Greener Pastures: When It Comes to Beef, Is Grass-Fed Better?

By Patsy Jamieson, "Greener Pastures," March/April 2008

"This is such a wonderful article. I recently watched Food Inc and I am in the process of reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. I find most people just don't want to know where their meat comes from. In fact, I bought the documentary so I...

It takes commitment to choose grass-fed beef from a local farm over what you conveniently pick up in the supermarket meat case. Cuts of Maple Wind Farm beef are instead sold at local farmers’ markets, natural-foodsstores and restaurants. The beef is also sold in bulk and included in community supported agriculture shares. And it is expensive. A pound of ground beef costs more than twice as much as its conventional counterpart at my nearby supermarket. So, why would I go out of my way to pay more for local grass-fed beef?

My primary concern is finding an alternative to conventional beef, which is finished (i.e., fattened) on grain, primarily corn, at off-site, specialized feedlots. Industrial feedlots deposit high concentrations of manure onto the land, polluting the air and nearby water sources. At many feedlots, cattle are given growth-promoting hormones to stimulate muscle development and antibiotics to prevent diseases caused by crowding and an unnatural diet of grain. Cattle that eat grass their entire lives are generally healthier and have no need for drugs.

The typically lower fat and calorie content of grass-fed beef is another compelling reason to choose it. As a mother of two young children, Beth takes pleasure in the fact that the meat she feeds her kids is produced on her own farm and is as good for them as possible. “I know that the ground beef I use in my spaghetti sauce is just a much healthier product,” she says. “I know the value of the grass-fed diet and that my children are not exposed to antibiotics from grain-fed cattle.”

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