Healthier?
Compared to conventional beef, grass-fed beef is leaner. There are no antibiotics, animal by-products, nor hormones. It contains a higher concentration of essential nutrients, antioxidants (glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and catalase), vitamins (A, E and Beta-carotene) and an important fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
CLAs are known to improve immunity and to have anti-inflammation benefits in humans. It decreases the risk of cancer, diabetes, and obesity. The only way for the human body to obtain CLA is through milk, butter, and beef because it cannot produce CLA on its own.
When it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, grass-fed beef contains 50% more than standard beef but still hold less than the amount found in salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids help fight heart disease, dementia, and arthritis.
Finally, grass-fed beef is preferred by many experts from a food safety viewpoint because it is less likely to carry superbugs; which are bacteria that over time, have become resistant to several types of antibiotics.
Does Grass-Fed Beef Cause Inflammation?
Omega-6 and Omega-3 are fatty acids that are vital for human health. Scientists consider Omega-6s to pro-inflammatory. They characterize Omega-3s as good fats, plays an essential role in every system in the human body, and are anti-inflammatory.
Grass-fed beef is high in omega-3s. It contains 2-5 times more than grain-fed cattle.
Studies show that more nutrient-dense foods are produced from grass-fed cows than from grain-fed ones. The robust richness in color, texture, and flavor of grass-fed animal products indicate that the nutritional value is high.
Is Grass-Fed Beef Antibiotic-Free?
“Cattle are meant to eat grass, not feedlot corn and grain,” Murray reminds us. “When allowed to graze on grass as they are meant to, cattle are less likely to get sick and require antibiotics. It takes longer for a grass-fed steer to grow to full maturity, and that is also due to our commitment to no added hormones or antibiotics to promote growth.” A reduction of growth-inducing hormones and antibiotics assist in allowing a cow to naturally mature; making it a more humane process for the cow. It also protects us from becoming resistant to antibiotics vital for human medication.
“Antibiotics used for animal production purposes are unnecessary and contribute to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a serious public health concern,” says Urvashi Rangan, PhD, Executive Director of Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center. “Infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria can be more difficult to treat and are a major public health problem. Because grass-fed cattle eat only forage, poor health that can arise from grain-intensive diets is prevented. Also, pastures can only feed herds of a certain size, and in a properly managed pasture, the stressful and crowded disease-promoting conditions of the feedlot are eliminated. Healthier, less stressed animals need fewer antibiotics and other drugs to stay healthy.” In other words, happy, naturally fed cows produce healthier meat.
Antibiotic-Free Section Source: 
Why Does Grass-Fed Beef Taste Different?
Grass-fed meat tastes differently. “Most grain-fed beef is finished off with a diet, including corn. This creates a slightly sweeter flavor and much more marbling,” clinical nutritionist Tara Coleman, CN, states. “When a steak cooks, the fat from this marbling melts into the meat, creating a much more tender cut. Grass-fed tends to taste leaner and quite simply more like meat. Again, this is because of both the cow’s diet and the subsequent lower fat content.”
Beef has terroir, which refers to how the climate, soils, natural grasses, and terrain of a specific region influences the taste of the beef. It’s how the saying goes, “we are what we eat.” Well, this goes for cattle as well. This explains why the dairy from grass-fed cows has a distinct taste from dairy from grain-fed cows.
Is Grass-Fed Beef Easier To Digest?
Yes, grass-fed beef is easier to digest than grain-fed beef because of the quality of meat.
Grain-fed beef comes from commercially raised cattle that eat corn or soy. Grains are not a cow’s natural diet and therefore, can sometimes cause symptoms like bloating, heartburn, and other digestive flare-ups for people with food irritations.
Grass-fed beef is not hard on one’s digestive system because it’s leaner, the cattle are raised in open pastures, eat natural grasses or hay, and it’s high in omega-3 fatty acids. There are no hormones, nor antibiotics; making it healthier for the human body.
Why Is Grass-Fed Beef More Expensive?
Grass-fed beef is more expensive than the standard supermarket beef because of the way it is raised and production profit margins.
In 2015 Consumer Reports performed tests on the prevalence and types of bacteria in ground beef and found that meat from grass-fed cattle was less likely to contain superbugs. They also found that sustainable beef is worth it for consumers to pay the extra money.
With the addition of an extra year of food, care, and labor; a farmer might have to work with grass-fed cattle a year longer just for them to reach slaughter weight as compared to conventionally raised cattle. Although grass-fed cattle are usually smaller with less meat to sell per head, it’s worth it for the farmer and the consumer. Will Harris, owner of White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Georgia, breaks it down this way, “Using antibiotics, hormones, and feedlots produce obscenely cheap beef. When you don’t use them, your production costs are higher, so your prices need to be higher, too.” Grass-fed beef may be little more expensive; it’s definitely worth it when you consider the benefits of supporting sustainable organic methods over the conventional ones.
What Company Should I Buy Grass-Fed Beef From?
I hope you enjoyed discovering the health benefits that grass-fed beef offers. Yes, it is a little more expensive than your conventional types of beef; like grain-fed beef. In my opinion, it’s worth it when you look at the fact that it contains less total fat; so there are fewer calories. It’s packed with o-mega 3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation in the human body. Finally, grass-fed beef is hormone-free and antibiotic-free, which lowers the potential of sickness.
The brands and companies that I prefer to purchase my grass-fed beef from are Crowd Cow and Butcher Box. I believe that they offer the highest quality of beef, chicken, and other meats. They are a great choice if you are new to humanely raised, high-quality meats, looking to purchase for your family, and buying meats from a reputable company.
Sources For This Page:
1 – https://aaptiv.com/magazine/grass-fed-beef
2 – https://www.eatthis.com/grass-fed-meat-facts
3 – https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/08/why-grass-fed-beef-costs-more/index.htm