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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 07 2011

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

By Mark Sisson
227 Comments

When 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.

TAGS:  big moo, grass-fed

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227 thoughts on “The Differences Between Grass-Fed Beef and Grain-Fed Beef”

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  1. we buy steer calfs for $25.00, raise them on pasture only and after a 1.5 years there hanging weight is 1100 pounds. we also raise are own pasture feed lamb, once you eat pasture fed there is no other. we feed no grains at all.

    1. What do you do? Graft them onto nurse cows? Bottle feed? Milk replacer?

      1. Not being an expert, I am going to guess that because it’s a steer, the lack of testicles means a different hormonal profile and probably a tendency to put on more weight. Think about eunuchs as portrayed in literature, movies, etc.–they’re usually fat, right?

        1. Steers do put on weight differently from bulls, but my question was about feed during the early portion of the calves’ lives. A calf that’s going for $25 is probably a dairy bull calf. Castrated or not, it would need to be fed milk or milk replacer for at least a few months, and ideally more like seven. I asked about feed because we did this last summer, and the cost of milk (even purchased by the hundred weight from a friendly farmer up the road) was far greater than the cost of the calf. An then there’s the feed required to carry a growing animal through the dormant season. It’s still cheaper than buying it, but it’s also a lot of work to do well.

    2. Rainbow Ranch Farms is our grass fed CSA in Southern California. We took a day trip out to one of the pastures with about 15 members and it was incredible. We fill a freezer every 2 months and so glad to have found them. The beef is amazing and so is the pork. Next month we are picking up 20 chickens.

    3. Im confused. I was under the impression that Pastured raised or pastured finished was the best quality. It has the highest prices in stores, (if you can find it) and I though grass-fed meant YES its fed grass, but not exclusivly. Just like Free-range means YES they have access to roam free (But not all day. Maybe 20 minutes to an hour a day)

      What am I missing? What is the meat discription hierarchy?

      1. Chris – I’m just now skimming this article – nearly two years after its original post – and came across your comment. Your question is a good one – there’s so much industry and marketing jargon out there, how do you tell what’s what?

        Based on my experience as a small, family farmer serving primarily local markets, pastured or pasture-raised is the term coined by the smaller, alternative farmer. Too often, larger, conventional farms have picked up on a term – for example, free range – and put their own spin on it. What does the labeling “free range” or “free roaming” mean when you see it on a carton of eggs, or cellophane wrapped chicken breast in the grocery store? Per the USDA’s website, it means:

        “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.”

        So, “free range” chicken in the grocery store can mean a confinement operation, with literally thousands of chickens under an industrial-style chicken house, with a little access door at one end of the building to a small, dirt lot. That’s outside, right? Far from what you imagine when you read free range on the packaging.

        Conversely, smaller, sustainably-focused farms picked up the term pastured to describe raising animals out on pasture – not in a confinement operation. However, there’s no doubt this term could get snatched by larger producers with fancier packaging and big marketing budgets. I’m not sure if it’s already happening, but it’s possible.

        So, I’m sure I confused you more. What’s the labeling mean? Currently, chicken and pork deemed pastured or pasture-raised is probably coming from a smaller farm, with animals on pasture. Grass-fed, forage fed, or “Salad Bar Beef” (as Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms calls it) is often raised the way it should be – on pasture, not in feedlots. All this said, even small, local farms can exaggerate, or bend the truth.

        What’s a guy to do? My suggestion – don’t shop at the grocery store based on labels. Find a local farmer – and then visit the farm. Vet the raising practices yourself, and know where and how your food dollar is being put to use. Spend some time to get out in your community building a real relationship with those who produce food, and then patronize those who do it well. If you don’t know of any farms and don’t know where to start, head over to localharvest.org. They’re a great resource for finding local.

        Moral of the story – if you’re concerned about where you food comes from, don’t lean on the labels. Get to know your food, where it comes from, how it’s raised, and who raises it.

        Hope this helps.

    4. I raise grass fed, grass finished beef and I’ve never seen a 1.5 or even a 2 year old steer, bull or heifer dress out to an 1100 lb. hanging weight. They are doing well to weigh 1100 lbs. before slaughter. You might get a grain fed beef up to 1800 lbs in two years but it would only dress out to about 900 lbs.

      Steers are the hardest to put weight on. That’s why they pump them full of steroids in the feedlots.

      1. Additionally, a carcass will be docked on price if it goes past 1000 lbs. hanging catcass weight. (That may just have gone up to 1050 lbs.)

        NO ONE EVER BOUGHT USDA PRIME BEEF AT COSTCO! Of all beef slaughtered in this country, USDA PRIME is approximately 2.5%, and it goes straight from the packing houses to the five star restaurants of the world . You will only eat PRIME beef if you know how to raise it yourself and have the cattle genetics to do so.

        The next grade down is USDA CHOICE which has three levels. Certified Angus Beef, known as CAB, has to grade in the top third of CHOICE. Below USDA CHOICE, is USDA SELECT, which has a number of lesser subcategories. After select you get various categories of utility grade beef which is not generally used for human consumption unless it is pressure cooked.

        USDA grading is based upon marbling, known as intermuscular fat, which occurs very rarely in grass-fed beef and is the basis of truly great tasting beef, and Ribeye size. Tenderness is a major factor for the consumer that is not really part of the grading system. Tenderness is actually based on how well an animal “rots” after death. That is also a genetic trait.

    5. Wow…dont know where you live but here in Tennessee a 3 day old calf cost
      $100 to $150 at the auction house and it takes 17 months to get a 1300# calf on grass live weight. What am i missing????????

  2. I really love your reasonable, real world approach to these issues. I would love to eat only grass-fed beef, but I simply can’t afford it all the time. Thank you for all this great and free information. I’ve just started primal in the past couple of months, and it’s making a huge difference in my life. This site is a lifeline for me.

    1. In my twenties I used to eat a steak every day, thinking it might improve my
      sporting ability.

      But later I stopped eating meat and found that not eating meat, made no differenceat all to my physical performance.

      I have not had a Steak in decades and don’t miss them.

      1. Just out of curiosity related to this article:

        Were you eating grass-fed meat and getting plenty of healthy vegetables(not grain) along with a low-carb diet?

        If not, try it for a few months and see if you feel better or worse. We only get one shot at this, so why not take a shot at feeling the best you can.

      2. Wow made you should get a metal you trendy loser. No one cares about what you eat, or what you don’t eat, your a loser

    2. I would suggest more posts on low cost healthy foods – since I agree with Tigerflower about high cost for good food. If someone could write a reply to my comment with the link on this site in case I missed these kinds of posts I would be very thankfull.

      Thank you!

  3. Thank you for explaining this. I had no idea it was so complicated.

    For taste and my own peace of mind, there is no comparison with grass fed and finished.

    And I know that feedlot well. It is quite a sight (and smell.)

    1. I have a friend who declared herself a vegetarian after the first time she drove past that feedlot. She now touts the wonders of carbs, incorporating them into every single meal and urging others to do the same. (often using pictures of white bread cut in the shape of a heart)

      It makes me want to cry.

  4. My husband and I are lucky enough to live in a farming community in New Brunswick Canada. We are able to buy sides of barley fed, pastured pork for $1.50 a pound Canadian. We also get pastured, grass fed, corn finished cows from a relative for only $2 a pound Canadian. At the farmers market in town we can buy a dozen jumbo (I’m talking one egg omlettes they’re so big) eggs for only $2.50. The yolks are rich dark yellow and delicious.

    With these prices and the superior quality, we will never go back to conventional meat.

    If you’re willing to put in the work, there’s normally a source out there willing to meet your price.

    1. Grass fed beef is what I raise because of the documented health benefits. However the logical benefits are unsurpassed. A cows natural diet is not growth hormones, antibiotics, corn or grains. Water is also natural. So I want to know the water, the feed, and the care. I want to know the ancestry. I raise purebred Angus from stock that was ultra-sounded for marbling traits. Adding growth hormones and grain adds a thicker layer of fat onto the carcass, and does not change the meat composition just adds fat between the fibers which makes for mushy “tender” junk food.

    2. You are quite fortunate to be able get this quality of meat and eggs at those crazy low prices. Here in the DC/Baltimore metro area, grass fed beef is usually ~$6.00/lb a pound and pastured pork is over ~$7.50/lb, and about $5/dz of pastured eggs. These prices, compared to the prices for conventional product prices, are extremely higher, especially the pork. I paid almost $30 for a 3-4lb pork shoulder roast from a local farmer. I can get a 9lb pork shoulder roast at the store for ~$12! I’m willingly to pay more for local & pastured, but I was taken aback by the price difference on the pork shoulder roast (~500% markup). The mark up on the should roast was very excessive and left me a little bitter. For this reason, I stopped purchasing local and pastured until I can find a more reasonably priced farmer (not easy to do around here).

      1. It’s not really a “markup”, it’s a reflection of the difference in production costs between CAFO hogs and pasture-based pigs (which are supplemented with a lot of good-for-the-pig foods that doesn’t just grow in the pasture). Believe me, the pastured pig farmer is not exactly getting rich raising pasutred pigs. Most do well just to cover their costs and eek out a reasonable profit for their efforts!

  5. Just want to add an entry for local options for southern Cali folk… there’s another local grass fed beef seller I’d recommend, his name is Frank Kirpatrick and his operation is called 5 Bar Beef (5barbeef.com). He’s based in southern Orange County, his cows are raised in Silverado Canyon as well as Mojave. He can be found at the Irvine and Laguna Hills farmers markets and they now have a stand at the Beverly Hills farmer’s market as well. He’s got a vid on his website on what sustainable farming and management really is about. Good stuff!

    1. Another So. Cal option: I also just picked up my first order from Creston Valley Meats (crestonvalleymeats.com), a processing facility in Santa Margharita. Most of what I bought came from Nick Ranch (http://www.enjoygrassfedbeef.com/) and is all grass-fed. They make the trip down the 5 and then back up the 15 every couple weeks, with stops along the way. I picked up my meat in the Fry’s parking lot in San Diego. It was all very clandestine :o) You can check the calendar page on their site to see when they’ll be making another trip. Contact them to see where exactly the stop, they were very responsive to my emails and phone calls.

    2. I also buy 5 Bar Beef (Beverly Hills Farmer’s Market), but mostly stick to the burger, which is WONDERFUL. The other cuts I’ve had from them have been a little tough and I think that’s because all grass-fed cattle use their muscles grazing, whereas corn-fed just stand there and eat. If you have any ideas on how to cook other cuts, or if you can recommend some more tender cuts, I would appreciate the info. Thank you, Joe.

      1. To cook leaner cuts? The pressure cooker. Fast and it really results in tender, moist meat! Second choice is the slow cooker.

      2. Keep the heat a couple notches lower when you cook it, and give it an extra minute or two in the pan. I usually toss chopped veggies (celery, onion, peppers mostly) into the pan with my steaks and that flavors them while cooking and adds a little extra moisture to cook the meat gently.

      3. Never cook grass fed beef above 145 degrees F. Some cuts need to be marinated for at least 4 hours. Never microwave even to defrost. Sear then, turn the heat down. Avoid BBQ sauces with chemicals.
        Tender cuts are tenderloin, and T-bones, Buying the T-Bone steak in Canada assures the animal is not over 30 months old. However smoking the meats is the ultimate pleasure in eating. My store is theranchbbq.com

  6. I will admit that I never realized that those cows grazing on the hillsides often times still end up in feedlots anyway.

    On occasion I will buy the organic beef at Costco, but I do prefer the organic grassfed from my local supermarket. I definitely appreciate your approach that yes, situation A is certainly best, but B and C are not going to harm you if that’s all you can do. Thank you.

  7. Good article.

    Last month I called the local butcher and he said they had grass fed beef finished on grain.

    Not quite exactly what I was hoping for.

    Luckily there are grass fed & finished cows/farms not too far away from here in southern Virginia and North Carolina. And the stuff in local health food stores is usually frozen.

    1. Even that is still better than some of the other inferior meat, thats pumped full with some kind of water to make it “juicier”, that also has artificial food coloring in it, and is gased to give it a more reddish color, irradiated and whatnot.

      If the cow stood most of its life on pasture and than gets fattened up with corn and corn ONLY for 90-150 days, I’d take that over the other ‘alien’ crap any day.

      1. “If the cow stood most of its life on pasture and than gets fattened up with corn and corn ONLY for 90-150 days…”

        You do realize that’s exactly the model of “conventional” (CAFO) beef production, right?

    2. If you’re in NC, have you tried Baucom’s Best? I have sampled several sources across the US, and more in SoCal where I live, and Baucom’s had the best tasting beef, hands down. Not even close. Sometimes the grassfed has a slightly, um, “richer” taste than I prefer. Baucom’s says they dry age – whatever they do, it’s like a backyard BBQ from my childhood. (That was back when “Grain Fed” was a premium label on meat packages.)

      In SoCal, 5barfarms is good (but sometimes borders on gamey for the ‘stew’ cuts – like shanks), more accessible, and not outrageously priced. Also Rainbow Ranch Farms has several CSA options for beef, pork and poultry – or a combination of all three. All of their meat is very good. I find them to be not outrageously priced – and within the closer SoCal area, the shipping option is VERY reasonable. Nice people, excellent food. (BTW they are currently taking orders for Thanksgiving turkeys!)

    3. This is all too common and something that anyone who is looking for high-omega-3 grass finished beef needs to watch out for! Even if they are local, farmers can be pretty ignorant. A lot of farmers can’t get their mind around selling animals that haven’t been fattened with corn, so they keep doing it. but they are happy to tell you ‘Sure, this beef ate Grass!’ but if they fattened with corn, you lose the omega-3 advantage and the CLAs and who-knows-what-else?

  8. I hopped on the grass-fed beef train without any real reason other than the fact that you said it was good but it’s comforting to know there’s science behind it. The alternative methods of attaining are also very useful — good stuff.

  9. In Portland, OR, one can easily get 1/4 of a grass-fed cow for less than $3 lb.

      1. I would also be interested to know where this happens in Portland!

        1. I don’t know about $3/lb but I love Harmony JACK Farms for pastured beef… no I don’t work for them but their beef is super yummy and I want their business to stay strong!! 🙂

        2. You can also get grass fed beef grading exceptionally high in Yelm Wa. not far from Portland , from Lazy G Lowline.

        3. We sell 1/2 or whole grass-finished steers for $4 lb. Carcasses average 200 for 1/2; 400 whole. We just finished a couple steers that our butcher raved about (and he’s a hard sell when it comes to quality beef. He thought the steers were finished on grain and when we told him no, raised on grass-only he was totally taken aback. They had great marbling, and we eat it all the time. It doesn’t require any special cooking instructions as was mentioned in this post. Lean meat requires special cooking.

      2. You should know there is live weight and finished. $3 per pound is probably live (on the hoof weight) s you can expect about 50% percent less for finished. Still a good deal at $6 per pound.

        Just understand sale weight = live weight; processing charge is for live weight; and butchering is an additional fee.

        Half a steer is not a good deal unless you split it with someone you know.

        Whole steer is less than half a steer (per pound) and quarter of a steer is even more – problem is if you don’t get a fair split… rear is more desirable & pricey than the front.

        Some folks get ripped – information is key.

        1. Most people don’t realize that there is live weight, which of course is the weight before butchering, then there’s the hanging or carcass weight which is the weight after butchering before it’s cut up and packaged. Hanging weight will be about 55% of live weight and packaged weight will be about 60% of hanging weight. So a 1000 lb. beef will dress out to about 550 lbs and yield about 330 lbs of packaged meat. When you buy a half or whole and pay $3/lb you will be paying about $5/lb for the packaged meat, depending on how it’s cut up.

  10. Industrial feedlots and slaughterhouses are quite possibly the most hateful crime against nature humanity has ever devised.

    Grass fed and ethically raised are worth it for that reason alone.

    1. Slaughterhouses are not necessarily all evil, but knowing which slaughterhouse is used is an important part of choosing a farm for us. Unfortunately, the government is on the warpath to shut down the smaller family owned slaughterhouses, so that is just another reason to support your local farmer.

    2. Having raised grass fed cattle (and still do), I’d have to say the most hateful crime against nature is white bread. Glazed donuts are a close second…

  11. Buying all or part of a cow is the way to go. We found a great farm, close enough that they’ll deliver to us for $20. We’re splitting a whole with my brother and it comes out to be about $3.50/lb. We often can’t get conventional ground beef for that at the grocery store. Sure it’s a lot of money upfront, but saves soooo much overall and saves time by limiting how often i have to go grocery shopping. I haven’t done the math, but i know deep freezers can be as cheap as $100, so even if you bought a freezer you’d probably still save money overall.

  12. $3 per lb in Portland? That’s great.

    Here in Virginia Beach, I saw $10 per lb for frozen grass fed ground beef.

  13. Very good article. Most beef calves will never consume milk replacer though… although most dairy calves will. Agree totally about the feedlot pens becoming nothing more than a big manure puddle… it’s downright disgusting! Grass Fed Beef is certainly the best way to go… healthier on both the cattle & the consumer. Just be sure to find a beef producer who knows what they are doing. It takes the right genetics (this is the often the most neglected), the right grazing program, fertile soil & a minimum of about 20 months to produce the very best quality grass fed beef. Above all, visit their operation if can.

    Been raising & consuming grass fed beef for a few years, but just getting started with the Primal lifestyle. Already lost 18 lbs. in just 2 weeks with more energy than ever! Thanks & keep up the good work!

  14. sigh…i ve just been researching grass fed beef local sources – i keep seeing posts like the one above where folks end up paying 3 -5 bucks a lb but the prices i am getting are 8-10 bucks a lb buying half the cow – i unfortunately can’t afford that right now so i appreciate the 3 alternatives.

    1. Where are you located? I haven’t looked into all the in’s & out’s of shipping it yet, but I am sure that something could be worked out. Plenty of grass fed producers who sell quality grass fed beef in 1/4’s or 1/2’s for $5 or less & probably one fairly close to you.

  15. Great info. That’s always been on my mind. And I love this:

    “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

    The mindset of “well, since I can’t have a perfectly perfect diet, I’m just going to eat crap” seems rampant.

    I’ll take “good” over the average American diet any day.

  16. I’ve only got 1 acre in front. If I could I would fence it in for one cow. Got chickens in the back, would love to have another food source on the micro farm.

    1. IMHO, I would not try a full sized animal, but you could easily finish a Lowline Angus steer or a mini Hereford steer on one acre of grass. Depending upon where you are located (growth rate of the pasture & size of the steers), you could probably even finish 2 of those type of steers on 1 acre with rotational grazing. Lowline Angus are the size Angus cattle used to be 50-100 years ago. Mini Herfords are typically even smaller than the older model Herefords. Most full Lowline Angus cows are only about 700-800 lbs. mature & most will marble well on only pasture. They are ideal for micro farming. The only downside to finishing a steer yourself on “only pasture” is that it typically will take you approx. 20-26 months to get them properly “finished”. But, most good things do take time, yet, they are well worth the wait.

      1. We have a breeder who’s finishing their lowline steers at 18-20 months. They’re averaging 375-425 hanging, which is much better than buying a whole ‘traditional size’ steer.

    2. What about a pig? They fatten up pretty fast, and you can feed it all sorts of scraps.
      Are you raising chickens for meat? I have laying hens and ducks, but I’m considering adding meat birds too someday.

    3. It’s a great combination to have chickens and a ruminant (cow, lamb, etc.) on the same land – let the chickens follow along and clean up the worms and spread the poop. On your front acre, you could try portable electric fencing if you don’t want permanent fencing. It’s a great way to build the fertility of your soil also.

    4. I appreciate this information. My dream is to have a small farm that will at least sustain my family. I never knew how feasible some it was. Who knew there were minis?

  17. With no local sources, I drive 90 minutes round-trip to the closest Whole Foods store once a month to buy all of our meat. I load coolers in the trunk to keep them cool. I just freeze it all and use it up. It’s worth it for my family of 4!

  18. For those of you in Northern California, I’ve been extremely happy with Morris GrassFed Beef near San Juan Bautista. About $6.30/lb. Half a beef will fit in one small freezer in the garage (about $100 on sale) with some in the house side-by-side freezer.

  19. Here in MN we’re lucky enough to have several meat only CSA’s that deliver to the Twin Cities and do the farmers markets.

    My favorite delivers year round to a drop off just 2 miles from my house. Beef, lamb, eggs, chicken and happily they just added pork as well.
    A quarter beef from them is about $540 for the quarter and processing, so usable meat ends up being $5.80 a pound, less if you get the bones and organs as well.

    My gluten intolerance extends to the meat I eat as well. I’ve had a couple times where I’ve eaten conventionally raised meat for a week straight and couldn’t figure out why my gluten signals were going off – finally tied it back to the meat because I’d been gluten free otherwise.

    1. Oh, can you share the name? I’m in MN too and looking for a good meat CSA!

      1. I’m wondering the same thing. I live in the Twin Cities and have been primal since last June. Huge difference in my life. But really want to pursue large quantity of grass fed beef.

        1. Jeepifer and Andrew –

          I’m going in on a whole grassfed cow from a local farm through with CrossFit Minneapolis gym. Email me if you are interested – I think we still have 2 quarters left. They also do a pig share if you are interested.

          Cheers-
          Casey

    2. I’m in the Twin Cities. Been about 70% primal since last June. Down 25 pounds and feeling great. But I digress…

      To what meat only CSA’s are you referring and where/what Farmer’s markets can they be found?

    3. Hi Kethry,

      My husband and I sell grass-fed beef in the Chicagoland area, we are located 50 miles NW of the city. I see that you belong to a beef only CSA, will you send me your CSA providers program or website, we are interested in offering a beef only CSA program, the information can be helpful in creating our own program. I have a lot of info on vegetable CSAs, but minimal on beef only.

      One more thing, why do you like the beef only CSA program you are participating in?

      Your information and assistance is greatly appreciated!

      thank you, fran

  20. My husband and I live in a condo in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We eat (almost) completely primal and (almost) completely natural. We get beef ($2.60/lb), pork ($2.00/lb), various poultry, bison, fish, lamb, and venison from various local farmers who raise their animals as naturally as possible. We also get produce, nuts, honey, cheese, etc. from local individuals.

    At first it was a lot of work to find what we wanted at the prices we wanted to pay, but now it is as easy as picking up the phone and placing an order, then getting the food when it is ready. Most of the farmers who produce such high-quality goods are in it for more than the money and will do their best to make their product accessible to everyone. I get 17 dozen eggs delivered to my house weekly; 15 dozen are picked up by other families who pay $3/dozen, and my 2 dozen are free in exhange for providing business and a drop off point. In the spring my husband and I spend a Saturday working at our CSA farm in exchange for a discount on the season’s share. Certain natural things, like honey, can be purchased at a grocery store, but we will pay 1/2 the amount to get it directly from a supplier.

    When we go to a grocery store it is only for milk (hubby) and almond milk (me). What an amazing feeling! I pass the people in line with carts piled high with junk and want to invite them for supper so they can taste food the way it should be!

    Sure, it’s hard at first, but anyone can do it. All obstacles can be overcome with a bit of ingenuity. (We “rent” a deep freeze in the basement of a nearby home in exchange for cutting the grass once a week during the summer.) Put in the effort, reap the amazing benefits, and you will never go back!

    P.S. We spend $250-$300 a month on all food-related expenses. It doesn’t have to break the bank 🙂

    1. Shann;

      I live in the same city, and although I’ve been sourcing local beef, pork and eggs, it’s been more than what you’re paying. I’d love to find out where your sources are! I did get in on a summer CSA for this year, but missed out on the work share option, might be the same place.

        1. Can you send me a list also please. Have been looking to fine better meats and eggs

    2. I commend you for your creativity in lowering your costs in exchange for your labor… good for you!

    3. Just wanted to give a shoutout. My wife and I are Paleo Peeps that live 25min south of the city near Steinbach!

    4. I also live in Winnipeg. Will you share the places you get your eggs and meat please.

  21. My wife runs a veterinary hospital and animals are a big part of our lives. For no other reason than respect for their sacrifice do we eat the best-raised meat we can find. They should be happy while they are alive, we feel.

    To me, I find that once you factor in buying in bulk (many grass-fed suppliers have packs to meet any needs, and $6-$8/lb for grass-fed steaks, roasts, and ground beef is a pretty good deal), using cheaper cuts and organs, and the money you save by NOT buying empty calorie drinks, snacks, desserts, etc. it works out to not be as big of a sticker shock as people fear.

  22. Awesome post. Thanks for covering sustainable meat economics here, Mark! I am all about that.

    I pay about $5.50/single pound ground at my farmers market and get about the same through my CSA this summer. FYI (this is rural appalachia)

  23. I know it’s funny, but sometimes I wake up dreaming about steak. Just picked up a ribeye from Trader Joe’s–organic, raised without antibiotics, etc., that pan-fryed up wonderfully. Cost $10, but it was large enough that I made it into two meals. Sometimes when I can splurge, I’ll go to Whole Foods (a/k/a Whole Paycheck) for some grass fed/finished beef or steak, but when the budget is more stringent, a regular steak from the local supermarket will do. Gotta love steak!

  24. I am happy to say I just bought a quarter of beef (122 lbs. with offal included) this Tuesday! The total came out to about $3.08 a pound. There are many reasons why I chose to get some grass fed, even though there is a higher upfront cost and more legwork.

    I get to help support local farmers and the local economy.

    I get to actually see where my food comes from.

    I get more nutritious, better-tasting food.

    I support an operation that ensures its livestock are healthy and happy till the day they die (which is very good for my conscience), AND that supports a healthier ecosystem in the form of open-range pasture maintained and nourished by cattle.

    Plus, it’s cheaper!

    If you can get grass-fed beef, by all means DO IT! But don’t sweat it if you can’t. It took me a while before I could secure my quarter cow, and sometimes you just have to realize that circumstances are out of your hands, and you’ve got to do the best you can.

    Thanks for the informative and inspiring post, as always, Mark.

    1. I just got 121 lbs front quarter myself. Worked out to be $2.59/lbs. It was a three hour drive each direction for us, so about $3.01/lbs with gas included (adjusted for local gas prices now, $3.25/lbs).

      Our local supermarket offers beef specials at $2.50/lbs and buy one get one free. After eating grass fed for a month now, no thanks – I like my grass fed!

      Our next plan is to save up an get a half once we have eaten our freezer down, or get 1/4 beef and 1/2 a pig from the farm we are buying from (which is most likely the route we will take).

      I work with people that say they hate the taste of grass fed; I tell them they need to cleanse their taste buds for a while and then try again and understand what beef is SUPPOSED to taste like. Lamb too.

  25. Wondering if anyone has found a steakhouse that serves grass-fed beef. I’ve been able to get a good local supplier but its been for naught when dining out . .

    1. Tom Colicchio’s steak house, “Craftsteak” uses grass-fed beef… the Vegas location is AWESOME.

      He’s also an amazing celebrity chef, so the service ambiance, and food are pretty much to die for.

      1. I did an investigation on Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak in Foxwoods. It turned out they had mislabeled grass-fed beef on their menu for a while. I called them and brought it to their attention and they got upset at me. They refused to change their menu until I made an in-depth video on them. They later thanked me for catching their typo.It wasn’t a typo until I called them out. They blamed Foxwoods for their mislabeled menu. They even blamed their sales rep. It was everyone’s fault but theirs. Buyer beware in restaurants. It happens all the time. I am so frustrated that I made a truth in menu website that calls out these chefs for deception.

    2. Depends on where you live. I know there are a few restaurants in and around San Francsico that do. Not necessarily steakhouses, but you you can get a good steak at a nice restaurant regardless.

      Medallion Steakhouse in Burlingame does. It’s a decent place, pricey but nice. I do not know anything about the source of the beef, though – whether it’s grass finished, local or NZ, etc.

  26. While grass-fed and grain-fed beef may not be severely different on nutritional grounds as far as we know it, it’s still important to take into account that we don’t know everything there is to know about nutrition. There may be nutrients absent in grain-fed beef and abundant in grass-fed beef that we have yet to identify. And what about the *nature* of the nutrients we already know about? Could we be more able to utilize the minerals in one and not the others?

    Still, a good article with sound points.

  27. I think it was Freakonomics that goes into how much methane is polluting our world far more than the entire transport environment put together… I think it was that book. Don’t quote me!

    1. from – http://www.redmeatgreenfacts.com.au/Myth-Bust

      “While the livestock industry makes a significant contribution to methane emissions, livestock emissions are only one contributor to methane levels in the last decade. Other contributors are wetlands, termites, fossil fuel use, landfill and industrial processes.

      Livestock farming also helps to absorb carbon emissions through sequestration – the ability of plants, shrubs, grass and soil to store carbon.

      A worldwide analysis on the effects of land management on soil carbon showed that comparing forests and well-managed pastures there is, on average, about 8 per cent more soil carbon under well-managed pasture than under native forests.

      It is also important to note that atmospheric methane concentrations have remained relatively stable since 2000, despite significant increases in livestock numbers globally.”

      1. um, you do realize that website you just quoted is written by the meat industry, don’t you? I would hardly point to them for fair and balanced information.

    2. There are some recent studies showing that under intensely-managed grazing (moved every day, concentrated numbers in pastures) cattle can actually help pastures sequester more carbon than is emitted.

      Also, corn-fed beef creates more gas unless very well balanced – as it’s quite acidic to cattle’s stomachs. Feed lots don’t sequester much of anything.

  28. Can you say more about the chickens having Omega-6? Is this because of how they are raised? If the chicken is free-range, would the Omega-6/3 ratio be balanced enough to be healthy eating?

    What are your thoughts on duck, goose and swan? The 1950’s toxicity tests classed those 3 birds as “clean” meats, but I found them to be very greasy, and minimal meat for the size of the bird.

    1. I know Soy does to chicken, what grain does to cows….very bad.
      And I just found out that the big chested chicken (organically raised on organic “non-gmo” soy (so they claim but it’s a lie) is actually a genetically modified chicken.

      I asked my local grass farmer about it and he assured me it’s totally true.
      True chicken look like roadrunners. Long skinny chest with long and strong leg bones and giant feet.

      1. The usual, large-breasted chicken is a Cornish Cross – a cross between 2 breeds, and I don’t think it is genetically modified – it is specifically bred for the meaty growth. We raise pastured Cornish Cross and try to avoid corn and soy completely because of the GMO factor. Although they were originally bred for the confined, crowded poultry houses, they still love to get out in the sunshine, chase bugs, play, and make happy sounds. Heritage breeds tend to have less meat and a stronger frame – but are not necessarily “truer” chickens.

        1. Cornish Crosses are not genetically modified, but it’s not a cross between those two breeds despite the name of the bird. They use male and female lines specially bred to cross to make the chicks and the lines themselves are proprietary. You can’t just go out and buy the parent lines. It’s a very specialized industry that way.

  29. Far and away the best beef I ever ate was bull meat from an animal that spent its entire life in a pasture. (The only time it left the pasture was the two hour trip to the butcher.) The meat was dark red, the fat was yellow, and the flavor was amazing. I’ve tried a couple of times since then to acquire pastured bull meat but the producers, one of whom is a friend, look at me as though I’m nuts.

    According to several books I’ve read, our Native American brethren preferred bull buffalo meat to cow, heifer, or calf. (In season that is. Just prior to and during rut, the meat would be less than ideal.)

    1. Not to be pedantic or anything, but every tribal group I’ve ever been in contact with strongly prefers “Indian” to “Native American”.

  30. If you live around Chicago, you can get grass fed beef delivered to the Chicago area 3-4 times a year from Flying S Beef in Central Illinois. They charge $3.75 a pound, hanging weight, for grass-fed beef bought by the ¼ side, and a modest delivery charge. It works out to about $4.50 a pound or so when you take the hanging weight and delivery charge into account. They also have chickens, and the chickens are awesome!!!

    And they are really nice.

  31. 90% of the meat, fish, and fowl my family consumes is wild harvest. This takes a considerable amount of time and physical stamina, it’s worth it and we do it as a family. We’re city dwellers in Southern California; my wife is a school teacher (LAUSD) and I’m a Marketing Projects Manager for a lighting manufacturer. We live for the weekends in the outdoors and make the most of family vacations hunting and/or fishing; most recently a wild goat and pig hunt in Hawaii. We’re in the middle of spring turkey season – keeping my fingers crossed. All the beef in our freezer is Novy Ranch Grass-Fed. Dr. Novy is a great guy and I feel fortunate to know him.

  32. I’m delighted to say that we had our first (probably since I was a kid, anyway) grass fed Wyoming beef rump roast last night and it was DEEELISH!!! Super tasty served cold for lunch with a bit of mayo/mustard. yum.

    We live in Wyoming where health food stores are pretty much unheard of. Well, we have a couple here but they sell mostly vitamins.

    so where’s the beef? I’m sure you’re all familiar with the name “Sackett” (as in in the Louis L’Amour books and the movie). Weeelll.

    One of their descendants has moved back home and opened Sackett’s market. Seems the original Sackett was a storekeeper out in Big Horn and the Big Horn Mercantile was started by him. Anyhoo. Said descendent and wife are big on good REAL food and I make it a weekly trip to drool over the meat case, buy heavenly cheeses and their own roast beef and ham.

    Anyway. Two thumbs up (or is that 2 forks and 2 knives) for some might good eatin’!

  33. What about bison?

    The Davis, CA co-op almost always has *some* bison for sale, and sometimes has a wide variety, depending on — I dunno, demand, supply, something.

    It’s hard to imagine that bison are “finished” on grain in feedlots, but in 2011 who knows.

    1. I was at a restaurant the other day (in CO), and the menu boasted “grain-fed bison.”

      1. I’ve seen that too.. meat being advertised as “grain-fed”… I don’t get why they’d point that out.. I had to read it twice, thinking they had meant to put “grass-fed”..

  34. A beautiful and informative post, Mark. Thank you! I enjoyed reading how you watched cows roam free among the grasses, one of my favorite things to do each day. We have a wild mixture of cattle, not the norm up here, but I consider my cattle smarter than the “average” bovine. They seem to follow a regular daily schedule and I love watching how the herd will place three or four “babysitters” among the calves while rest of the mothers go down to the creek for a drink. I do think the quality of their lives (and all animals we eat) should be considered, and I am sure it is reflected in their meat. I am happy knowing that my cows and bulls are happy, and I think that’s probably how it is supposed to be!

    Thank you for reminding us that perfection should not get in the way of being good, I think that’s one of the most important tenants of living according to the Primal Blueprint.

    Well, I’m off to cook a grass-fed and finished beef roast!

  35. Mark,

    As a grass-fed farmer in Fl I think it is important to note that many of the proven health benefits of grass-fed beef can be completely wiped out by feeding grain even if it is for a short time at the end of the animals life.

  36. Not sure where you are getting your information on selenium, but if you are in an area that is naturally selenium deficient, it doesn’t matter if the animal is grass fed or not, it will be selenium deficient. There are large areas of the country that simply don’t have a lot of selenium in the soil. If you want to know about your area, talk to your local Cooperative Extension office in the US. This isn’t because of depletion by cropping, the mineral simply has never been there in great amounts in those soils.

    Other than that, hell, yes! Grass fed. One thing no one seems to mention so much is that the beef from the supermarkets is tasteless. Same as the pork. No flavour. If you want good meat, you get pastured meats. For that reason alone I raise my own beef.

  37. 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).

  38. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  39. 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.

    1. 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…

  40. 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!

  41. 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..

    1. Absolutely! Even a short period of grain feeding can wipe out all of the benefits of a lifetime of grazing grass!

  42. 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!!

  43. 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.

  44. 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!

  45. 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!

  46. 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…

  47. “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.

    1. Rabbits! OMG I LOVE rabbit meat.
      So hard to get though, people are always after chicken 🙁

      1. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. Does anyone recommend a place that’s %100 grass fed that I could buy online?

    Cow and any other animal.

    1. 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.

  50. 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.

  51. 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!

    1. In the US, no hormones are used in the raising of chickens or hogs.

      1. Arsenic is used to promote poultry growth in America…go look it up.

      2. 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

      3. Maybe no hormones, but they receive medicated feed to prevent coccidiosis.

  52. 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 😉

  53. 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.

  54. 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!

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

    1. 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.

  58. 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

  59. I can only find grass fed beef at my local Trader Joes. Hopefully it becomes more available at regular grocery stores and restaurants alike.

  60. 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.

  61. 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?

  62. 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.

  63. 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).

  64. 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.

  65. 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.

  66. Any thoughts about beef consumer health and hormones (e.g., from stress) and fat soluble toxins from CAFO beef?

    Thanks,

    Vergil

  67. 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

  68. 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!)

  69. 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!

  70. 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.

  71. 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!

  72. 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 !

  73. Does the same advice apply to pork and lamb? Grass fed beef is reasonably priced here but pork and lamb is $$$.

  74. It matters terribly what kind of meat we eat. Grain fed beef is inflamed flesh. It is acidified meat. And that means when we eat it, we are consuming inflammation. Inflammation is the primary source of sickness in humans. We are eating the same industrial food diet through our consumption of essentially rotten meat. There are many other measures than Omega 3 and Omega 6 to capture this. Animals fed industrial foods are poisonous. And so are our pets who are now hugely obese as we are by feeding them industrial food.

  75. Great overview. Your comments about the omega-6:omega-3 ratio were especially enlightening. As much as I would prefer grass fed, the budget usually calls for Costco beef. It’s good to know I can offset the ratio with fatty fish and fish oil.

  76. This was a great article! My husband and I now live in Panama, Central America (from NY state) and they only have grass fed cattle here. Very tough meat but by using papaya as a tenderizer, we can have excellent steaks. I just lost 32 lbs. on a low carb diet (reaching my goal)and a friend introduced me to your books….this is the way to go!! Thanks for all the important info and I look forward to receiving your emails.

  77. Not everyone has the budget for grass fed meat. My own plan includes (soon) raising my own, but meanwhile, the difference between ‘regular’ and grass fed for the same cut is about $2 a pound vs. $8 a pound. My 92 year old wheat loving mother says people have to eat wheat because they can’t afford meat–laughable! Bread is $$ more than heap beef and way more than chicken…and it’s toxic to boot! Even the ‘worst’ meat is a better choice than any grain.

  78. I live in the NW Chicago burbs. I have gotten to know a few farmers. One farm in particular has really impressed me. The people at Meadow Haven Farm test the quality of the soil and grasses that their cattle eat. They even imported tons of crushed rock to remineralize the soil. They feed a lot of kelp to the cattle because the midwest is devoid of iodine in our soils. One of the farmers used to be a veterinarian. The first year they had a few cases of pinkeye and foot rot. A few years later the herd is far healthier due to the soil improvements.

    1. I read some comments about the taste of grass fed beef. I have had grass fed meat that tasted gamey and some that did not. Over the past 2 months I have had grass fed beef from 3 different farms. One of them had the gamey meat. I’m wondering if it has to do with soil health or terrior. The beef I eat most often isn’t gamey at all, and I know these farmers and what they are doing. Interesting!

  79. Another good reason to buy grass-fed-only: feed-lot beef is so unhealthy that the only way they get them to the slaughterhouse alive is to pump them full of antibiotics…when then go into the poor fools that eat it.

    I’ve found grassfed beef to be reasonably priced, but then, I buy direct from the rancher. Now if I could only find naturally-raised chicken at a good price. I don’t mind raising my own chickens, but processing them at the end of their life is SUCH a hassle.

  80. We’re located 50 miles NW of Chicago, we sell grass-fed beef and partner with a neighbor to sell open range chicken, pork & eggs.

    We sell by the piece. As stated in your article, price is an obstacle for some wishing to eat grass-fed beef regularly, which is why we sell by the piece at a reasonable price. We want people that can’t afford a quarter, half or a whole beef to be able to enjoy the health benefits, great taste and know that the cattle they eat are raised with respect.

    Our cattle are raised on grass pastures along with brush to nibble on with an abundance of clean water winding through it. They are in NW Illinois 8 months of the year, then sent to Central IL for the winter months and fed hay and silege, they are back to the NW pasture in the spring.

    We love it when people visit our ranch, we get to share our pastures, cattle and horses with them.

    Take a look at our website, http://www.q7ranch.com, many are surprised that there is a cattle ranch with real cowboys and working horses (Frank, my husband has 43 years experience with cattle ranching in California, Texas and IL).

    Thanks for the article, we find that many people are trying to figure out the whole grass-fed, local movement, articles like this coming from a credible author is appreciated by the people looking for grass-fed beef and the providers.

    thanks…fran

  81. I prefer to eat grass fed but don’t have regular access or funds to afford it so I have to eat grain fed beef at times. I’m gluten intolerant and can’t find anything definitive as to whether grain-fed meat is actually gluten free but I always feel like I’m eating poison when I ingest conventional beef.

    I came across this from http://www.thesavvyceliac.com: “Grain-fed beef is fine. Before protein is absorbed it’s broken down into single amino acids or very short peptide fragments-no longer gluten.” — Tricia Thompson MSRD

    Because I find this hard to believe even though I have no background or education to back myself up, I’m looking for scientific studies that will. Can anyone point me in the right direction? ~ A girl cannot live on salmon cakes alone!

  82. This article is great. People should know that it is cheaper in the long run to buy cases of exactly what you want to eat as opposed to buying a half of beef. Buying cases of what you use eliminates cuts of beef, lamb or pork that sit in the freezer for long periods of time until you finally feed them to your dog. People do not usually call cattle ranches, farms and most ranchers do not like to be called farmers. When there is a cow and calf in the field they are called cattle. More than one calf is considered calves. Prather Ranches have a lot to offer a consumer.

  83. We have very few beef csa’s here and I’d love info as well on why you like yours and maybe a few details on how it’s run as well. Thanks for any info you could give!

  84. We’re so lucky here in New Zealand, all cows are grass fed and finished. However, there is talk and great opposition to a CAFO being established in South Island.

  85. Restaurant Depot in Portland, OR sells Australian Tri-Tip that is grass fed for $2.89 a pound. They also have many other Australian and New Zealand cuts… The Flank is great at $3.09!

  86. Neither you nor any of your commenters mentioned the presence of hormones or antibiotics in conventionally raised beef. I would gravitate towards farm raised or grass fed because the greatest majority of these types of farmers avoid using these toxins. An oncologist friend counsels eating “conventional” beef no more than once a month because of that reason.

  87. Interesting article. I’ve never tasted grain fed beef so I’m interested in how big the taste difference is? I’m in New Zealand and our cows live outside in paddocks year round and eat grass mostly, sometimes hay as supplementary feed. I’ve heard of grain fed beef advertised here as a specialty product but it is more expensive than regular free range beef. How big is the difference in taste between grass fed and grain fed beef? Does grain fed beef taste unpleasant, or different but nice?

  88. in rural india, life is hard and driven more by necessity than anything else. my mother, not equipped with too much more than native intelligence, used to run a small dairy farm. green fodder was hard to come by. rains were always inadequate, fodder was expensive and scarce. cheap grain based cattle feed was being actively promoted by both govt and commercial producers.
    even while she bought cattle feed, my mother always ensured her cows had green fodder when available, then dry fodder. the milk was tastier, she said, and the animals healthier.
    you don’t need nutritionists or anybody with fancy degrees to tell you this… even small farmers know it. grass is a cows natural food. grass fed animals are healthier.
    what kind of meat you buy is your choice. but what more do you need to know really?

  89. I just found out there is a local Carlton Farms near Rome, Georgia… convenient to Atlanta (Cedartown) where I was able to drive and buy organic grass fed everything. Great raw milk for pets. Awesome awesome awesome, I am so grateful! I was able to stop my car and pet the cows, they walked right up to the fence… couldn’t have been any cleaner or sweeter.

  90. Poesia restaurant in San Francisco has a fantastic grass-fed beef filet, as well as Carpaccio, which is raw Organic filet mignon,with organic Lemon Olive oil dressing.

  91. Mark, can you recommend some places to purchase good meat in west san fernando valley woodland hills-calabasas area or surroundings

  92. You North Americans have no idea how good you have it.

    Japanese beef STARTS at $12/lb and goes up to $80/lb. Grain fed from what I have learned.

    On the plus side, Aussie beef is available everywhere and mostly grass fed, and here we can get it starting around $6-7/lb for the cheaper cuts.

    The little US beef we do find is unlabeled, so no doubt it is grain fed. Costs about the same as the Aussie stuff.

    Interesting note that Japan had a ban on US beef for a long time due to BSE worries. US producers refused to test for it, even though the Japanese buyers were going to pay. Aussies won out since they don’t rely on “feed”.

    1. @ KobeTony
      Oh, boo-hoo! Then move!! Stop whinning, grow a pair, and deal with life’s little hurdles. Really now, come on!

  93. Mark, Need to clarify a few things. Here in NW Wash, we have many small farms who raise pasture beef. Fed totally on grass or grass hay. No grain. And never fed milk replacement as calves like dairy calves.. They nurse their mamma. Of course we have super perennial pastures and many have irrigation. Our calves at 12 mos avg 8-900 lbs. At slaughter, 18-24 mos they will weigh 1100-1200 lbs. Outstanding meat with unbeatable flavor cooked MR or better rare Yes, range raised beef may require feedlot to finish, but ours don’t and grain fed tastes offbeat once you eat the total grass fed meat. Also we have a local USDA slaughter house to our meat is sold by the piece, at a very reasonable price. E.G. Sirloin steak at $6.50 /lb.

  94. My family and I just began eating grass-fed in the last 12 months and I am so glad that we did after learning more about corn feeding.

    We have been buying Greenfield Farms beef from our local Lowes food store and the taste and texture is superb. We are in NC (North Carolina) so it’s local which is great and I think Greenfield supplies a few states around here.

  95. You can get the “$3” a pound grass finished beef by buying a whole or half beef here in the DC-area. But that price doesn’t tell the whole story. You will have to pay for butchering and packaging and there is loss on that carcass weight. So, when it comes time to put it in the freezer, the $3 a pound hanging wt beef is going to cost you closer to $4.50 a pound. Worth every penny, of course! I sell grass finished beef by the carcass or the quarter or the pound in the DC area. allan.balliett@gmail.com

  96. We raise grass fed Scottish Highland cattle. Easy, gentle animals, very high unassisted birth rate, heritage breed. Good meat. We also keep chickens for eggs. Both are pretty easy and cheaper than you might think. Heritage breed animals are healthier for you and lower cost to raise. Small “closed” herd and flock so no antibiotics have ever been needed. Look for Highlanders-get healthy food anf help preserve the breed!

  97. I have been raising grass fed beef for a while now, My demand is far greater than my supply and customers usually reorder within the first couple weeks of receiving their meat. Price has always been under $3 a pound in Eastern Wa. It is very interesting to hear the feedback from the meat cutters and to here the surprise when they here they are cutting grass fed beef not feedlot beef. Its not all in the feed though folks Genetics plays a huge part in carcass quality.

  98. Absolutely! I agree, We belong to a grass fed CSA in Southern California. Rainbow Ranch Farms, we went on a day trip with some 15 members to the pasture and it was incredible. Beautiful, pastured cattle galore. Everything the farm grows is heritage and grass fed (pigs and luau pigs too). We are really pleased with the quality and the member prices are fantastic.

  99. It is important to note, Not all grass fed beef is equal. Genetics play a huge part in Carcass quality!

  100. HI,

    Just wanted to share a new company that is about to launch, where you can get excellent grass fed beef delivered to your door. The methods they use to raise and harvest the beef is beyond exceptional…check it out and become an insider yourself!! http://www.theorganicsystem.com
    Cheers!!!

  101. I live in the midwest (St. Louis)and am used to the beef served here. My daughter lives in Montana & hates the beef she buys there. The first time we went out to dinner at a nice restaurant, I complained to her that something was wrong with the steak. I’ll take my corn-fed beef, thanks!

  102. educate yourself about what grass is before you buy organic
    an articale from Claravale Farm: a traditionally run dairy and we don’t think total pasture feeding of dairy cattle is appropriate for a number of reasons.
    Contrary to popular belief, total, year round pasture feeding is not natural for cattle and is not the way in which dairy cattle have historically been managed. More typical is for dairy cattle to get access to some pasture during the natural growing season (winter and spring here) and to be fed mostly hay, grain and other produce during the rest of the year. This is what we do at Claravale. In this way, farmers have historically taken advantage of natural yearly cycles of rainfall and production. Year round pasture feeding of dairy cows requires the artificial creation of year round pastures by intensive irrigation, which requires energy and water, both limited resources in California.
    Here are a couple of important facts for people who are not agriculturally inclined:
    Hay is dried pasture.
    Grain is grass seed.

    All three of these feeds (hay, grain, pasture) are completely natural and important feeds for dairy cattle. All three are historically important feeds for dairy cattle. All three have been important components of the diets of dairy cattle for the entire history of their existence on this earth. A cow grazing on a naturally cycling pasture (in California, for example) will be eating green pasture for part of the year, but as that pasture matures and dries out the cow will continue to eat it but it will now be called standing hay (= hay). As the pasture matures the grass forms seed heads (= grain) and dries out. When this happens, the nutrition in the leaves and stems decreases and the nutrition in the seeds (= grain) increases. During much of the year, a cow grazing on a naturally cycling pasture will be getting a large percentage of its nutrition from this grain (= grass seeds).
    A good quality, high producing dairy cow cannot do well on green pasture alone. Even the best pasture does not contain the nutrition it needs to produce the milk it was bred to produce. (Important note: this is different than for beef cattle that can do just fine on green pasture alone. Beef cattle only put on a few hundred pounds of weight in their lives. Dairy cattle do this as well and produce thousands of gallons of milk every year in addition.) By adding hay and grain to the diet of dairy cattle you are simply feeding them concentrated pasture. By drying pasture into hay the nutrition it contains is concentrated ten fold. Dairy cattle, however, need even more than this. To do well, dairy cattle need the best cuttings of the best hay possible. Hay that tests the highest in nutrition is referred to in the trade as ‘dairy test’. It costs a premium and is reserved for dairy cattle.
    Even given the best, most nutritious, feed possible, many cows still lose weight during the early stages of lactation. If dairy cattle are not given the nutrition they need they will be severely stressed and will be susceptible to many infectious and metabolic diseases. The cows will suffer as well as milk production and milk quality. For example ketosis and hypocalcemia are both common metabolic diseases in dairy cattle that are caused by inadequate nutrition during lactation. Both of these diseases can kill cows very quickly.

    Cows are very smart about food. They are expert at sniffing out (literally) food that is best for them. Cows do not want a diet of green pasture alone. Given long term free access to pasture, hay and grain they will eat lots and lots of hay and grain.
    Historically, no dairy based culture has ever tried to artificially create year round pastures to feed dairy cattle. It makes no sense with respect to cow nutrition, water use, or energy input. Historically, farmers work with the natural cycles, utilizing green pasture when it is available and at its height of nutrition but also harvesting this pasture when it is at its height, concentrating it, and feeding it to the dairy cattle the rest of the year (that is, they make hay and store it in the barn). They also harvest grain and store it to feed to the cattle throughout the year.
    This is what we do at Claravale. We utilize naturally cycling pastures during the time of the year that it makes sense (up to seven months out of the year here in Panoche) and also feed the cows high quality organic hay and grain. We are proud of how we care for our cows at Claravale. We are proud of how healthy they are and the quality of the milk they produce. We don’t pretend to do something we don’t.
    In addition, grass fed cows produce milk that has an “off” flavor. The older literature contains many references to the fact that cows which are on pasture produce milk which tastes bad. It is usually recommended in this literature that the cows be taken off of the pasture for a few hours before milking to limit this effect. These days, this is not a factor with most milk producers (including organic milk producers) because the milk is cooked and processed before sale so it doesn’t taste good anyway. The effects of the grass on milk taste will be masked by the effects of all the other processes. Every year when our cows do get some pasture we always get complaints about the taste of the milk. At Claravale Farm, taste is an important component of quality so we don’t totally grass feed our cows, but rather give them a varied, traditional diet designed to keep them healthy while producing delicious milk.

  103. Just had my first grass fed beef steak. It was delicious. Tender , juicy and very tasty. I have to admit I was very skeptical about eating it. Now that will be all I will be eating.

  104. Dear Mark,
    Thanks for your great website which was my doorway into the world of nutrition blogging and one which I refer to a lot.
    I have a few questions that I hope you can take the time to answer:
    I live in India where paleo/primal nutrition is unknown (although traditional Indian foods are very primal) and the health conscious public is sold industrial oils blatantly claiming to be heart friendly.

    However I found that India is great for a few things:
    1) COCONUT OIL! at $3 per kg.
    2) Ghee at $5 /KG.
    3) Beef at $3 /kg.
    4) Tallow for free!
    5) Buffalo milk with 6% FAT!
    6) Fine quality partially grass fed mutton at $9 /kg.
    Spices and vegetables are also cheap.

    However there are a couple nagging doubts that I have.
    1) No beef is grown commercially in India.
    The beef available is mostly older water/buffaloes cows or younger bulls/bullocks.
    I tried looking at the diet of these animals and it seems that the male animals/older animals are mostly pastured but especially so during the 4 month long monsoon when green grass is free. Bearing this in mind, should I be buying ghee during the first month of the monsoon when animals feed on growing grass, or after they have had a 4 month diet of green grass, that is, in September at the end of the monsoon.
    Also as far as tallow goes, would the older animal tallow be more nutrient rich? Would there be a greater accumulation of toxins? should I buy calf tallow or Old animal tallow? (The older animals seem to have a yellower tinge.)
    Also, I looked at pollution levels in the Arabian sea and they seem to be reasonably low. Would it then be wiser to get more of my protein calories from ocean sourced Indian salmon/King mackerel/Tuna/Shrimp which are each about $2 per pound or beef which is closer to $2 per kilo but has an unknown diet?

    I eagerly await your response.

  105. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”

    The good has long since become extinct, if we don’t demand the perfect, we will lose it all.

  106. What about the pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics in CAFO animals? Is this primal? Hardly. It reeks havoc on your gut microbes among other things.

    http://paleoapproved.com/wordpress/get-paleo-approved/paleo-approved-standards

    2.3 Paleo Approved Banned Feedstuffs List

    The following is the list of banned feedstuffs in the Paleo Approved from Pasture to Plate Program. Paleo Approved may revise this list if deemed necessary by Dr. Loren Cordain, Dr. Mathieu Lalonde, Dr. David Pendergrass, or Paleo Approved expert consultant with future research review. Prohibited feedstuffs include:
    Corn
    Cereal Grains
    Milk replacers containing antibiotics and growth hormones
    Non-protein sources of nitrogen
    Animal by-products
    Antibiotics
    Hormones
    Feedstuffs containing animal protein sources with the exception of those

    from milk and milk proteins prior to weaning.

  107. Some clarification: first, you don’t eat many “cows”, especially if you are eating steaks. Steaks come from steers and slaughter heifers. “Cows” are generally ground up into hamburger. Second, the vast majority of calves do NOT recieve “milk replacer”…the only calves that ever get “milk replacer” are dairy calves, and not many steaks you see in the store will have come from a dairy calf. I quit reading after that as the credibility of this story is totally shot.

  108. As a resident in New England it is very difficult to find local purely grass fed meat. Any all pasture fed meat recommendations that ship? Thanks

    1. Have you looked on eatwild.com? There are dozens of grass-fed farms in New England.

  109. Living in some of the prime beef raising country in the world, our families have raised beef for more than 50 years. We have tried a lot of different approaches but the one tried and true is grass fed to 700-800lbs, no hormones, antibiotics only for illness or injury not for yield increases (like feed lots do)…on that point what are you to do as a farmer? Not give the animal support for their injury? You wouldn’t like that if every human injured was just left to fend for themselves. Point SHOULD be no “unnecessary or over usage of antibiotics”. So 98% of our beef has always been “no antibiotics”. Do you really believe your life is worse because you took a 10 day series of antibiotics when YOU were sick?

    While I agree that large feedlot operations are disgusting exhibits of what large commercial agriculture provides I have to disagree with some that say a final finish of grain is so detrimental…I believe its balance in everything.

    Hard as you try grass FINISHED will generally be more stringy, tougher, less marbling and while possessing more of the natural taste(which I prefer), can be added to with just a few weeks of molasses and pure grain mixes.

    Specifically when you go to small lot(grass pasture WITH custom blended daily grain kicker) the animals are getting a premium diet. Isn’t that what most of you on this board are seeking for themselves? A more complete diet?

    As one of the other posters above mentioned pastures NATURALLY change with the years cycle…in spring we primarily have very lush fescue, bluestem, lespedeza with a bit of Bermuda with several other dozen species of natural prairie grasses. But over the season several of these seed out…when they do they animals CHOOSE to eat the seed heads over the stems as they grow hay like….they know what they want to eat/what their body needs and they get muscular,fat and healthy on their own.

    So while you can overdo grain its an overstatement to say that its not a natural part of their diet….not to be rude but those are just the words from city folks who don’t know. Besides I would bet that many of the “grass fed” animals are actually grazing on maise, soybean or other crop types that are standing(not harvested). No practical difference.

    So while farm raised and farm finished IS far superior to the large commercial operations, the inclusion of organic grain on top of grass will give you a tastier beef who is healthier because it has SUPERIOR nutritional support.

    Any REAL farmer can tell you….
    a balanced approach is always superior. …someone trying to fill a niche market or charge high premiums will try to convince you otherwise.

  110. Just a side note…
    I noticed that you recommended buying USDA Prime if it’s all you can afford. The USDA grading system indicates ‘Prime’ grade as having 8% intramuscular fat marbling or higher, ‘Choice’ as 5-7% marbling, and ‘Select’ as 3-4% making it the leanest of the three. So choosing a Select grade might be the better option, or at least it mirrors a grass-fed profile a little closer.

  111. Hey Mark,
    I realize this is an old post, but I thought it the appropriate subject to add my comment/question to. What are your thoughts on silage? We get our beef from my in-laws cattle farm and their cows are mostly pastured and also fed some silage. My husband argues that this is not “grain-fed” because it is the entire corn plant and it has gone through a fermentation process, which makes it easier to break down for the cow, pre-digestion. My concern is with the omega-6 issue and if this is still considered grain-finished? I want to get the highest quality meat with the best fatty acid profile because I am feeding this to my children and want to keep their diet as pristine as I can, while I still have control over what they are eating.
    Thanks!
    Kate

  112. I have tried grass-fed & finished several times based on the claim that it matters to the flavor. What I have found is that it does not. There is no comparison between grass fed and finished and grain finished. Grain finished is far superior in taste, and as for being healthier, I could not care any less. If I live an extra two years but have to eat tastless grass fed beef for the rest of my life, then PLEASE KILL ME NOW! SERIOUSLY, BRING ON THE HEART ATTACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    BTW, “I do not have kids, so I really could not care any less if the world bursts into flames in the year 2050 either.” Truth is we can only make about a 60 day difference anyway. If we all became Vegans, and walked everywhere we went we might be able to extend that final year to 2050.5.

  113. Mark, I can not see anyone that writes a lengthy story trying to inform the American public about their Beef choices can fail to mention the fact the cloned meat (including beef) has been on sale in American supermarkets since January 2010.
    Worse still the sellers are legally allowed to sell as normal beef so consumers are not given a choice.
    No other country has embraced GMO’s and cloned meat like America and no other country has a growing health and
    environmental time bomb. From Super weeds to cancer causing problems with Aspartame, to polluting the water table due to over use of pesticides. But specifically on the issue of cloned meat most Americans still don’t know they are eating it? Last November I was invited to Spain as a judge in an International Culinary Competition. During my visit I spoke to several dozen highly skilled American chefs (including from the CIA)who were not aware they could be eating cloned without choosing to do so.
    In the UK GM grain and cloned meat are banned, mainly because the people railed against any move towards them.

    1. Yes, some of the top herd sires in the nation have been cloned because they produce outstanding offspring. But the clone itself isn’t put on the meat rack. Cloning is a very expensive process and it would be economically unfeasible to do such a thing! The price per pound would be quite high to cover the production costs.

      1. Cloning isn’t even that great though, because a cloned bull is not an exact replica of the original. The clone will express different genes and will perform differently, as will his offspring, so the whole cloning thing for the universally perfect bull that can be copied time after time to sire top notch steers is a wash.

    2. GMOs have been formulated exactly because of a major problem that is occurring with conventional crops. It is the overuse of pesticides! By developing crops with a higher tolerance against pests and that can outcompete weeds while producing more bushels to the acre, less pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer are needed, which means less chance for contamination of the water supply.

  114. According to Joel Salatin it only takes 14 days for the CLA to disappear in cattle after transferring from pasture to grain feed and that makes up the majority of grass fed cattle in America. If it’s not grass finished it will cause inflammation it seems.

  115. Grass fed and pasture raised are just that!
    The calves are branded, vaccinated and weaned at 5 – 6 months old and are put in a small pasture and fed alfalfa hay and plenty of clean water. They are looked at 2-3 times a day to make sure there is no sickness related to the stress of weaning. If there are some sick ones, they are separated and treated.
    The calves are given free choice organic vitamin, mineral and protein supplement blocks to help them get ready when they are put into pastures.
    At no time are they given grain or antibiotics or animal food stuffs.
    The cows are allowed 3-5 months to recover from the nursing calves to get into breeding condition.
    As far as feedlots go, I do not like them, but Harris Ranch feedlot is one of the largest in the U,.S. and they are cleaned daily and the animals are checked 3-4 times a days for sickness or injury and administered to by a licensed vet.
    The ranchers who own these cattle take better care of them than most city folks do their dogs and cats! They care about both the animals and the land and the environment and are the original conservationists!
    Personally speaking I prefer the grass fed beef IF it is fed properly and aged 21-29 days.

  116. I enjoyed your post. If I may, I would like to suggest my farm web site.

    Sumas Mountain Farms is the only producer of 100% certified-organic, lifetime grass-fed & finished beef in the Lower Mainland of BC (near Vancouver, Canada). We also offer grass-only chicken and pork.

    Please visit http://www.sumasmountainfarms.ca/ for more information!

    Thanks.

  117. I second the reply about hormones in conventional beef. A few years ago my family and I were on a road trip in rural northern Calif. when we had to wait for a herd of cattle to cross the road. I noticed these strange-looking skin flaps on each side of the animals’ mouths and asked my husband, who has an ag degree, what they were. They were hormone ampules, embedded under the skin! I haven’t bought commercial beef since.

  118. I wish we could all be consistent in the use of ‘grass fed’ and ‘grass finished’ Grass fed means that the animal had grass (or hay) at some point in its life but most likely was finished on grain (which is NOT good for your health) Grass finished means that the animal was raised on grass (or hay) and finished on grass (or hay), meaning it never had grain in its diet (which is GOOD for you. Just did a tour of Manhattan farm to table restaurants and found that chefs who should know better (and, unfortunately, probably do know better) were offering ‘grass fed’ beef instead of the desirable ‘grass finished’ beef. As I’m sure everyone know, grain finishing acidifies the rumen and causes the benefits of grazing to be lost in the beef. PLUS, ‘grass fed’ generally means that the animal spent it’s last 90 days in a feedlot environment (getting FAT) while the grass finished beef was living on growing grass. I hope this is clear to everyone! 😉

  119. To buy organic online means to have more organic food choices. A trip to the local food market can only let you enjoy a few fresh produce staples that you have already seen someplace else.

    1. Mark, I’m impressed by the fact that you’re touting the benefits of beef, but I feel like a lot of the comments left above have indicated some misinformed Primal eaters. Although beef can be grass fed or grain fed, either one can have been treated with antibiotics at some time in their life. If you want to avoid antibiotics altogether, try organic beef. Otherwise, meat labeled as grass fed doesn’t guarantee that there was no use of antibiotics. Or there could be the other end of the spectrum where the beef has been grain finished but never treated with antibiotics, which 90% of the beef that my family raises is. You can’t be sure about what’s in the beef unless the label says “organic.” But be prepared for a higher price tag.
      Also, what’s the big deal about antibiotics? Yes cattle get sick, and although it is more frequent in feedlots, I’ve had lots animals contract something while on spring and summer pasture. Month old Calves can easily contract a disease called “scours” in the early spring. This is like an intense form of diarrhea, almost like how cholera reacts in humans. Now am I supposed to let this calf crap all over himself, get dehydrated, die, and potentially infect the rest of the baby calves? No, I treat him with an antibiotic pill, and he gets better. That is what an ethical producer would do instead of letting the calf, and possibly the rest of the calves, suffer. Also, organic beef touts that no insecticide is placed on the cattle. To me, this is inhumane. How much do you enjoy swatting flies and mosquitoes? You don’t, so you either put on bug spray or go inside. Cattle don’t have much luxury to go indoors, so they’re forced to fight flies all summer long with only their tails for defense. But by putting insecticide on our cattle, they get a almost a summers worth of fly and hookworm fighting capabilities. But even that’s not enough! We then hang “dust bags”, basically a burlap sack filled with a special powder to deter flies at cool, shady spots of the pasture where the cattle like to congregate in the heat of the day. The cattle rub against the dust bag and get a fresh treatment against flies, ticks, and lice.

      Although conventional cattle raising practices might not be the most ideal picture when it comes to some concerns, I would like the consumer to realize that those big, bleak, and dirty feedlots might be doing the animal more justice than putting it on grass and letting it suffer without any available treatments for disease, because organic, grass fed beef is supposedly “better.” Yeah, a grain fed steer might be living in his own manure, but at least he can be treated when he gets sick. And the whole thing with “preventative” antibiotics is that it’s a waste of money! We give our cattle preventative VACCINES when they first arrive to the feedlot! Antibiotics aren’t used until the animal actually shows symptoms. Mass treating 100% of the herd when only 10% might actually get sick is money down the drain.

      Iv’e ate my family’s beef that I have personally helped birth, doctor, feed, and slaughter my entire life. Out of all of them, I will say that a grain fed animal contains more flavor than any grass fed beef. And I’d much rather take care of my animals using the technology that has been developed and tested as safe for the consumer so the herd can be at their healthiest.

      I guess if you really want to go primal, don’t bother eating domesticated livestock. Go out to the woods and shoot a deer. Ultimately the decision is up to you, the consumer, on what type of red meat you put on your plate. But if you truly want to know where it comes from, either visit the farm or raise it yourself.

  120. What about pasture raised cattle that are finished eating in a wheat grass field? Since I do not eat grains would this be like eating wheat?

  121. Reading the comments makes me realize that there is a lot of confusion over the cost of meat. When you pay $3/lb. for a whole or half you are paying at least $5/lb. for your packaged beef and the more ground beef you get the higher the cost per pound because of the less amount of bones.

    We sell grass fed, grass finished beef and we make this very clear to all of our customers.

  122. I’m a small beef rancher in TN and 40 years ago my father and i use to sell all our calves to contract buyer whole or halves. Never had more than a dozen or so each year. Not sure why we stopped, to much trouble or what it was but never thought we were pioneers of grass-fed beef. Now as I’ve gotten more interested/curious in the whole Grass-fed craze, i’ve started checking the prices at the food market. well, looking at Rib eyes grain fed – $11/lb vs $18/lb grass-fed!!!!!!!!! WHAAAAAAATTTT. Well that experience alone shaped my opinion of grass fed beef for quite a while until one day; i found a grass fed rib eye in the discount meat section half price and bit. The whole time i was sceptical because there was absolutely no visible marbling…you know the standard by which i’ve selected all my steaks. I’m thinking even with marinating this thing is going to be so tough. Well to my surprise it was delicious. thinking about going back in time to dad’s way of marketing and try for a better return on my operation since cattle prices are barely break-even. 2015 a 700# steer was $1500, that same calf today is $750. Do the math?????

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  124. Thank you for pointing out that with cow feed the base of the food is grain. Making sure your cows are eating the best feed possible seems like something farmers would want to consider. Hopefully, they do their research and find the best cow feed for their animals.