The Skinny on Grass-Fed Beef
Learn why it’s healthier and how to shop for it.
I’ve been known to have 75 pounds of beef in my freezer at one time. I know, it sounds a little nuts—especially for a dietitian. But a few years ago on the advice of a friend, I started buying shares of a grass-fed cow. I buy a quarter of a cow at a time, processed in whatever cuts I request. I liked the idea of supporting a local farmer. I also liked the idea of switching over to grass-fed beef.
Grass-fed beef goes back to basics because it comes from cows that eat grass instead of grain. Cows were meant to feed on grass, not corn, and graze in pastures, instead of being lined up in a feedlot. Because the cows eat grass, their meat is richer in heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Intrigued? Here’s what to keep in mind when it comes to grass-fed beef:
- It tends to be more expensive. That’s because it typically comes from smaller farms and because grass-fed cows live longer. But buying in bulk can save you money. My bulk orders usually work out to about $3 to $5 per pound, and we only eat beef once a week.
- It may be partly grain-fed. “Grass finished” cows eat only grass their whole lives, but “grain finished” cows eat grains right before they are processed. So read labels, or ask the farmer or rancher if you’re shopping locally.
- It is not always organic. The cows may still get hormones or antibiotics, or be partially fed on non-organic grain. If eating organic is important to you, look for the organic seal.
- It takes less time to cook. Because grass-fed beef is leaner than conventional beef, it cooks faster, so you have to be careful not to overcook it. Find more cooking tips at American Grass Fed Beef.
- It can taste different. Some people say grass-fed beef has a “stronger” taste. My family doesn’t notice a huge difference, and we like the flavor.
If you want to try grass-fed beef, ask your local grocery store if they carry it. Whole Foods Market is one store that stocks it. If you have a nearby farmers’ market, ask if there’s a local farm that offers it. You can also find a state-by-state directory of farms and ranches at Eat Wild.
Are you a fan of grass-fed beef?
—Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD