Beef has been a staple for centuries and will continue to be. It’s rich in muscle-building protein, hormone (ie testosterone) building fats, and minerals that are great for the brain, blood, hair, skin, immune system, growth and more.
In the old days, beef was beef. Everything was local. And beef was always grass fed, because cows live on pastures and eat grass.
Over time, industrial, high-output farming became the norm and things are much different now. The vast majority of beef on the market comes from these high-output feedlot operations that have gone far off from the natural way of doing things. The cows aren’t allowed to thrive in their natural environment, they are force fed an unnatural diet, antibiotics and other drugs, and often face harsh abuse.
Thankfully, there has been a great resurgence in sustainable, grass-fed cattle ranching. People are choosing grass-fed because it’s better for the cows, environment, your health, and more. I am one of these people and buy grass-fed beef exclusively. Here are the top 7 reasons why grass fed beef belongs in your fridge.
1 – Grass-fed beef usually escapes the horror of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)
Cows need grassy fields to thrive. CAFOs create miserably unhealthy cows with meat that is inferior to pastured beef. Image source: CAFO – The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Farming (no affiliation)
Buying pastured (grass-fed) beef tends to keep them out of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). A CAFO feedlot usually ends up with cows standing knee deep in their own feces, in a grossly overcrowded pen that doesn’t have a single blade of grass on it. Worse still, the cows are often locked into position where they can’t move, so they’ll get fatter quicker.
These overcrowded feedlots have a real issue with waste and are operating outside the limits of nature. Nature is designed to balance new growth with recycling old waste. That’s why manure can be great for the garden; it helps rebuild the soil so you can grow healthy food. But with a CAFO, animals are forced into very unnatural living conditions.
When cows (or pigs, chickens…) are crammed together, the ground and surrounding area can’t handle the volume of waste. The overflow gets into the waterways, creating a toxic disaster. And the poor animals stuck in the feedlot end up covered in their own waste, which increases infection rates. Then in return, antibiotic use in cows skyrockets to offset the infection (and this directly contributes to the antibiotic-resistant bacteria crisis in humans.)
On top of this, consider that animals release hormones based on fear and stress, similar to humans. CAFO animals are trapped in a prison of misery their entire life. Many are horribly abused. Or forced into cannibalism when dead cows are mixed back into the feed (the cause of Mad-Cow Disease).
This resonates into the flesh of the animal, tainting your meat. It’s just a horrible industry to support. This reason alone is enough for some to switch to 100% pastured beef.
2 – Cows are meant to eat grass, not grain, corn or soy
Cows are pasture ruminants not grain-grinders. For cows to be healthy, they need to live in grassy fields.
Feeding cows grain, corn and soy may be as destructive as you and I eating cardboard. It leads to an increase of disease, bacterial infections and (once again) higher antibiotic use.
Cows are fed grain, corn and soy because it’s dirt cheap, helps to fatten them up, and floats a (failing) agricultural model based on government subsidies and intensive farming.
A cow’s stomach is designed to eat grass. From Wiki:
Escherichia coli, although considered to be part of the normal gut flora for many mammals (including humans), has many strains. Strain E. coli 0157:H7 is associated with human illness (and sometimes death) as a foodborne illness. A study by Cornell University has determined that grass-fed animals have as much as eighty percent less of this strain of E. coli in their guts than their grain-fed counterparts, though this reduction can be achieved by switching an animal to grass only a few days prior to slaughter. Also, the amount of E. coli they do have is much less likely to survive our first-line defense against infection: stomach acid. This is because feeding grain to cattle makes their normally pH-neutral digestive tract abnormally acidic; over time, the pathogenic E. coli becomes acid resistant. If humans ingest this acid-resistant E. coli via grain-feed beef, a large number of them may survive past the stomach, causing an infection. A study by the USDA Meat and Animal Research Center in Lincoln Nebraska (2000) has confirmed the Cornell research.
In some cases, they are taking the sickly grain-fed cows and putting them to pasture to heal them before slaughter. My suggestion would be to not take them from the pasture in the first place.
Besides, there are a lot of unsettled issues regarding health effects of GMO corn and soy and the chemicals applied to them. Let alone, the estrogenic effect of soy that affects the cow and any man who eats it. No thanks!
3 – Grass-fed beef is nutritionally superior to grain-fed beef
One of the most important benefits of grass-fed beef is that has more nutrients than grain-fed beef. You get more bang for your buck. Pastured beef has more omega 3s, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and less overall fat than grain-fed beef. And it’s not just a “little bit” more, either. We’re talking 2-5x more omega 3s and other healthy fats. These nutrients play a key role in protecting the health of your brain, heart and more from very serious diseases. In the link just given, they show how grain-fed cows actually lose omega 3s the longer they stay on the feedlot. It makes sense that the meat of a sickly animal, force-fed an unnatural diet, would be nutritionally inferior – right?
4 – Grass-fed beef is better for the environment, helps carbon sequestering, and creates fertile soils
Putting beef to pasture increases sustainability by working within nature’s model. Pastures and ruminants are made for one another and help each other prosper.
Enjoy this Ted Talk by Allan Savory:
Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert,” begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And it’s happening to about two-thirds of the world’s grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes — and his work so far shows — that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert.
Plus, cow manure is great fertilizer for the soil. You have got to get organic matter back into the soil to grow healthy crops. And it helps with water retention.
Those high-output, mono-crop farming operations grow corn and such constantly without letting cows come in and graze on the pasture. Year after year, the soil continues to get stripped of vital nutrients and the crop quality goes down. Let alone problems like desertification that develop from neglected soil. Returning cows to pasture and integrating with crop rotation is essential to achieving long-term sustainability in agriculture.
5 – Grass-fed beef looks and tastes much better than grain-fed
Over the years a weird trend began: meat bought at the grocery store looks dull and gray instead of vibrant red. And do you remember the “Pink Slime” controversy?
“Pink slime,” a cheap meat filler, is in 70 percent of the ground beef sold at supermarkets and up to 25 percent of each American hamburger patty, by some estimates.
As seen in the movie Food Inc., the low-grade trimmings come from the most contaminated parts of the cow and were once only used in dog food and cooking oil. But because of BPI’s treatment of the trimmings – simmering them in low heat, separating fat and tissue using a centrifuge and spraying them with ammonia gas to kill germs – the United States Department of Agriculture says it’s safe to eat.
To each their own – there’s just a lot of issues regarding quality and sanitation when it comes to the average meat sold at the grocery store.
Instead, I get grass-fed beef that’s free of weird cleaning agents and fillers.
Local, grass-fed steaks searing up nice on the grill over a bed of apple wood. The quality is superb and when it comes to cleanliness, I have eaten small pieces raw without worry of food poisoning. Something I wouldn’t dare try with CAFO mystery-meat.
Some greatly prefer the extra fat marbling that comes from grain-fed cows. A suggestion would be to have your pastured cow only be grain-finished (last 30 days or so) and NOT grain-fed for its entire life. It is the long-term grain feeding and feedlot life that destroys cows; avoid that as much as possible. They even make organic grain now so you can avoid GMOs while you finish the beef.
6 – When purchased wisely, grass-fed beef can still be had at a great deal
In our small town we have a Natural Grocers (health food store, mostly organic) that sells grass fed beef for ~$8.99/lb. A nearby farm and market store sells local pastured beef for ~$7.99/lb. A better deal but still pricey.
When we work directly with local ranchers or family and close friends who raise cattle, we can score premium, 100% grass fed, high altitude beef for a screaming deal. We’re talkin’ $4.50/lb for meat that, properly marketed, would easily sell for $12/lb just for the ground beef. Going in on a cow together with another family can be a great way to score the best deal on the best meat.
Great for families and young couples – I grilled up some grass-fed steaks, the misses made mashed potatoes and fried green tomatoes from scratch. For some extra flare on the steaks, chop up and saute a bunch of garlic with a lot of butter. You can have incredibly delicious dinners, better than most restaurants even, without leaving your house.
And have you ever had your own deep freeze cooler stocked full of delicious meat? Growing up, we always had food on hand but only a week’s worth. I heard stories about my grandfather who would go-in on a cow with another family in the neighborhood. It wasn’t until I was a grown man before I enjoyed that experience. I was missing out!
It’s incredible to walk into your garage and have 50 – 100+ lbs of glorious meat on hand at all times. After I started paying the high cost for grass-fed beef at the store, I knew I needed to get a better deal. Buying in bulk gives you this deal and also the experience of having a quarter or half beef stocked away in the freezer. You can have steak whenever the heck you want.
Grass-fed steak ‘n eggs is a legendary meal and personal favorite.
7 – Grass-fed beef helps reconnect you with nature
We depend on plants and animals for sustenance and have got to respect them. People have become terribly detached from their food and how it gets to their plate. The appreciation for the sacrifice of life isn’t there. People just see a cheeseburger, not the animal or what happened to it. This is more common in the city where people are less likely to see cows in person.
Learning about CAFOs and the benefits of grass-fed beef was sort of a gateway to being concerned about the animal’s health. And more, concerned about whether we are working within the model of nature or trying to abuse and pervert it. For many reasons, I don’t want to support [certain fast food places and Big Box Stores] who deliberately source from CAFOs. I want that model to be replaced by something more sustainable, natural and better for the animal.
Sourcing grass-fed beef direct from a local rancher is a fun and fulfilling experience. You get better, cleaner meat for your family and the cows get to live happily in the pasture, where they belong.
The animals you and I feed to our families for sustenance should spend their days happy in the sunshine. We cannot live without them and should treat them as such. And remarkably, treating the cows better results in better meat. So it’s a win-win.
Eating grass-fed beef tends to go hand-in-hand with appreciating vegetable gardens, farms and ranches. Clean living and healthy eating. It’s one more step towards a brighter and more sustainable future, with a healthy respect between man and nature. For these reasons and more, I wholeheartedly recommend grass-fed beef to everyone who can get their hands on it!
Thinking about trying grass-fed beef or already a big fan? Let’s hear your thoughts!