Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
23 Feb

Grass-fed Vs. Conventional: When Does It Matter Most?

cow grassfed finalBy now, you’re convinced of the general overall superiority of grass-fed, pasture-raised meat. If you come at it from the nutrition angle, grass-fed wins across the board. If you’re more concerned with the ethics of animal husbandry, grass-fed animals live overall better lives than animals in concentrated feedlots. If you worry about the use of antibiotics in agriculture and the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, grass-fed animals receive less medication (and sometimes none). Whatever your inclination, animals who range free and nibble their biologically appropriate diet of various grasses tend to be happier, healthier, and produce more nutrient-dense meat, milk, and fat. It’s objectively “better.” Even an honest vegan will admit that.

But the stuff is expensive. I have the luxury of buying and eating solely grass-fed, pasture-raised meat and dairy, but not everyone can. Most folks have to choose. They have to pick their battles. Today’s post will help you choose wisely.

When to buy grass-fed/pasture-raised:

You’re buying high-fat meat

The real difference between grass-fed and conventional meat lies in the fat. Several key differences exist:

If you’re buying high-fat meat like roasts, rib-eyes, ground beef, ox tail, and other cuts, go grass-fed and make it count.

You’re buying bacon

As much as we fetishize the formerly forbidden food of bacon, it’s really not supposed to be eaten in massive quantities. My favorite way to eat bacon is as an ingredient in other dishes enhanced by the smokiness and fat. Sure, I’ll eat a few strips of really good bacon but I’m not sitting down to a pound of bacon. I’m not using bacon as a protein source. If you treat bacon like a condiment, you can afford the expensive pasture-raised stuff.

The evidence suggests it’s worth it. Pork raised in the outdoors on a high-oleic acid diet (versus indoors on a diet high in omega-6-rich soybeans and corn) has a better omega-3/omega-6 ratio, less PUFA, and more monounsaturated fat. The improved fat quality renders it more resistant to high heat. Another study found that raising Iberian pigs outdoors on an acorn and grass diet improved both the monounsaturated fat content and O3/O6 ratio.

You’re buying dairy

The evidence continues to mount in favor of organic and/or pastured dairy. Not only is it higher in omega-3 fats and antioxidants, the amount present in organic/pastured dairy is relevant to consumers. It contains about 50% more omega-3 fats than conventional dairy, meaning it has a physiological impact. If you’re eating a lot of dairy, maybe you’re a kid or a pregnant lady trying to get adequate calcium, organic pastured dairy is especially crucial.

You’re buying cream or butter (or ghee)

Butter/cream is (almost) pure milk fat, accentuating the differences between grass- and grain-feeding. Studies indicate that concentrated grass-fed milk fat really is better than the conventional stuff.

Is regular old cream, butter, and ghee okay to eat? Maybe, but I wouldn’t bet against grass-fed and the price difference isn’t great enough to justify taking the chance.

You care about farmer profits

The reason why grass-fed meat costs so much more than conventional meat is multifold:

They’re less efficient growers. Grass-fed animals are harvested at 22 months; grain-fed animals are harvested at 14 months.

They can’t be produced “in bulk.” Grass-fed livestock cannot, by definition, be crammed into feedlots. Space is a premium, and that means fewer animals per acre.

That makes wholesale grass-fed less profitable in general than wholesale conventional feeding. But when you sidle up to the grass-fed beef farm stand and initially balk at the prices, know that they’re not just artificially raising prices out of greed. Those prices are necessary for the farmer to stay afloat, make a living, and keep raising animals and producing meat the right way. And it means your purchase is going directly to the person who raised your meat, not run through the gauntlet of middle men.

You care about the environment

Last week, I explained how rotational grazing is better for the environment than normal range feeding or conventional feedlotting (yep, that’s a verb). It keeps livestock on a more natural feeding pattern, gives ample time for the paddocks to regrow its plants, and helps sink more carbon into the soil. Grass-fed ranchers are turning to rotational grazing in increasing numbers, so by purchasing grass-fed you are likely supporting farmers who employ environmentally-friendly methods.

You want more collagen

Who doesn’t want more collagen? This is just conjecture, but I’m confident it’s correct. Grass-fed animals move more than feedlot animals. They walk, they run, they cavort, they wrestle. All this means their joints receive more loading than the animal who just stands around eating grain and farting. And since like all other tissues the connective tissue responds to loading by strengthening and fortifying itself, grass-fed meat and bones and joints should have more collagen than their conventional counterparts.

When conventional is fine:

You’re buying protein powder

Protein is protein is protein. Soy isn’t whey, but grass-fed whey isolate is identical to conventional whey isolate. The feeding method does not alter the content and composition of the amino acids present in a protein. Grass-feeding can affect the fatty acidantioxidant, and micronutrient content of meat and dairy in a favorable way, but not the amino acid profile. Whey protein is about the protein–the amino acid profile. If what you want is pure dairy protein and you’re only worried about the nutrition, the source doesn’t matter.

You’re buying gelatin powder

Same situation as whey; gelatin is a protein. The feeding method doesn’t affect the protein content or amino acid concentration, so there’s no nutritional need to buy grass-fed gelatin. That said, most of the gelatin brands popular in the ancestral health community do come from grass-fed sources.

You’re feeding picky eaters

love a good grass-fed ribeye. I love the texture, the intense flavor, the deep yellow marbling, the complexity. But to some people, grass-fed meat is “tough” and “gamey.” If you’re feeding a dinner party full of these types of folks, people who’ve never had grass-fed beef, who are picky eaters, who prefer blander, more comfortable flavors, going conventional is probably safer. It’s more forgiving to cook and everyone (except for the hardcore Primals in attendance) will enjoy it.

You’re buying lean meat

If you can budget for it, lean grass-fed meat is still the superior choice, but since the major differences lie in the fatty acid composition and content, lean meat doesn’t have to be grass-fed. As mentioned above, the protein remains the same regardless of the feed. You will miss out on a few nutrients found in slightly higher levels in grass-fed meat, like zinc, sodium, and B12, but these are balanced by slightly lower levels of magnesium and potassium. Either way, it’s mostly a wash and all red meat, whether grass-fed or conventional, is a good source of all those nutrients.

Grass-fed animal foods aren’t a deal breaker for successfully going Primal. You can be incredibly healthy without ever sniffing a piece of grass-fed lamb. But if you’re going to eat a lot of animal foods, you owe it to your health to choose grass-fed when it matters most. Hopefully today’s post helps you decide what that means to you.

Let’s hear from you. When do you buy grass-fed? When do you skip it? I’d love to know your decision making process.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care!

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I’ve just started replacing conventional ground beef with grass fed organic, USA raised and harvested ground beef. The difference is incredible! Such flavor and texture. The price difference is about $3.00 per pound ($5.00 for conventional, $8.00 for grass fed). Worth it for me!

    Sarah wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • Make sure you are get 100% percent grass-fed and not grass-fed grain finished. They can both have “grass-fed” on the label.

      Also, you can score meat for slightly over convention, 1.5 dollars, by visiting the farm. Consider the opportunity cost first!

      Your time is most valuable!

      :)

      HeartX Technologies wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • getting* (only 1 percent annotation) 😛

      HeartX Technologies wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  2. Same here. We have never been huge red meat eaters, so I thought we could absorb the cost difference. To me, its worth it to buy the very best of any food I find, and meat is certainly one food I like to be especially careful about. This post is excellent, Mark. I agree with all your reasoning about what to buy. I’ve always felt that quality food can be thought of as long term health insurance. Very much worth the extra price to get the best we can find, and fortunately we live in an area where there isn’t much of a reason to cheap out on meat. The good stuff is always available and quite often “on sale” as stores and local farms try to beat each others prices.

    ShaSha wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  3. For me it’s mostly about availability. I get grass fed beef and lamb always since it’s easy to acquire here (if only in limited cuts) straight from the grocery store. I can get pastured pork and chicken, but it’s through special order from local farms, and while I prefer that method ideologically, in practice it doesn’t tend to line up with paydays and grocery days, and tends to lose out to the convenience of getting everything from one store on one day.

    Michelle wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  4. It looks like some of this article is off. The “You care about the environment” section isn’t finished, and “When conventional is fine:” isn’t formatted. The rest is great, and will help us save a few bucks!

    Quinto wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  5. This is why I buy a quarter or half a beef at a time directly from the farmer. The last half a beef I got in December was $1,700 for 368#, or $4.65/pound, meat and processing included.

    I realize that’s spendy, and you may not have access to a meat CSA like I do. Cowpool if you can, it is so worth it.

    Beth wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  6. Is there a difference between Grass-Fed and Grass-Fed/Grass-Finished

    Russ wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • In the US, the USDA requires that meat labeled “Grass Fed” to be grass fed and finished. Not sure about the labeling laws elsewhere and as most regulatory agencies end up serving the interests their supposed to monitor, it would be a good idea to keep yours eyes open on the issue.

      Keith wrote on February 23rd, 2016
      • Sadly that was true until 2016. It’s a little up in the air and unregulated since AMS withdrew the grass fed marketing claim standard. If anyone else has more information on it, definitely interested.

        Becky D wrote on February 23rd, 2016
        • Looking at the conference notes, it looks like “grass fed” no longer requires 100% grass. Though it does look like “100% grass fed” is regulated.
          https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/beef/grassfed

          Becky D wrote on February 23rd, 2016
        • Yep, you’re right (and so was I with my cynicism). Here is the release for anyone interested, https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/beef/grassfed.

          This is a shame, as I have dealt with dishonest butchers in Pikes Place in Seattle when I asked if the lamb was grass fed and he tried to go into a lengthy description about sheep because the answer was no.

          Perhaps a private group will step up like they did for the GMO thing. For now, all my lamb will be New Zealand or Aussie. Beef will be a bit trickier.

          Keith wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • Like everything else it the food industry it is annoying vague. Grass fed doesn’t mean much on a label, just that the cow ate grass some time in it’s life. It is often finished on grain while fattening in the feedlot. Grass finished means it was not fed grains in a feedlot, so a better option. I opt for pasture raised or purchasing from a farmer I know keeps their cattle in the field when weather permits. I’ve seen 100% grassfed labels too, but couldn’t find any verification for that label online. If anyone else has verified it I’d be interested. I assume it’d be false advertising if it wasn’t fed 100% grass but with legality I’m always wary.

      Becky D wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  7. “But the stuff is expensive.” That says it all for many people who are barely scraping by, trying to feed several kids and keep a roof over their heads. Paying more than twice as much for meat is often just not in the budget. We buy and eat both grass-fed and conventionally fed meat, but for people who can’t afford any grass-fed products at all, a quick glance through this article should be reasonable assurance that any reduction in nutrients can be made up from sources other than meat.

    I’m old enough to remember when beef really had wonderful flavor. Those animals have been bred out of existence some 30 or so years ago in favor of faster growth and better disease resistance. Grass-fed beef doesn’t compare to the steaks I ate years ago. Kobe beef (Wagyu) sometimes comes close, but who can afford that stuff on a regular basis? The take-home message here is, “You can be incredibly healthy without ever sniffing a piece of grass-fed…”

    Shary wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • +1!

      TF wrote on February 24th, 2016
    • I found having a big garden very beneficial in this regard. I understand not even have. I no longer buy herbs and greens at super market, so my grocery spending mainly only goes to meat, diary and small amount of raw nuts. Since I’ve been eating more of a paleo diet, there is a drastic decrease in purchase of fruits and other sugary foods as well.

      I think if I was still on a “whole foods plant based” vegetarian diet, I would have spent more money per month for foods. Yes, quality high fat meat is expensive, but it’s also caloric dense with high nutritional profile. I supplement by eating more organs like liver to get more nutritional value for the money. If you look at buying all organic vegetables, which I did for a year when I was on a vegetarian diet, it probably is more expensive overall, farmer’s market is exceedingly expensive. Unless you are with a CSA or is savvy to buy wholesales from distributors and have the space to store. You have to consider the cost of supplements as well, which I don’t do on a paleo diet.

      dude wrote on February 25th, 2016
    • I’m not share about grass fed. I live in the u.k. I buy most of my beef, pork and chicken form my local market. The butcher I go to kills his own animals. I don’t know if they are organic but the do taste lovely.

      Elizabeth wrote on February 25th, 2016
  8. I’ve had to learn how to cook the tougher (cheaper) cuts but thanks to maranading and the mandolin attachment on the food processor, we can afford to eat exclusively pasture raised meat now.
    Rare, mandolin sliced, and marinated chuck is fantastic for lunches. The nicer cuts are for splurges now, as much as I would love t-bone more often.
    Can’t wait to get an ice chest to do cow shares!

    Becky D wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  9. On a fixed income have had to work through the grass-fed issue the last 2 years. My son got 2 piglets to raise for meat but when ready for the butcher they were stolen. So finally found a local farmer raising pastured pigs, but the only items I can afford are bacon and sausage for hubby. I can get grass-fed ground beef at the grocery and I load up when it is reduced to half-price. Other than that I get the store brand chicken and other meats that mostly are labeled “hormone and antibiotic free”.

    In North Carolina we cannot get raw milk and the only organic milk is ultra-pasteurized. Sounds like it would be nutrient dead.

    Have been using Kelly Gold for butter and have seen the amounts drifting downward so I rarely go through a pound a month. Just little bits used here and there.

    Good article. The beginning months trying to go primal were expensive! But we have added chickens to the yard and have been reducing quantities of meats eaten at a single sitting. Working on expanding the garden this spring.:)

    Susan wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • I’m in NC too. Try Maple View Farms dairy for non ultra-pasteurized milks/creams. I wish we could get raw milk here, but you can always try finding a local goat farmer for goat milk. Legally it has to be labeled as for pet consumption only… wink wink. If you’re near the coast (I’m in Wilmington) then you know how good our local seafood is. It’s still Oyster season for another couple of weeks, and once it’s too warm for them the shrimp and crab will be heading back our way. I’ve found grass -ed ground beef at Fresh Mkt for $6.99/lb, and we get 3 burgers out of that. We get creative with our meals, and luckily I learned early how to be a frugal cook and maximize my food dollars while still maintaining my standards.

      Jessica wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • I’m in NC, too. If you’re near Durham the prices at the co-op are really good. We take a trip there every few weeks.

      Becky D wrote on February 23rd, 2016
      • what co-op?

        Susan wrote on February 23rd, 2016
        • It’s just called “Durham Co-op Market”
          1111 W Chapel Hill St, Durham NC 27701

          I think they get meat in on Thursdays. They just bring in what’s available that week so some times they run out. I go on Sundays and have never had a problem getting a good selection.

          Becky D wrote on February 23rd, 2016
        • Good to know! I live in Durham and didn’t know about this. Thanks!

          Richie wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • I’m sorry you can not get raw milk. I am very grateful to have access to raw diary here in South Florida, its not legal for human consumption of course. Hopefully you get cultured pasteurized diary at least like kefir and yogurt which is still very healthy, but not the supermarket type of course. Have you tried looking at http://www.localharvest.org/raw-milk.jsp?

      I would stay away from ultra pasteurized milk, they are the worst for you I think, ie the Organic Valleys “grassfed” junk. I always got stomach upset from drinking that stuff.

      One thing I find important is adding animal organs, like gizzard, heart, kidney, livers, which have much higher nutritional profile than the lean meat.

      dude wrote on February 25th, 2016
      • small wording correction, *Not legal to sell for human consumption.

        dude wrote on February 25th, 2016
        • I make my own yoghurt,and creme fraiche, from pastured milk, and have made my own cultured butter (but buying Kerrygold is so much easier!). Incorporating cultured/fermented dairy back into my diet has allowed me to up my protein intake, without have to live exclusively on meat, thus helping with the budget.

          Jessica wrote on February 25th, 2016
  10. Isn’t lamb, by definition, grass-fed? That was my understanding and I’ve never heard anything about sheep feedlots. If you like lamb, it makes it easier to get grass fed meat on your regular grocery store run. Not quite the same as beef, but you can do a lot of tasty meals with lamb even with picky eaters.

    Donna wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • No, lot’s of lamb is finished with corn, that is why US lamb is so bland compared to the lamb from the Oceania regions. New Zealand requires lamb to be finished on grass. Australia has a similar rule with a major loophole, when the is a drought they can finish on corn. Australia has been in a drought for many years now, but you can still taste the difference between their lamb and the conventional US lamb.

      Keith wrote on February 23rd, 2016
      • It is unlikely that finishing in Australia would be on corn. It is not really a major crop here and farmers would not normally have any on hand. More likely feeding during drought would be on hay made from wheat or perhaps oats.
        But then, grain fed is the exception in any case. There is so much open country with free grass that few farmers would want to pay the extra to feed out unless they have to.

        Peter wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • I lived in Northeast Colorado and there was a large sheep feedlot nearby.

      Geranium wrote on February 23rd, 2016
      • Thanks for the info. I’ll focus on NZ or local lamb!

        Donna wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  11. Here in Brazil cattle are fed mostly with grass and of life in recent months confined and fed grain for slaughter. And here the use of hormones in cattle is prohibited , I do not know about other animals.

    Thiago wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  12. What about eggs?

    Sean wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • Good point.

      Kit wrote on February 23rd, 2016
      • I remember reading that free-range beat organic because the chickens were eating bugs, giving them a better nutrient profile, whereas organic chickens were eating a processed grain-based diet resulting in lower-quality eggs. Also, organic can mean poor welfare conditions, it’s only about the food they’re given and not how they live their lives.

        Mrs Rathbone wrote on February 24th, 2016
        • My family raised some pasture poultry in the early days and then did a few years of cafo chicken eggs producing. I was young so I did not take in much of it. But I certainly know those cafo chickens were not healthy and what their living condition is like.

          There is a golden rule with chicken that some farmers go by is, a third grain, a third protein (bugs/grazing), and a third greens. I’m not sure I fully agree with the grain part being necessary.

          I would not buy omega 3 eggs, there are some controversial opinions on this, but I think they are generally fed with ow quality fats, like rancid flax seeds feed, which can’t be healthy. The terms “organic, cage free and pasture” from eggs in super markets are generally meaningless to me as well. There are loopholes you can do to label your eggs as pasture, such as only giving a small space of pasture for chickens to access but mostly they are inside and grainfed.

          I think telling a quality chicken eggs are not too hard. I used to get the best eggs from a farmer that pasture raised his chickens and feed them lots of kale. The yolk was very deep orange, some were “fluorescent orange”, which is supposed to be a mark of very rich eggs, this aspect also means it is a bit creamier. The fat contents and texture of the yolk can tell you the quality.

          There are also suggestion that chickens that gets more calcium lay eggs with tougher shells, but I’m not sure on the science of that one.

          dude wrote on February 25th, 2016
        • When I was a young girl we had an old Polish couple who lived up the street from us. They kept chickens in cages in their back yard and fed them some sort of mash with potato and vegetable peelings. The eggs they got off them were so nice. The yokes were a dark yellow.

          Elizabeth wrote on February 25th, 2016
        • Free-range does not mean it’s a pastured chicken eating bugs – that’s called “pastured”. When it comes to eggs, free range means that the hen was not crammed into a battery cage all of her life. Most free range eggs in grocery stores are, in fact, raised indoors in large barns. It beats battery cages, but isn’t as good as pastured.

          PH wrote on February 26th, 2016
        • PH, I looked it up and it’s a “varies by country” thing – in the EU (where I live) free range laying hens must legally have daytime access to outdoors space, which has to be “mainly covered with vegetation” – and the eggs we buy are from a store called Waitrose that mention they forage in open pastures on the box.

          So yes, good idea for people to look up the definitions and the specific practices of the farmer/store you buy from.

          Mrs Rathbone wrote on February 26th, 2016
  13. I eat a couple slices of bacon, and also sausage, for breakfast about 4-5 days a week, and buy pastured pork products for that. I also buy grass fed ground beef which is only a few bucks more per pound than regular store GB. I get pastured lamb products chops, etc. at the local farmers market. It’s expensive, so it’s a basically a treat, but tastes so good. Free range eggs, I eat a couple almost everyday. But my chicken meat is not pastured, free range, or even organic, since I can’t afford to pay 8 times the price of regular chicken, same goes for most other beef products as well.

    Keith wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  14. My immediate family only eats grass-fed beef since we first tried it about a year ago. It is quite a bit more expensive when you look at the price per pound but we only eat beef once or twice a week so I consider it worth the extra money and definitely worth it for our health. My husband is the real meat lover, and the penny-pincher when it comes to groceries, and he’s convinced grass-fed is the better, and much more enjoyable, choice. I buy pasture-raised pork for the most part but will buy conventional when it’s on sale, including bacon. In my area, free range chicken is ridiculously expensive so I always buy conventional there. And we go through a flat of free run eggs every week.

    Jana wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  15. “the animal who just stands around eating grain and farting”

    But enough about that particular coworker.

    I’ve found that grass-fed livestock taste fairly similar to properly-harvested and processed wild game. I just wish I could run into a heard of deer with the same fat pad as a pastured steer. Running away from predators and oncoming traffic makes for some pretty lean meat.

    His Dudeness wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • …and I’m the opposite! I wish I could get my hands on some venison, all my hunter friends are greedy about sharing their deer meat. We are lucky enough to be able to buy Elk and Boar (ground meat only) as well as Bison, at our local grocery store.

      Jessica wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  16. We don’t have grass fed steaks in any stores where I’m located just ground beef (which I do get) but I’m able to order organic grass fed steak offline and they’re amazing. I believe CLA

    barry hacklem wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • sorry, I believe CLA is responsible for numerous health benefits since it seems Grok unanimously around the whole world seemed to get it in their diets. I’m able to get organic valley pastured butter but I don’t get how it would be “less alherogenic”. isn’t real butter good period?

      barry hacklem wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • Informative post. I do enjoy the frozen NZ burger patties from Trader Joe’s…grass fed, as NZ meat is…great flavor, especially medium rare!
      I do have a concern about CAFO meats (versus grass fed) I didn’t see addressed. What about the possibility of “mad cow” from the factory farms? Seems reason enough to go for grass fed whenever available?

      Doobert wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  17. With the widespread use of herbicide “Roundup” – Can someone please throw some light on grazing animals eating grass contaminated with Glyphosate.

    Resurgent wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • Farmers grazing animals on pasture do not use Roundup on their fields since it would kill all of the grasses they need in order to graze livestock…

      The abuse of Roundup and the GMO controversy is really just about “field corn” and soy. Those crops have been genetically modified to resist Roundup and farmers spray it to control weeds in the fields of these two crops. Know that field corn is not the type of corn used for fresh eating, canned or frozen corn, and popcorn – those are a different type of corn that is not genetically modified. Field corn is used primarily for animal feeds and to make processed stuff like HFCS.

      PH wrote on February 26th, 2016
  18. My family gets naturally raised pork and pastured beef direct from the farmer, and we buy it by the whole hog and half (or quarter) beef. “Pastured” chicken is just too far out of our budget, so we buy free range chickens from a local farm that get fed the typical chicken feed on top of whatever bugs they pick up. But, they are a night and day difference in taste than the factory farmed nightmare of Perdue. I highly recommend to anyone who has access to buy bulk meat direct from farmers. It is significantly cheaper than buying by the pound and can allow broke people to eat like kings! Also, if you have Amish farmers in your area – buy from them. The ones around us aren’t certified organic and don’t call their meats/dairy pastured, but they actually are organic and pastured. They tend to be sold for less than anywhere else, too.

    Casey wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • I would bet you the not certified organic produces the amish grow are much more organic and nutritional than the certified organic low quality overpriced produces sold at wholefoods.

      dude wrote on February 25th, 2016
  19. Mark,
    Great write-up! I wonder about whey, though. In my research, concentrate is closer to nature than isolate – obviously more bioavailable for most of us. So, if consuming whey concentrate that does have the fat content, it makes sense to look for grass-fed. However, with the amount of processing, I’d like to see a study that compares the end results on the fatty acid make-up. Thoughts,

    Dr. Jeff wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  20. My concern with conventionally raised beef and pork is the GMO effect on the animal from them consuming GMO round up ready corn. Do you have any info on that Mark? Could you write a blog post about it? GMO issues are a BIG issue in my world, and I would love to know if there have been any studies on how feeding GMO corn effects the meat produced and it’s health value or risk to use eating said meat. Thanks!

    Wendy wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  21. Great article. I live in New Zealand and yes, we’re fortunate to have almost 100% grass raised animals. However, raising pasture fed animals still means the application of artificial fertilisers, and pesticides and insecticides on the pastures and the animals – all of which get into the food chain. We have a history here of using DDT (as did many other countries) until it was banned in 1989. It has a long after-life of about 50 years and is still present in our soils and waterways. I agree that pasture fed is still way better than feed lot, but unless the pasture fed is organic, we’ll still get some nasties hidden in the meat.

    Barbara wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  22. Mark, I SO appreciate your thoughts on this topic. Your words are encouraging that we don’t have to do this primal/paleo thing “perfectly” for our quality of health to improve. Your level headedness is refreshing. Thank you.
    I have been moving more toward buying grass fed when I can and only wild caught seafood. But to stay within a budget, it definitely takes some adjusting and having to let some things “go” each week in order to have animal foods on our plates. As with anything, I think we’ll just get better each week as we go along and learn what is important to each of us.
    This website is such a treasure chest of insightful, helpful information. We appreciate your hard work.
    Sincerely, Wendy.

    WendithS wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  23. I buy grass fed almost exclusively because I am against factory farming. Recently I was in a bind and bought conventional ground beef because it was the only option. After years of grass fed, it seemed almost flavorless. I also bought non-organic potatoes on that same shopping trip, and my son commented that they tasted weird. But this information is really helpful for those times when there aren’t many options.

    Elizabeth wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  24. Great article Mark, thank you. One topic that will likely catch the attention of people more away from the equator is the amazing amount of vitamin D in lard. As a mostly hairless animal, just like us, pork produces it’s own D via sun exposure and also stores in into its fat, which makes pastured pork very interesting as a natural source of D. It would be the second most dense natural source of D after cod liver oil, and on a primal diet you can eat plenty of lard. With up to 2000 UI per tablespoon you can avoid supplementing altogether even in northern Canada!

    TheMadRoot wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • Wow! I didn’t know that! Thanks a lot! Though I have to wonder, what about the pork that grew in winter?

      Coco wrote on February 24th, 2016
  25. Mark, as some mentioned above, an article about eggs would be great! Also seafood and fish are no easy to get locally for most of us, what would you recommend as more reliable sources? I always wonder about shrimps… Asian and Pacific cost ones make me think of Fukushima, Mexico gulf ones makes me think of Corexit. Right now I mostly limit myself to the wonderful Argentinian wild shrimps but they are closer to lobster as far as flesh goes, but they sure are neat, caught in the Antarctic sea.

    TheMadRoot wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  26. Regarding the protein powder… what about the antibiotics and hormones (and other junk?) that is given to conventionally raised beef? Does any of that make its way into the protein powder?

    Dawn wrote on February 23rd, 2016
  27. Whats the nutritional differences between grass fed dairy and organic dairy? Grassfed beef is good but nothing beats wild game, I am lucky thatone of my buddys hunts!

    paul wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • What I found in Holland is that Organic doesn’t always means that the animal had a natural food source. Most of the time the animals are still fed grains supplementing to what ever else they normally eat.
      Here Organic means no antibiotics, no hormones and longer growth time.

      Actually it is quite difficult in Holland to get only grass fed meat. Even on farms where they don’t feed grains, the cows are fed corn in the winter as there is minimal grass around.

      Marielle wrote on February 23rd, 2016
      • Organic is the same in the US. Many people don’t realize that, but sourcing from a small farmer who pastures their animals is much better than “organic” even though the small farmer doesn’t go through the expense and paperwork of being “certified organic.”

        All organic means is that the animal was fed certified organic food and the farm met the requirements for being certified organic (there are a few). For animals, it doesn’t mean the animal even lived outside, merely that the animal had “access” to be outdoors if it wanted. People would probably be really surprised at how small that outside space can be. Certified organic is only marginally better than “conventional” when it comes to meat.

        PH wrote on February 26th, 2016
  28. I think I’m just going to skip the middle meat and eat grass

    Jack Lea Mason wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • You are not evolved to have the extra stomach for it. But I guess you can juice the grass. No thanks for me though, wheat grass juice is the most foul substance I ever had to consume.

      dude wrote on February 25th, 2016
  29. Whenever the budget allows it I try to buy organic, if I’m lucky that organic meat/eggs/dairy has been grass-fed… Organic doesn’t always seem to be similar to grassfed. The chickens will still be raised in sheds with grains but they didn’t have any antibiotics
    Organic cows here might have been fed grass but it’s always mixed with grains somehow… So to find good grassfed food in Holland you really have to ask questions at the butcher and don’t even try it in the supermarkets..

    I have a butcher close by who had beef from Scotland and Ireland… He guarantees that they are grassfed but a steak of 125 grams costs around 5€
    Way to expensive to do regularly.

    Marielle wrote on February 23rd, 2016
    • You should try ground beef, it’s normally the less expensive “cut” of meat and it’s still super delicious.

      Coco wrote on February 24th, 2016
  30. We didn’t buy beef for years because I thought I didn’t like the taste. Then I got curious about grass-fed beef after reading about it so much here. At first, I only found organic beef and I didn’t think it was worth the price difference. But then I finally found some and it was not that much more expensive than organic and it tasted indescribably good. Seriously, I can’t believe I love eating beef that much. Also, I love to see the yellow fat when it’s cooked, it’s like a confirmation every time that it really is grass-fed.

    Now I’m just happy on all front, animal welfare, the environment, my health. Oh and it’s not just beef, the farm I found also sell pastured pork. It also tastes extraordinary good. Now if I could just find pastured chicken and eggs, I would be set.

    I buy normal bovine gelatine though, I’m not that rich.

    Coco wrote on February 24th, 2016
  31. Cheapest cuts of grass-fed I’ve found here are ground beef and chuck at 8.99/lb… If I bought that I’d barely have any money left for vegetables or anything else. I buy my meat from Whole Foods, so it’s antibiotic/hormone free but I can’t afford grass-fed. The pasture raised pork gets as low as 4.99/lb for cheap cuts, but I always read that ruminants are more nutritious for us, and that pork is ‘high in omega 6’ and all that, so I don’t want pork to be my main source of meat. I’d love to buy all grass-fed for the environment, but I just can’t afford that. I’m pregnant now, and still breastfeeding as well, and all I can afford is grain-fed, hormone free beef, and I can still only afford the cheapest cuts (ground beef/chuck roast) which are the fattiest. So would I be better off not eating beef at all, or only on the occasion that I could afford grass-fed? Or should I keep eating the fatty meat even if it’s grain fed, so I can get enough saturated fat during my pregnancy and nursing? Any opinions/thoughts would be appreciated.

    TF wrote on February 24th, 2016
  32. A very information article from my perpective as a grassland beef producer however I take issue with the generalization that Omega 3’s are not much higher than grain fed meats.
    If they are truly grass fattened the Omega 3’s are generally three to 500% higher than grain fed beef and up to a 1000% higher than grain fed chicken or pork. A least that is my experience on tests of ours since 1996 and in other double blind trials around the world.
    This is in the average of ground beef trim with the lower value cuts and organ meats being much higher and the loin steaks being less. The beneficial fat profile always being higher in the muscles or organs doing the most work. The average ground beef value of Omega 3’s is always over 200mg/100, in the same range as seasonally fat wild big game. This is the undisputed food of our evolution and grass fed beef, fattened to grade US high select, low choice fat cover is as close to the wild as in history. It is no accident that it is the land based healthy best for humans and the Omega 3 profile is higher in the ground beef than most fish including wild cod fish. Oily cold water fish such as sardines, herring, Solomon and mackerel are higher but not in CLA and other beneficial fats. Truly grass fattened beef is the best possible all round balanced for optimum human health. History and now science is proving this, and all facts considered it is the least expensive for health. On a holistic basis the nutrients are a fraction of the cost of green leafy vegetation. After all such vegetation is a concentrated version of greens of the pasture. If it is healthy and fattens cattle then it necessarily follows that such milk and meat is the healthiest edible form of stored sun,soil and plant energy concentrate.

    Beefeater wrote on February 24th, 2016
  33. To make sure you are getting what you are paying for you need to also stipulate that the animals are grass FINISHED also. This means that from weaning on it was only fed grass in one form or another. Grass fed alone does not guarantee that. The best way to get the product you want is to know your farmer and optimally to visit the farm. If a farmer is not willing to have you visit find another farmer. Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms as seen in FOOD INC. and featured in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma has an open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year visitation policy to ensure transparency for consumers.

    Sharon Pierce wrote on February 24th, 2016
  34. As another poster already wrote, grass-fed meat and pastured chicken is very hard to find in the Netherlands. Actually, many points of sale now promote grain-fed meats! As if that would be a big step up from the soy-based stuff. (It is better of course, but not by much I think) I started buying some organic meats about 6 months after I went Primal almost 4 years ago, but have only committed to buying NO other meats anymore relatively recently. When going out for dinner or lunch is a totally different story.
    I also only buy organic dairy. Luckily, grass-fed butter pretty easy to get!

    But what about offal? I have a picky eater at home, but often sneak in some chicken liver while making broth or beef heart when making beef-and-pork meatballs. Although it is organic, I am about 90% certain the chickens are not pasture raised.

    Simone wrote on February 24th, 2016
    • If you are going to sneak in chicken liver, how about sneaking in some turmeric in the soup as well?

      dude wrote on February 25th, 2016
  35. Anyone else slightly miffed by the pubmed study involving grass percentages in cow milk and the related “atherogenicity index?” The study is apparently straightforward in that it measured lipid profile yields of the varying grass content diets but then finally goes on to comment on their respective “nutritional values” as the ultimate result was that the most grass made for a halving of “atherogenicity index.” So…even grass fed dairy products create a plaque depositing situation? I guess I’m confused as to what this index measures exactly and upon what scale. Maybe it is about the likely hood of contributing to the climate of athlerosclerotic events rather than a direct precipitation of them. I hope so anyhow. What am I missing here? I understand that you are going to encounter polyunsaturated fats even in pasture raised/ grass fed animal products but the effects should be minimal to the point that an “atherogenicity index” wouldn’t be a consideration, no?

    This is just very curious to me.

    bigmyc wrote on February 24th, 2016
  36. Just read the 21-day Total Body Transormation and went shopping for the first time for food to get started…:YIKES – spent at least 5-times a weeks’ usual grocery bill for maybe 3 days of food. I suspect this is like all of US healthcare: out of reach for the majority of us; should have gone in to investment banking instead of education. Highly unlikely this ;program will be sustainable on any reasonable level.

    Plinthgarnel wrote on February 27th, 2016
  37. On dairy I find it very easy to find grass fed butter, but very difficult to find other grass fed dairy products (milk, cream cheese, sour cream, cheese). Any suggestions?

    Also, this post was on grass fed vs. conventional. A similar post on grass fed vs. organic and organic vs. conventional would be interesting.

    My hunch is that grass fed is often worth it, but organic may not be worth it due to the increased omega 3 level in grass fed. Thoughts?

    Eric wrote on February 27th, 2016
  38. My brother and I own a small town “mom and pop” butcher shop in Ohio. We have invented the first ever 100% grass fed and grass finished canned beef in the United States. It’s the same thing as cooking chuck roast all day in a crock pot. It’s canned and fully cooked in its natural juices. The only thing we add to the product is a pinch of sea salt. You can have healthy grass fed super tender and flavorful pot roast sandwiches within one minute. We are currently working with whole foods and kroger’s natural departments on contract to sell in stores. Check out our website and email us for more info. Rbgrassfedbeef.com

    Grassfedbeef wrote on February 27th, 2016
  39. I love seeing the carbon sequestration benefits of intense rotational grazing being highlighted! I don’t agree though that just because something is nutritionally the same, the other effects of that purchase are irrelevant. Conventional animal products such as whey still promote the factory farms that are ruining the planet.
    Also, is anyone is interested in keeping the non-GMO label on their meat, diary, or eggs backed by some meaningful laws, please go to http://Www.clearhonest.com and find out how to tell your elected representatives that food labels cannot mislead the public! We need everyone’s help, but can stop the DARK act if more citizens are engaged

    Zach Rusk wrote on March 4th, 2016
  40. What about offal such as liver?

    James wrote on March 7th, 2016
    • I recently learned that 40% of American beef livers are considered unfit for human consumption. Do you really want to eat offal that barely passed?

      Esther Cook wrote on April 29th, 2016

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