Interest in grass fed beef is on the rise. As we hear more and more about the benefits of this ‘old fashioned’ way of raising cattle, we wonder if it is worth the extra cost at the grocery store.
Almost all beef calves begin their lives drinking milk from their mothers and learning to eat grasses and plants in the pasture where they roam. When the calf is approximately eight to twelve months old, the conventionally raised calf is moved to a feedlot (confined feeding) where they are fattened up on grains—soy and/or corn. The grains fatten up the animal much faster than grass so it can be slaughtered sooner.
In contrast, the grass fed steer or heifer continues to roam the pasture eating grass in the summer and hay that was grown on nearby fields in the winter for the remainder of its life—usually about 24 months. The grass fed brand that we sell at Coborn’s, Thousand Hills Cattle Company, receives no artificial growth hormones, antibiotics and no GMO feed. Note that there is a difference between “pasture raised” (beginning its life on grass and later put on grains) and “100% grass fed and finished” (never fed grains).
The grain fed steer are, more times than not, given growth hormone drugs to make them grow faster. Antibiotics are also typically administered to keep them from getting sick plus it increases daily gains—making it irresistible for Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO or feedlots). Many also believe these practices produce better marbling and a juicier meat.
The most notable difference between the two types of beef are seen in the fatty acid composition, mainly in Omega-3′s and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA,); grass fed contains 35 grams more Omega-3′s per serving than conventionally raised and more CLA than grain fed beef.
No matter how you look at it or what type of beef you choose to eat, red meat is very nutrient dense. Beef contains most of all nutrients humans need to sustain a healthy life: Vitamins B12, B6, B3, Iron, Selenium and Zinc. Also, Creatine and Carnosine, both of which are necessary for good brain function and muscle development.
How the two are raised also has an impact on our environment. This, however, is a deep and heady discussion that would be good to engage in another blog, but should be considered by all consumers of beef.
At Coborn’s, we offer both types of beef. In the Meat Department you can find our locally raised 100% Certified Hereford Beef and the Natural Foods Department carries locally produced Thousand Hills Cattle Company‘s 100% Grass Fed Beef (Cannon Falls, MN).
Make this nutritious food a regular part of your diet and be sure to properly cook your beef to the recommended 160°F.
Learn more about beef at beef.org
Coborn’s Natural Foods Manager, Clearwater, MN