Our Summit Creek Ranch is made up of 690 acres of grasslands supporting our grass-fed beef. Additionally, we lease over a thousand acres of open range. We’ve been selling 100% grass-fed beef for 13 years, and this year we’re offering both beef by the cut at our local farmer’s markets, and through a customer-requested monthly club. Americans have only recently “discovered” the health benefits of grass-fed beef, even though that was the earliest form of feeding cattle in the world. Bottom line? It tastes better, and it’s better for us.
In 2010, The New York Times wrote, that “New research from California State University in Chico breaks it down, reviewing three decades of research comparing the nutritional profiles of grass-fed and grain-fed beef.
Over all, grass-fed beef comes out ahead, according to the report in the latest Nutrition Journal.
Beef from grass-fed animals has lower levels of unhealthy fats and higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are better for cardiovascular health. Grass-fed beef also has lower levels of dietary cholesterol and offers more vitamins A and E as well as antioxidants. The study found that meat from animals raised entirely on grass also had about twice the levels of conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, isomers, which may have cancer fighting properties and lower the risk of diabetes and other health problems.”
However, cattlemen in the 1950s, hoping to cut costs and improve efficiency, began to ship cattle to feed lots where they could be fattened more quickly on inexpensive and high-calorie grains. Although a grain-fed diet might appear benign, antibiotics and growth hormones are routinely added to grain feed to speed animal growth. In fact, livestock consume 70% of the antibiotics in the United States. This practice contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which in turn can lead to food-borne illness in humans.
Grass-fed beef is not standardized. Most is leaner than conventional feedlot beef, but some is equally marbled with fat due to what a Wikipedia article describes as “carefully managed grazing, excellent pastures, and improved genetics.” New York Times writer Marian Burros explored the taste difference in an interesting article titled “There’s More to Like About Grass-Fed Beef.” She says,
“Ranchers of grass-fed beef say they have made great strides in the last few years by relearning what came naturally before the era of the feedlot, then building on it. They use heritage breeds that thrive on grass rather than on grain, as well as crossbreeds developed with advanced genetics.”
Labels on grass-fed beef can be misleading, and some meat carrying a “grass-fed” label is still “finished” on grains at a feed lot. Meats carrying a U.S. Department of Agriculture “process verified shield” adhere to specific standards for grass feeding, although Mother Earth News reports that a label from the American Grassfed Association is better. To learn more about labeling on grass-fed meat, read the full Mother Earth article, “The Label Says Grass-Fed, But Is It?” or go to the American Grassfed Association website.