Grass-fed beef – know what you’re getting and what you’re not.
This past week we’ve been talking about 100% grass-fed organic beef with friends and family. It seems whenever we go to a family picnic where you bring your own meat and a dish to share the subject of grass-fed organic beef comes up. Why? Because we raise 100% grass-fed beef and have for over 12 years. Over the years the breed has been changed, but we’ve always been consistent on raising them as 100% grass-fed in an organic manner.
Why? Because it made sense to us even before we knew research about grass-fed beef. Our lifestyle is about being as natural as possible. This includes the animals we raise. Cows in nature do not eat corn and grain. They are browsers – they browse around eating pasture grasses, legumes, and other natural food such as nuts, fallen fruit, and leaves.
Sure the cow is going to eat corn, grain, and grain mixes if fed to them. Why wouldn’t they? If you were sitting in front of your favorite treat you’d eat it too, even if it wasn’t healthy for you.
I hear different myths and information all the time about grass-fed beef. I’d like to bust a few of them for you and give you more information about the benefits of grass-fed beef.
Nutritional Facts of grass-fed 100% Beef compared to other beef
- Higher in Omega fatty acids
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower bad fats
- More vitamins and antioxidants
- Better for the environment
- Higher CLA which is considered a cancer-fighting element.
- For the best beef make sure it’s 100% grass-fed organic so you don’t need to worry about growth hormones, grain, GMO (genetically modified organisms), pesticides, and you know the cow had plenty of pasture and sunshine.
- There are many places you can find more information about grass-fed beef such as the USDA and Eat Wild. Dr. Axe has an excellent article which includes nutritional information as well which you can find here.
Myths – Busted
- 100% Grass-fed organic beef
Remember: Because there is no longer a USDA grass-fed label or regulations make sure your meat reads 100% grass fed or there could be grain. Make sure your meat says certified organic or you don’t know if your meat was raised in an organic manner. A non-GMO on a meat package labeled organic is redundant because organic means no – GMOs used in the raising of the animal. And non-GMO on a package of meat without the organic label means basically nothing. There are no GMO cows – but some people do feed their cows GMO feed.Organic grass-fed beef means no hormones, antibiotics, GMOs, or spraying. Plus the cow lives its entire life on pasture, grasses, and hay which is dried grass.
- Grass-fed beef can be given a little bit of grain.
This is a gray area because there is no longer a USDA label for grass-fed beef so you must look at the words and realize it means they have grass but doesn’t exclude anything else. Grass-fed doesn’t mean 100% grass fed.
- Grass-finished beef is the same as 100% grass-fed beef.
False – grass finished means the animal was finished being raised on grass, not that it lived entirely on pasture and grass.
- A little grain or a little spraying is okay if you want 100% grass fed organically raised meat
False – that’s like being a little pregnant. Either it is 100% grass-fed and raised in an organic manner or it’s not. There is no little.
- We use a little grain to get the animals in to be able to take care of them – there is no other way.
False – still doesn’t make it 100% grass-fed beef. And there are many ways to get cows into an area for taking care of them or keeping an eye on them. Cows are creatures of habit, so it is repetition. Yes, having a treat makes it easier to get animals in. Being out in your pastures with your animals makes it easier too. Larger farms have more animals to care for and one on one attention is more difficult.When there is an abundance of pasture and great weather the cows don’t always want to come in. And they don’t need to come in every day either. Grass fed organic cows are out on pasture in the sun. There are many ways the farmer can get animals into the barn or move them to a new pasture area without grain. We’ve used the following methods. We walk our herd in like a round up when needed. Call them from the barn door with fresh hay or baylage in our hands. Bayledge or haylage is a method of preserving and fermenting hay. Feed treats like apples or other vegetables. Once the cows know we have treats they come running when they see us.
- You can’t raise a cow on an all grass-fed diet
False – Yes you can and yes we have for years. It does take a little longer to raise the meat because the animal is not being shoved full of grain. The animal may grow a little slower but it also grows more naturally.
- Grass-fed beef doesn’t marble
False – it marbles, but it isn’t as fatty as grain fed beef.
- By letting animals graze and walk around the meat is tougher.
False – we’ve never found grass-fed beef to be any different in toughness per cut than any other type of meat. The animal is healthier out on pasture and less susceptible to disease.
- Grass-fed beef tastes funny.
It tastes different – yes. And depending on how you cook it depends on how it tastes. You do need to cook it slower than traditional meat. But it tastes like meat is supposed to taste.
Shopping for 100% grass-fed beef
There are times you might feel you can’t get exactly what you want in your food. Like in 100% grass-fed organic beef. What do you do if there is grass-fed beef but it doesn’t say organic? Or if it says organic but not grass-fed? Some of this is label confusion and some is what the farm has done or not done for marketing. If you are in the store you must take each label at face value. What does it say – not what do you think it means. If there is a brand you like see if you can get on their website for more information. Or email them. If you are at a farmers market or buying directly from the farmer ask questions.
So you can make the right decision for your grass fed organic meat – let’s break down the parts of 100% grass-fed organic beef.
100% grass fed. This means no – not even a handful – of grain or corn. Only grasses and legumes either as grass, hay, baylage, or haylage. Treats are of natural such as apples and other veggies.
Organic Beef: This means that the cow has been organic since before birth. No spraying pesticides on the field. No GMO (genetically modified organisms), hormones or antibiotics. The animal has access to the outdoors and pastures at will all year round unless it is for their protection for short periods of time. This means animals are not locked up or tied up throughout their life.
There are some exceptions for having a cow inside without access to the pastures. Such as they are injured and need to be healed. They are having a calf and need to be watched. The weather is so bad it isn’t safe for the animal.
Now you make a decision on what is important to you for your meat.
We personally do without when shopping for food if we can’t find what we want. I look at my dollars as a voting booth. When I buy foods I don’t really want I am telling the producer that they should keep producing as they are and I am fine with it. Even though I am not.
Yes, right now we are raising our own beef, but that doesn’t mean we raise all our meat. Which means I am always asking at farmers markets how they raise their food so I have a place to buy a certain cut or product I may not have.
When you look and ask questions of producers you can find what you want.
And finding organic grass-fed beef is getting easier and easier.