The Agricultural Marketing Service of the USDA defines grass fed as grass being the only “feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal” and that the animals “cannot be fed grain or grain by-products.” On the other hand, the diet of conventional beef cattle may include grains.
The nutrients we get from beef depend on the diet of the animal. In short, we may be getting more if cattle is under one kind of diet and get less from the other. But is feeding cattle only grass truly beneficial? Are there any drawbacks at all?
List of Advantages of Grass Fed Beef
1. It is healthier and tastes better
Grass fed beef has more nutrients. Cattle that are fed only grass will have a range of flavors and the meat is very rich. Not only that, there will be taste differences as well depending on where the animal was raised. There are other health benefits of grass fed beef and these include:
- less fat
- more omega-3 fatty acids (which are good for the heart)
- more conjugated linoleic acid (helps reduce risk of heart disease and cancer)
- more antioxidant vitamins like vitamin E
Eating lean beef containing 10% fat or less has always been recommended – it makes up a heart-healthy diet.
2. It benefits the animals
Feeding grain to cattle creates a lot of stomach issues. If it’s uncomfortable to humans to walk around with stomach pain, the same goes for animals.
3. It is better for the environment
Raising animals out of confinement can reduce environmental footprint compared with beef that has been grain-fed. Grazing on grass minimizes the growth of woody plants that make grasslands inhospitable to grass.
List of Disadvantages of Grass Fed Beef
1. It is more expensive than regular beef
There are more packages of grass-fed beef in grocery stores these days and when you compare their prices to standard supermarket beef, you’ll notice that they are more expensive. The meat is pricier because it takes a while for farmers to get cattle to their desired slaughter weight. Grass fed cattle also tends to be smaller, meaning there will be less meat.
2. It isn’t proven to be healthier
There isn’t enough evidence to prove that grass fed beef is indeed healthier. Research is limited on whether or not cattle raised on grass alone are truly healthier than conventional beef.
3. It is harmful for the environment
Some say that grass fed beef is beneficial for the environment but there are others who argue against it. Their reason: consuming beef adds more damage to the environment than driving a car to and from work. Scientists at the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimate that 1 kilogram of beef emits more greenhouse gas than 155 miles of driving.
Grass fed beef has its own fair share of advantages and disadvantages. Consumers who have the means are the only ones who can afford grass fed beef. That being said, eating conventional beef is also better than consuming junk.