First off, this is not about whether to eat beef or not. We talk a lot about the benefits of grass fed beef over the typical grain fed animals. What is the difference and why? Is it worth the slightly extra cost and inconvenience? I say kinda yes but let’s look at the details.
The obvious difference is what they are each fed before they head to the butcher. Pastured raised cows are treated very differently than feedlot cattle. I won’t go into the environmental and ethical issues surrounding the details of the slaughter process, you can watch the many documentaries on the subject or read the article on the subject from primal expert Mark Sisson.
Grass fed vs Grain Fed by Mark Sisson
What about the nutritional differences?
“There are a number of nutritional differences between the meat of pasture-raised and feedlot-raised animals. To begin with, meat from grass-fed cattle, sheep, and bison is lower in total fat. If the meat is very lean, it can have one third as much fat as a similar cut from a grain-fed animal. In fact, grass-fed beef can have the same amount of fat as skinless chicken breast, wild deer, or elk.”
Omega-3s are most abundant in seafood and certain nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds and walnuts, but they are also found in animals raised on pasture. The reason is simple. Omega-3s are formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves and algae. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass are omega-3s. When cattle are taken off omega-3 rich grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on omega-3 poor grain, they begin losing their store of this beneficial fat. Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, its supply of omega-3s is diminished.
Meat and dairy products from grass-fed ruminants are the richest known source of another type of good fat called “conjugated linoleic acid” or CLA. When ruminants are raised on fresh pasture alone, their products contain from three to five times more CLA than products from animals fed conventional diets.”
Does grass fed taste better?
They definitely taste different, and like any meat, it’s a personal preference and how it is prepared. It definitely tastes a little “meatier” or “gamey”, because it is so much leaner, similar to other wild meats. Many farms and restaurants will offer grain-finished beef to add a little extra marbling prior to butchering.
On the islands, we have multiple farms offering grass fed or pastured raised cattle. You can find it on the cheap at Higa Meat Market, A’ala market and Foodland. North shore cattle company also offers it at a few of the farmers markets. Whole Foods also carries Maui cattle company beef.
It’s definitely not as convenient as stopping by safeway or buying bulk at costco and sam’s club but it’s worth it to go a little out of your way when you can. I understand it’s not reasonable to buy grass fed beef all the time, just do your best to find the best quality whenever possible.