What you need to know about buying grass-fed beef, including labels, cuts, color and fat content, and a guide to where to buy
Not only is the taste of grass-fed beef a little different than conventional beef—deeper, richer and more mineral—there are
other differences to keep in mind as well when you’re buying or cooking the
. Here’s what to consider.
Read the Labels
Look for the words “grass-fed” on labels. It’s USDA-regulated and ensures that the meat is from cattle that have eaten solely
grass and forage, from weaning to slaughter.
The American Grassfed Association third-party-certified logo indicates that cattle are 100 percent grass-fed. But it also
means that animals were raised without hormones or antibiotics, were not confined and were raised humanely. The Food Alliance
also certifies grass-fed claims.
When you see the terms “pastured” or “grass-finished” on a label, know that they are unregulated and could mean that the
animal’s diet included grains.
Understand Seasonality of Cattle Diets
Unlike conventional beef, which can be fed year-round on grain, grass-fed beef is at its prime when the grass is green and
For this reason, some farmers sell all their meat fresh at peak season while others freeze the meat for sale throughout the
year. (Taste should not suffer if meat is vacuum-sealed and properly frozen.)
Of course, in-season is relative to where the animals are grazed. For most cattle-raising areas of the U.S., the height of
the season is late spring to early summer, but in more temperate states there can be great pastures year-round.
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Buying Local Beef
Much of the grass-fed beef in North America is produced on small farms and sold directly to consumers. A good place to find
it is at your local farmers’ market.
If you buy direct from a farmer and there are no labels, ask for the specifics about how the beef was raised.
A number of websites, including americangrassfed.org
, offer useful
directories for locating grass-fed beef near you.
To save money, consider purchasing a share, a half or whole animal, or a box of assorted cuts. Natural-foods stores and
specialty meat markets also often sell grass-fed beef
If you can’t find grass-fed beef locally, look online.
Selecting the Best Beef Cuts
Grass-fed beef has a wider range of colors than conventional—from bright red to deep mahogany-brown—so don’t use color as an
indication of freshness.
Leaner than conventional and with less marbling, grass-fed meat should look moist, with no brown edges, and have fat that
ranges from faintly yellow to butter yellow.
EatingWell Tip: The fat percentage is not always shown on packages of grass-fed ground beef,
especially when you’re buying from a local supplier. If you can, choose ground beef that is at least 90% lean.