The debate surrounding grain fed beef and grass fed beef has been going on for some time now. It does seem kind of ironic really, that grass fed beef is often regarded as some kind of new fad, when, of course, cattle are ruminants, and are supposed to eat grass, not grain.
Still, it is cheaper to bring cattle up to market size by feeding them grain -corn, mostly- rather than grasses. So cheap must be good, right?
Actually it wasn’t until the middle of the twentieth century that farmers started feeding cows corn, but boy, did the practice catch on. Nowadays, most of the beef we find in supermarkets is grain fed, and many folks actually prefer grain-fed beef to grass fed, saying that it is more tender.
Do you know why it is more tender? Could it be the lives that these feedlot animals live? Is it the added growth hormones and antibiotics, the supplements, the lack of exercise? Corn fed beef is fattier, more of that sexy marbling we love so much. With grass fed beef, the meat has less fat, so this also adds to the sensation of a more toothsome steak.
There is a lot of information out there, including this tidy little article by Karen Eisenbraun. Here are a few salient points made by Ms Eisenbraun:
“Several decades ago, the cattle industry began feeding cattle a diet based on grain, particularly corn. During World War II, farmers were producing more grain than the American population could consume, so they started feeding the surplus to cattle. They found that a grain-fed diet allowed them to fatten up cows faster for slaughter. Seventy-five years ago, it took a cow 4 or 5 years to reach a weight of 1,200 pounds. Today, says John Robbins, author of author of The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World, cattle can be slaughtered at just 14-16 months of age, thanks to massive amounts of corn, protein supplements, antibiotics, and growth hormones”
“Corn-fed cattle are prone to serious health conditions such as bloat, diarrhea, ulcers, liver disease, and a weakened immune system. To combat these health problems, cattle are continually fed antibiotics, which leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that increasingly render modern medicine ineffective….”
Still…change is difficult. And corn fed beef is easier to chew. And cheaper. And that’s what you want to feed your children, right?
“Aside from posing the danger of E. coli, corn-fed beef contains far fewer nutrients than grass-fed beef. Prevention reports that a recent study by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found grass-fed beef to be significantly higher in calcium, magnesium, beta-carotene, and potassium than corn-fed beef. In addition:
- Meat from grass-fed cattle is lower in both overall fat and artery-clogging saturated fat.
- Grass-fed meat is higher in healthy omega-3 fats. Meat from feedlot animals has been found to contain only 15-50 percent as much omega-3s as meat from grass-fed cattle.
- Meat from grass-fed livestock is four times higher in vitamin E.
- Grass-fed meat is higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a nutrient associated with lower cancer risk”
Finally, let’s think about the life of these sentient animals for a moment. But not too much. And the impact that factory/feedlot farming has on the environment. But not too much.
Fiesta Farms is proud to carry grass fed beef from Prince Edward Island. You should try it. It’s delicious, and it’s healthy. Maybe it costs a little bit more, but, to steal a line from L’oreal “You’re worth it”