Grass-fed and Grain-fed Beef. What's the Difference?
Hi, me again! Today, we are going to follow-up on our conversation about beef labels by talking about grass-fed vs. grain-fed cattle. There is a lot of talk surrounding us about the differences and I hope to clear some of that up for you.
Want me to fill you in on a secret? Cattle are mostly fed the same way. You heard me right. Both grass-fed and grain-fed cattle are on pasture for most of their lives. There is one major difference between grass and grain-fed cattle. The difference is that grain-fed cattle are also supplemented with a grain diet for the last half of their lives and grass-fed cattle are not. Why does this matter? Consumer preference and competitive advantage, mostly! You see, grain-fed cattle often have more marbling in their product (see one of ours below). Marbling is the white portion of the meat. It's what creates that tenderness in your steak.
Are you a big fan of prime or choice steaks? Chances are high that you are selecting a grain finished product. Do you prefer a leaner steak? Chances are, that product is grass-fed. Are you a terrible cook like me? You are better off with a grain-fed steak; it has more forgiveness when cooking, because the marbling leaves the meat more tender.
To better illustrate the differences, I wanted to share this wonderful infographic created by Beef Checkoff which compares grain-fed vs. grass-fed cattle. As you can see, the differences in the two are very minimal. Both are nutritious choices, and it is ultimately up to you!
Some points to note:
Grain-fed cattle have a lower carbon footprint than grass-fed cattle. This is because they grow more quickly and use fewer resources.
Grass-fed and grain-fed cattle have essentially the same amount of nutrients and both contribute to a healthy part of a balanced diet.
The method by which cattle are fed doesn’t dictate whether they are given by-products, steroids, hormones, or antibiotics. Look for certified organic or all-natural labels which will indicate this.
Not all grass-fed cattle are considered organic. There are very specific requirements and fees to put this on your label. Just because a label doesn’t say certified organic doesn’t mean they aren’t, though. They may have decided against the process to get the official documentation. Just ask the farmer!
I hope this helps you next time you go to the meat section of your grocery store, farmer’s market, or shop online. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask us before you buy. We love speaking with our consumers! If this makes you have a hankering for some great tasting beef, let me show you the way!