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

The Differences Between Grass-Fed Beef and Grain-Fed Beef

cowsWhen making the transition into the Primal way of life, a lot of people get tripped up on the question of grass-fed beef. Is it necessary? (No.) Is there really that big a difference between conventional beef and grass-fed beef? (Kinda.) What does grass-fed actually mean? How do conventional cows live and what do they eat – and does that matter enough to me to make the effort to incorporate true grass-fed beef into my diet?

Hopefully, the following article will shed a bit of light on the subject, making it easier for you to make an informed decision based on your preferences, your needs, your budget, your personal ethics, and the objective information provided.

Cow’s Diet

You’d think this would be a simple, single sentence section – grass-fed cows eat grass, grain-fed cows eat grain. Bam. Done, right? Not quite.

For the most part, all cows start on grass. Well, calves drink milk, obviously, and then “milk replacement” (which appears to be a sort of high-powered protein shake made of milk proteins, lard, lactose, added minerals, and several choice supplements) upon separation from their mothers, but even the most CAFOed out cow probably started with grass before being switched to concentrated feed. Concentrated feed can mean any number of things, but the base food is always a grain slurry, typically of corn and corn byproducts (husks, cobs), soy and soy hulls, spent brewery grain, spent distiller’s grain, and other cereals. CAFO nutritionists can get pretty creative, though, sometimes including cotton byproducts, old candy (including wrappers), beet and citrus pulp, and peanut shells in their cows’ diet.

To say grass-fed cows eat grass isn’t telling the entire story. It’s more accurate to say they eat graminoids, which comprise hundreds of different species of sedges (found in wild marshes and grasslands; a famous sedge includes papyrus), rushes (a small but plucky family of herbaceous and rhizomatous plants), and true grasses (cereals, lawn grass, bamboo, grassland grass – the type of grass that produces the leaves Walt Whitman writes about). And that’s just the graminoid. Cows will also nibble on shrubs, clovers, and random leaves if they can get to them. Basically, they’ll eat whatever’s in reach, green, and leafy. Legally, grass-fed cows may also eat cereal grain crops in the “pre-grain stage,” hay, silage, and non-grain crop byproducts (one of my favorite farms gives their cows leftover veggies, for example, and it’s fantastic; that would qualify).

There’s yet another hazy category: the pasture-raised cow. These guys get steady lifelong access to open pastures, but those pastures are supplemented with feed bins containing grain feed. Not technically grass-fed, but not quite sucking down gumdrops like Grandma. Purveyors of pastured cattle who include grain in the feed are usually pretty conscientious stewards of their operation, and I’ve had great meat from cows that were fed grass and grain concurrently.

Living Conditions

While both grass-fed and CAFO cows start out on grass and milk (many of those cows you see grazing on open grassland along highways end up in feedlots eventually), only exclusively grass-fed cows live out their entire lives on grassland. CAFO cows move to feedlots once they hit 650 or 750 pounds, a weight it takes the average cow twelve months to reach on pasture. Feedlot life lasts three to four months, plenty of time to boost the animal’s weight above 1200 pounds and increase intramuscular fat deposition (marbling). Feedlots have the potential to be pretty grim places. While I’m sure “good” feedlots exist, nondescript, bleak pens crowded with sick, overweight cattle and their manure are the norm. The purpose of the feedlot, after all, is to maximize weight gain and minimize overhead. You don’t do either by recreating the cow’s natural habitat.

Whenever I drive up the I-5 to Northern California, I pass the Harris Ranch feedlot in Coalinga. The Harris ranch feedlot is the largest I’ve ever personally seen – up to 250,000 head of cattle annually, 100,000 head at any one time, about 200 million pounds of beef produced each year – but it’s actually considered to be a moderate sized feedlot. If it’s above 80 degrees, you smell the lot long before you see the signs for it. Now, I’m not citing any studies here, but I think it’s a safe assumption that cows prefer a grassy paddock to a pond of their own manure. You don’t have to care about the animal’s welfare – after all, we’re going to end up eating them – but I enjoy my meat more knowing that it comes from an honest operation that respects its participants’ living conditions.

Does it matter?

I think so. I make no bones about my primary reason for supporting grass-fed beef (I, ahem, want to eat delicious animals and buying delicious animals promotes their production), but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about their welfare while alive. I’ve been to grassland farms with families of cattle ranging, and if you get to close to a calf the mother will stomp and chase you down. I didn’t even know cows could run like that. Are they cud-chewing ungulates with minimal brainpower in the grand scheme of things? Sure, but they care about stuff in their own beefy way. And I find that pretty touching. I’ve also hiked through cattle farms and watched the cows roam and range all over for acres, contrary to the grass-fed detractor’s claim that cows prefer to be confined to a single, safe spot.

Nutrition

I’ve been one to bang the omega-6 in feedlot beef drum, perhaps as loudly as anyone, but I think a revisiting is in order. Simply put, while the omega-6:omega-3 ratio in CAFO beef is worse than the ratio in grass-fed beef, it’s not because the omega-6 content of beef fat skyrockets with grain feeding; it’s because the omega-3 content is basically nonexistent. The absolute totals of omega-6 in grass-fed and grain-fed are roughly similar. Grass-fed is even richer in PUFA by percentage, owing to the increase in omega-3s. As long as you’re avoiding or limiting the real big sources of linoleic acid in the diet, like seed oils, bushels of nuts, and conventionally raised poultry fat, the omega-6 content of conventional beef fat won’t throw your tissue ratios off by much (if at all). What will, however, is the lack of omega-3 fats in grain-fed. Eat some fatty fish or take some high quality fish oil to round it out.

Grass-fed beef is also higher in B-vitamins, beta-carotene (look for yellow fat), vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), vitamin K, and trace minerals like magnesium, calcium, and selenium. Studies show grass feeding results in higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid, the “good” naturally occurring trans fat. Studies also typically show lower total levels of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats in grass-fed cows, but that’s just looking at the trimmed cuts. If you look at the whole carcass post-slaughter, you’ll find it’s encased in a thick shell of saturated animal fat that gets removed because consumers are scared of it and many grass-fed producers love to market their meat as low in “bad fat” and low in cholesterol. Kurt Harris, who regularly hunts “lean” wild bucks and miraculously discovers ample stores of body fat, just put up a post dealing with this exact issue. Long story short: grass-fed beef has plenty of fat, it’s just distributed differently. More subtle marbling and more subcutaneous deposition.

Grass-fed truly shines in the micronutrient profile for one reason. Grass-fed cows get more nutritious food. Remember: they aren’t munching on monoculture lawn cuttings (let alone soy and corn). They’re eating a wide variety of (often wild) grasses, sedges, rushes, shrubs, and herbs, each with its own nutrient profile. Of course, how nutritious those graminoids are depends on the quality of the soil, or the terroir. If we care about what our food eats, we should also care about what the food that our food eats is eating, right? Grass-fed isn’t just miraculously higher in selenium because of some magic process; it’s higher because grass grown in good wild soil patrolled by plenty of mobile, self-perpetuating organic fertilizer machines contains more selenium than soybeans or corn grown on nutrient deficient land. It should follow that pastured, grain-supplemented beef raised on good soil by good ranchers also contains higher levels of micronutrients when compared to the CAFO cow, albeit not as high as the purely grass-fed.

Eat beef, first and foremost. Get the highest quality beef you can afford, whether that ends up being premium grass-finished from the farm up the road or USDA Prime from Costco. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Man cannot live on wild caught canned sardines and crushing angst alone.

Cost and Accessibility

For the average grocery store shopper, conventional meat is cheaper and easier to get. You drive your car to the grocery store parking lot, walk twenty feet to the entrance, walk to the meat counter, balk at the $9/lb grass-fed ground round, grab a few Styrofoam containers of ground beef for a few bucks per pound instead, and you’re done. Not much thinking, hard work, or money required. This is how most people handle their meat acquisition.

If you want that same deal for the grass-fed beef, you have several options.

  • Wait for a sale at the grocery store and stock up. It probably won’t hit $3/lb, but you might save a few bucks.
  • Find a farmers’ market nearby (if any exist and the season permits) that has a grass-fed beef vendor. Hope they sell for a reasonable price, haggle if not. Buying large quantities might lower costs for you.
  • Buy direct from a farm. Search Eatwild or browse the list from this post for the nearest provider. Oh, and you’ll need a freezer to store all the meat, since you’ll have to buy in bulk to reduce costs. If you go this route, you can sometimes get a quarter, half, or entire cow for as little as $4/lb. (Hint: remember to ask for the fat!)

Each route involves more effort, more money, and/or more time. All three are worth pursuing (grass-fed is that much better, in my opinion), but I can understand why the barrier to entry appears so high – a combination of price and time. To reduce the former requires more of the latter, usually. And if you do it right and get a freezer to go with your side of beef, you’re still incurring a big initial investment. Not everyone can do that.

To my knowledge, “average” price figures don’t exist. Grass-fed from one Whole Foods can be a dollar cheaper per pound than in another Whole Foods two zip codes over; the same farmer who gives me grass-fed ground round for four bucks a pound at the Santa Monica farmers’ market might charge five dollars at the Beverly Hills market.

Bottom line? Paying $12/lb for grass-fed flat iron steak regularly isn’t worth it, to me, but spending extra time researching farms/visiting farmers’ markets/scoping out sales to obtain affordable grass-fed beef definitely is worth doing.

Availability

From 1998 to 2009, the number of serious grass-fed producers in the United States grew from just 100 to over 2,000. Market share grew in the same time frame from just $2 million to $380 million (to over $1 billion if you include imported grass-fed beef). Today, you can find grass-fed beef (and lamb and bison, even) in standard supermarkets, not just your specialty upscale grocers. Farmers’ markets are exploding (I gotta arrive earlier every weekend, it seems), and the Slow Food/locavore movements are picking up steam. Clearly, the availability of grass-fed beef is growing with growing consumer awareness and demand – funny how that works out, eh?

Taste

In the end, what else matters? The final arbiter of a food’s worthiness is always taste. Food should – must – taste good for us to eat it, especially food that is responsible for a big portion of our caloric intake. Typical grass-fed beef is intramuscularly leaner, more robust, and “beefier” than typical CAFO beef, which I find to be somewhat mushy and bland.

Still, stringy, tough, unpalatable grass-fed beef exists along with incredible grain-finished beef. I’ve had both. I’ve eaten great conventional chuck roasts purchased for a few bucks per pound at the Hispanic supermarket and I’ve had excellent steaks from Prather Ranch, a Northern California producer that goes purely grass-fed until the last few weeks of a cow’s life, when its diet is supplemented with chopped forage, rice, and barley. While good grass-fed is better than anything else, the grass-fed label can’t make up for a bad rancher (or poor foraging) and a good rancher can make up for some grain in the diet (taste-wise; perhaps not nutritionally).

For me, the clearly superior version of beef comes from the grass-fed and –finished cows raised by ranchers committed to providing excellent stewardship of both soil and cattle. Next, cows that have been grass-fed, pastured, and grain-finished by similarly committed producers with similarly maintained soil quality.

After that? Just eat beef. Whatever you can get on a regular basis. Grab the occasional grass-fed cut when you can, see how it tastes, and figure out if it’s worth it to you.

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 grew up on a farm with a few animals, a big garden, and even bigger percentage of pastures. Grass-fed goats, pastured chickens, ducks, geese and other fowl, plus regular hunting every year kept us self-sufficient and well fed all year long – on top quality food. All of my friends growing up always complained because I was thin without effort – but look what I was eating while they had Twinkies, fake cheese, and the like.

    Now, I refuse to buy CAFO meat. As long as my family has the money for a decent food budget, I will buy grass fed. And preferably local, where I can visit the farm to see that the animals are happy. That matters to me – I cannot bear KNOWING that animals are suffering just so I can have more meat at a meal. We (my husband and I) also hunt, which I believe is the ideal way to get meat, so that eases the costliness of my food priorities.

    I just finished reading “The Omnivores Dilemna.” I think it should be required reading at some level of the education system for every human being (at least for us Americans).

    Dawn wrote on April 7th, 2011
  2. So if the fat I buy from “grass fed” beef isn’t yellow, am I being had and actually purchasing grain finished? Or is there some natural variation?

    PK wrote on April 7th, 2011
    • No you are not necessarily being had. The time of year, type of grass/legume, quality of the grasses can all affect nutrient content of the meat. Typically the fat will be the “yellowest” in the spring when the grasses are the lushest and if there is a high percentage of legumes in the pasture. If the farmer can take you out and show you his production methods and you can verify that he is indeed only grazing his cattle on grass and not also supplementing them with grain then you are fine.

      Jim wrote on April 8th, 2011
    • And, when opening the package/container you can smell the nutrition.

      I ordered 20 lbs of grassfed/finished bovine kidney fat and the color was white. When I opened the packaging and stuck my nose in it I literally smelled pasture/grass.

      All the other fat from that same animal was yellow, e.g. off the steaks, roast trimmings and slightly whiter (beige) around the heart.

      Commercial, grain-fed fat doesn’t smell like anything.

      My grassfed/finished fat smells like pasture even when I throw it outside and leave it there for a week, regardless of weather, sun, heat, rain, cold and snow. I picked it up and smelled it, and it still smelled like I just took it out of the freezer/fridge.

      Suvetar wrote on April 8th, 2011
  3. I have cousins who are beef ranchers in the mid-west, and I have to congratulate you on your post. There are many out there that don’t realize most cows start out being pastured. My cousins prefer grass fed, because that’s all they have ever had. But visitors to their farm generally don’t like it. They prefer store bought meat (me, I like them both!)

    IIRC, the difference between omega-3 in grass fed and grain fed beef is about 10mg per ounce; 15mg per ounce for grain fed beef, and 25mg per ounce for grass finished. That makes the “ratio” to omega-6 much higher in grass fed, but we’re talking about a tiny amount of difference in total omega-3. Its a distinction not worth noting, really, unless you’re trying hard to sell a premium priced product.

    Not every food has to have a good omega 3 – omega 6 ratio; your diet overall should have a good ratio, but eating beef, even grass fed and grass finished, isn’t enough to get you there. Unless you’re going to eat 12 pounds of beef (the amount needed to get your “RDA” of omega-3).

    So you’re right; if you can, and prefer the taste, go with grass fed. But if you can’t because of cost or availability, don’t sweat it.

    Frank wrote on April 7th, 2011
    • I’m more worried about the other health issues the animal had on grain.
      Inflammation is high, cortisol is high…phosphorus/calcium ratio is WAY off, and the list goes on with several diseases that people don’t think about like cirrhosis of the liver, adrenal disfunction, high stomach acidicy creating acid-resistant e-coli…

      All those things especially the natural homrones the cow produces are still in the meat, not to mention you having to shoot antibiotics into the animal because it’s sick from the feed you’re giving it.

      Grain isn’t normal. Look up what Cal/Phos ratio alone does to an animal.
      And once the meat leaves the slaughter house there are other factors the farmer isnt aware of. Meat is being gas-colored, injected with food coloring, preservatives, etc…

      Suvetar wrote on April 8th, 2011
  4. Great article! In terms of flavor, grain fed beef simply falls flat in the face of grass-fed beef.

    I’m lucky to have two farmers at my local farmers market that sell 100% grass-fed beef for about 25% less than the Whole Foods just 5 blocks down the street. Both farmers provide excellent product and have a reputation for treating their animals, from birth to slaughter, more like pets than livestock.

    If anything could convince me of the existence of a loving god, it is grass fed rib eye!

    fritzy wrote on April 7th, 2011
  5. i read somewhere that what the cow eats in the last period of its life (i think it was the last 3 months) is the most significant in terms of the nutirition profile of the meat.. if that’s true, then it’d be kind of pointless to have cows eat grass all their lives only to “finish them off” with grain – which is what most of the store-bought grass fed meat is.. i was only able to find “100% grass fed and finished” beef from local farmers..

    The Primalist wrote on April 7th, 2011
    • Absolutely! Even a short period of grain feeding can wipe out all of the benefits of a lifetime of grazing grass!

      Jim wrote on April 8th, 2011
  6. Well said Mark! I am fortunate enough to be able to buy 100% Grass-Fed Beef from a local farm for as little as $3.00 per lb. hanging weight. I have to buy a whole cow but the cost only goes up to $3.19 for a half cow.

    When its all said and done you end up paying about $4.76 for a half cow which is a great deal since you get ALL CUTS. To me, grass-fed beef is worth it. The cost for me is no different and the extra time is PLAY to me!

    I used to care about the quality of meat at a restaurant but now I don’t worry too much. If I am in Chicago and choose to go to a nice steakhouse then I will ask if they have grass-fed beef. If not, then who cares!! I am in Chicago NOT eating deep dish pizza – whats not to love?!

    Oh, I just had a 10 oz. Sirloin Steak tonight from our grass-fed cow share!!

    Primal Toad wrote on April 7th, 2011
  7. I live in Phoenix and we ordered 1/2 a pig and 1/2 a grass fed cow from a local ranch called Date Creek Ranch. The people are super nice and they deliver to a central location in the city for free. The beef was about $4.50 per pound for all cuts and the pork was about $3.90 per pound. I recommend finishing your steak with some homemade cultured garlic butter. Holy cow!! Pun intended.

    Desert Caveman wrote on April 7th, 2011
  8. Love getting these emails and reading these posts! My fiance and I started going primal just 3 weeks ago and its been great! I just finished the book and I wouldn’t hesitate to read it again! I tell everyone about it! Thanks so MUCH!

    Aly&Vic wrote on April 7th, 2011
  9. Sweet, thanks for the relief.

    I have never ate grass-fed anything. The only thing I can get my hands on is an occasional half-gallon of raw, grass-fed milk.

    Last I checked, a pound of grass-fed ground beef was $8.00 here in SoCal… And that was on a lean 10% fat cut.. I can get commercially raised filet mignon for cheaper!

    Matt wrote on April 7th, 2011
  10. I have a question. I’m an expat (living in Ukraine), and I haven’t been back to the US in two years. I have made my switch to a primal lifestyle in the last two years. Basically, I haven’t been able to try US grass-fed beef.

    The beef I eat here is grass-fed (simply because corporations haven’t taken over agriculture-NOT because there are two choices). The meat is not very tender and has a gamey taste. Is this also true of US gf beef, or is it just poor butchering skills in Ukraine?

    The pork her is awesome, as is the lamb; but I do miss a tasty steak…

    Tim Morales wrote on April 8th, 2011
  11. “I just found out that the big chested chicken…is actually a genetically modified chicken.”

    Not really. Meat chickens have just been selected and crossbred, over and over, until it is what it now is; this is true of any breed of livestock versus wildlife. A purist could call this “genetically modified” since the chicken’s genes have been rapidly changed over decades by human selection (“I’ve selected you two for mating”) vs natural selection by chicken choice over millennia (“Hey, you’re a sexy chicken!”), but still, a meat chicken is not a true GMO… its DNA has not been artificially modified in a laboratory with, say, fish genes or had bacteria inserted for some arcane reason.

    But, take that same breed of chick, let it free-range with limited feed and you’ll have a slower-growing, somewhat smaller chicken that tastes delicious and is much healthier to eat.

    I raise dozens of them in chicken tractors every year, a great choice for a tiny farm, as are rabbits.

    Jenny wrote on April 8th, 2011
    • Rabbits! OMG I LOVE rabbit meat.
      So hard to get though, people are always after chicken :(

      Suvetar wrote on April 8th, 2011
      • Then raise your own! They are ideal backyard livestock for even urbanites. I buy meat rabbit babies in late spring for $3-$5 each and feed them fresh grass, comfrey and various weeds pulled throughout the summer. I process them in fall… no winter feeding. Rabbits are easier and cleaner to process than chickens, for sure, and grassfed rabbits taste better than pellet-fed ones.

        There’s only one rule for cooking rabbit… cook it somewhat rare; otherwise, the long muscle fibers shrink and get leathery.

        Several years ago, I created an incredible stuffed rabbit loin recipe. Boneless loins with stomach flaps, stuffed with feta cheese and broccoli, asparagus or spinach, depending on what I have on hand; wrap the flaps around the stuffing, pin to secure, and roast until med-rare, about 20 minutes; basting with butter and/or wine.

        Jenny wrote on April 8th, 2011
  12. The problem with grain-finishing in a feedlot (vs a small farmer grain-finishing by supplementing hay or pasture with some grain) is that for cost and efficiency reasons a feedlot feeds NOTHING BUT GRAIN… no hay, no grass, just grain, usually just a corn-soy-ground fiber mix with vitamins, etc added. Grain can be poured from a truck into troughs and hay can’t, plus hay is messy and hard to clean up.

    This pourable feed would kill the cattle if they ate it for longer than the few months they’re at the feedlot; in other words, they’re butchered before it kills them; not to mention the horrors of standing 24/7 in knee-deep manure muck which is on their hide as they’re butchered… they surely don’t wash the animals before slaughter. This is why they spray the carcass with chlorine or ammonium. Yum!!

    Grassfed, or grassfed supplemented with some grain, is the only way to eat beef or lamb.

    Jenny wrote on April 8th, 2011
  13. Does anyone recommend a place that’s %100 grass fed that I could buy online?

    Cow and any other animal.

    Greg wrote on April 8th, 2011
    • U.S. Wellness Meats
      Tropical Traditions

      Suvetar wrote on April 8th, 2011
    • I have ordered online from Tallgrass Beef and La Cense Beef and have been happy with both, though it has been a while since I’ve ordered. I’m able to get stuff locally now.

      Mistizoom wrote on April 8th, 2011
  14. I encourage everyone to make the effort to locate local farmers/ranchers. Farmer markets are excellent places to source grassfed/pastured products. Not only do you benefit from better food but by supporting the local farmers they then become more viable. A classic “win/win” scenario.

    Our local market rocks! I get a weeks worth of ground beef/lamb,stew meat,bacon and eggs.Supplement those with store bought meats and seafood during the week.

    George Henley wrote on April 8th, 2011
  15. This is a terrific article (and I’ve shared it on FB so my friends will stop asking my WHY I only eat gf LOL) but you didn’t address one of the main reasons *I* eat it… No hormones. All those hormones that CAFO beef/pork/chicken are fed don’t miraculously disappear in their stomachs. It gets stored (mostly in their fat, I’d assume) and when eaten, WE get that dose of hormones… which messes up our hormone balance, causing a host of issues.

    I think this is a huge health issue – especially for children and women – and I’d love it if you could address it at some point!

    Lo wrote on April 8th, 2011
    • In the US, no hormones are used in the raising of chickens or hogs.

      Maria wrote on April 8th, 2011
      • Arsenic is used to promote poultry growth in America…go look it up.

        Suvetar wrote on April 8th, 2011
      • Also all poultry is soaked in chlorine water for a minimum of 45 minutes, and there is a 2% of liquid remaining in the meat which the consumer ends up eating.

        Because of this reason Europe banned ALL poultry meat coming from the US.

        Grass-fed facts…eatwild.com

        Suvetar wrote on April 8th, 2011
      • Maybe no hormones, but they receive medicated feed to prevent coccidiosis.

        Sarah wrote on April 8th, 2011
  16. A friend of mine who is a nutritionist once had a discussion with me about the nutrient content in food nowadays as compared to the content in food a couple hundred years ago. He told me that, across the board, the food we eat today is highly nutrient depleted as compared to the food we would have consumed in the past.

    This is very troubling, but it’s nice that we still have some people left in the world trying to practice healthy methods of domestication and agriculture.

    Sometimes the modern world is unkind to Grok. This forces Grok to be more intelligent about where he shops ;)

    Jeremy Priestner wrote on April 8th, 2011
  17. Mark, Nice, balanced overview of the different choices in beef, grass-fed/finished, feedlot/grain-finished, pasture raised/finished (with open choice grain or not). I couldn’t agree more that talent matters. Few can easily switch overnight from raising calves for the conventional system to finishing heifers and steers on a “grass” only diet (graminoids – a new word for me). That means – as with grain-fed, which also varies and can taste like steamed cardboard – there is some not so tasty grass-fed beef on the market out there.

    Carrie Oliver wrote on April 8th, 2011
  18. A good resource for local food in the Washington DC area that I’ve found is Humble Gourmand.

    They have a website that lists the available meats (beef, bison, elk, pork, chicken, lamb), eggs, cheeses, etc. It is all local, grass-fed, pasture-raised — you name it. It has been a fantastic resource for me to get good quality at a decent price. Check it out if you’re in the area!

    Jon Tremonte wrote on April 8th, 2011
  19. As sad as high density feed lots are, they exist because you allow it. You allow your lawmakers to be influenced by lobbyists, and you buy what is offered as long as it saves you $.85 a pound. It’s your money and your vote!! Use them both for change, you, your nation and your environment will be better for it.

    Chef Mike Benninger wrote on April 8th, 2011
  20. Mark,

    one really interesting thing i’ve found at my britsol farms market near me is that they have grass fed rib eyes that cost less than the conventional corn fed rib eyes. They want 12-15 dollars a pound for the regular stuff and the grass fed (which is not even marked on the display) is only 9.49.

    Grant wrote on April 8th, 2011
  21. There are also studies that show animals who are given antibiotics are just breeding more antibiotic resistant bacterias and passing that bacteria on to us, the consumer of the meat.
    http://www.fmi.org/docs/media/bg/antibiotics.pdf

    Todd wrote on April 8th, 2011
  22. good article with only one exception. I disagree with your statement that there’s nothing wrong with eating corn-fed beef for three reasons. first,most of the feedlots use antibiotics & growth hormones to ‘force’ the cows to finish in short term (6 mos or less). studies have shown that those pharmas used end up on the dinner plate & into our bodies. Second, the slaughter process for feedlot beef is gross! take for example, The USDA who recently put their stamp of approval for the use of ammonia in slaughter to kill bacteria & reduce E-coli outbreaks. Thirdly, think about this. a cow’s digestive track was not designed for corn/soy comsumption or other animals by-products such as bone meal which is often fed to feedlot beef. corn/soy ferments in the gut, making it a breeding ground for bacteria (including E-coli). On the other hand, a grass-fed cow, finished grass fed naturally sheds the E-coli from its system, thus reducing the chances of e-coli outbreak in the population. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms discusses this on his website & in the documentary Food inc.

    Marsha wrote on April 8th, 2011
    • I’m glad you brought this up about the e-coli. Grain ruins the cows rumen also, and my guess is that as the layers of the rumen are separating, it may cause pain to the animal also.
      Another thing – mad cow disease is not found in grass-fed because the grass does not contain dead cows’ brains in a form that perpetuates the disease.

      Sarah wrote on April 8th, 2011
  23. I’m located in Harford County Maryland. We purchased a 1/2 share (totaled 213lb) of grass-fed beef from Jack Straw Farm. The flavor is so intensly better than any other beef I have ever purchased, it catches me off-guard everytime have it. Also, everytime I pull something from the freezer I always think “I know where this came from and it is all from one animal.” I am grateful for the life it led and J.S.F. for making it available to me and my family.
    Oh, and it cost a total of $3.49p/lb

    michelleb. wrote on April 8th, 2011
  24. I can only find grass fed beef at my local Trader Joes. Hopefully it becomes more available at regular grocery stores and restaurants alike.

    Gary Deagle wrote on April 8th, 2011
  25. As my wife says, “If you’re going to eat animals, make sure they were happy animals.” I couldn’t agree more.

    Another thing to consider is the labeling of “hamburger” at the grocery store. I noticed the “hamburger” at our local grocer says the “hamburger” contains ground beef AND NATURAL FLAVORS. I shudder to think what they are adding to make “hamburger” taste like hamburger.

    Stan the Man wrote on April 8th, 2011
    • “Natural Flavor” perhaps refers to hydrolyzed soy or wheat protein, which is what they use to hide MSG.

      MSG, as we all know is an excito-toxin, just like aspertame, but perhaps not as harmful.

      see: http://www.truthinlabeling.org/nomsg.html

      raydawg wrote on April 19th, 2011
  26. Does anyone know whether a fish oil supplement taken with or after eating conventionally raised beef will provide the necessary Omega 6-3 balance? Has anyone actually measured this sort of thing in vivo?

    Tim wrote on April 8th, 2011
  27. I echo some of the previous sentiments about supporting your local farmer. I have been to conferences and classes for local farmers – established and just beginning farmers… and most of them are not in it solely for the money. However, in order for them to remain in business, they need to make money. A smaller operation is not able to take advantages of economies of scale, but they can often offer a superior product because of the better care that their animals receive… and the cost reflects the superior inputs. If more people would use their food money to support what they would like to have available, more farmers would be encouraged to make changes to serve their customers.

    Sarah wrote on April 8th, 2011
  28. I hunt. I try to get at least 4 deer in the freezer each season. For the $30 hunting license, and $5 doe tags (3), it’s worth it ($45 for 240lbs of meat, roughly). Fish too. You could live your whole life comfortably on panfish, with little effort (as long as you like fish).

    Kurt wrote on April 8th, 2011
  29. Double N beef is grass raised with a 30 day barley finish. This means that we let our beef grow up and enjoy a great life on pasture, with low stress handling systems when needed. Our cows have 15,000 acres of pasture and wooded area in which to raise a healthy calf all spring, summer and fall. When are calves are weaned they are brought to another large pasture to graze and supplemented with high quality hay and specially formulated minerals and salt to help ease the transition from cow – grass but by then they are mostly self weaned anyway and reliant on grass. When our animals reach an age of maturity they are brought to an open grass pen with low animal numbers and fed barley along with grass or grass hay for the last finishing period of 30 days. Our Beef contains no hormones along with no routine antibiotics. This mirrors the “traditional” practices of open range ranching where cattle and quality come first. We provide alberta with a grass beef alternative that is neither crazy expensive or pumped with product to keep it alive in an unnatural enviroment.

    DoubleN wrote on April 9th, 2011
  30. As far as as hormones and antibiotics used in the raising of corn-fed beef cattle, the following are interesting articles:

    http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/2010/12/practically-primal-perspective-on.html

    http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/2011/01/practically-primal-guide-to.html

    http://donmatesz.blogspot.com/2011/01/practically-primal-guide-to_21.html

    Convinced? Personally, I am. But at the same time, organic/100% grassfed meats are the best (that’s undisputed). 90% of my weekly meats comes from organic/100% grassfed beef/lamb and all natural (no added hormones, antibiotics, etc) beef, chicken, and pork. I do eat CAFO beef sometimes, but I at least I am not eating sugar, grains, processed junk food, etc!

    That is what is important in the end. Do what you can. Opt for local organic/100% grassfed meats and organic/local fruits/veggies, but don’t kill yourself over eating CAFO meats and non-organic fruits/veggies.

    Zed wrote on April 10th, 2011
  31. Thanks for the information. Is their an online vendor you trust?

    Davis wrote on April 10th, 2011
  32. Any thoughts about beef consumer health and hormones (e.g., from stress) and fat soluble toxins from CAFO beef?

    Thanks,

    Vergil

    Vergil Den wrote on April 11th, 2011
  33. One of these days we’re going to go in on a grass-fed cow.
    Money is a bit tight right now due to other issues we’re having so grocery store regular ole cheap meat it is! hehe

    LisaL wrote on April 11th, 2011
  34. Given what it is legal for factories to put into beef in the US (large amounts of ammonia and other chemicals to wash the inedible portions of the cow after they are ground up – 15% of this mixture can be mashed into ground beef and sold – this is unique to the US, it seems. Can’t do that in Europe), it’s best to stick with local ground beef if possible (organic or TJ’s grass-fed are probably fine, too, but this legal stuff is scary. I mean, we can eat meat treated with large amounts of ammonia that no one has to tell us about!)

    Ashley wrote on April 13th, 2011
  35. I spent two years in Mongolia eating free-range cows (literally no fences), sheep, camels,and goats who fed on excellent short grass prairie…the meat was delicious! I also went to Mongolia weighing 250 LBS and came back weighing 170 LBS with doing no excercise other than walking. I love grass fed animals and get it as often as I can…well worth the price!

    Nick wrote on April 13th, 2011
  36. Living in central Texas grass fed beef is plenty available here.

    For those looking for local beef and produce check this website out.

    http://www.localharvest.com

    John wrote on April 13th, 2011
  37. You missed the most important point- Cows are ruminants- they have 2 stomachs and a mechanism to digest grass ansd turn it into great nutritious beef or milk. They CANNOT digest corn. Simple as that. They are sick at feedlots partly because they are not designed to eat the feed they are fed – corn and other garbage as your article describes. For more specifics on this see Michael Pollan’s book the Omnivore’s dilemma, or look up the facts about cows and grass eaating. You’ll never buy CAFO again. It’s just WRONG.

    Barb wrote on April 13th, 2011
  38. If you are in the Houston / Sugar Land, TX area – Aura is the name of a restaurant that serves grass fed cuts as well as wild boar.

    Quite enjoyable!

    Dr. Peter Osborne wrote on April 13th, 2011
  39. My wife and I regularly find coupons on Groupon, etc… for good butchers with grass fed beef in Toronto. We have bought $150 worth of meat for $50 !

    Jeff wrote on April 13th, 2011
  40. Does the same advice apply to pork and lamb? Grass fed beef is reasonably priced here but pork and lamb is $$$.

    Karen C. wrote on April 13th, 2011

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