Grass-fed beef comes from cows raised on pasture and fed only grass, brush, forbs (like legumes and Brassica), and cereal grain crops in their vegetative (pre-grain) state. It also may be labeled as “grass-finished.” The results are leaner, more flavorful meat with a healthier omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids profile.
Grass-fed beef is tenderer than the grain-fed meat most people have grown up with. The animals spend their lives on grass and pasture and are never confined to feedlots. The animals also receive a healthy amount of exercise, reflected in the meat’s texture. For this reason, it is best to marinate grass-fed cuts like flank steak for greater tenderness.
The beef quality is also improved because the cows are fed a natural diet, and their grass is full of essential vitamins and minerals. The resulting meat is lower in saturated fat and has a better nutritional profile, including more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Unlike grain-fed meat, grass-fed flank steak has a richer flavor. This results from the animal’s varied diet, allowing spices to stand out and shine.
When it comes to cooking tender grass-fed meat, the secret is a combination of methods and recipes. For example, by searing the meat over high heat before reducing the heat, you are locking in moisture and delicious flavor. You can add a tasty sauce or rub to the meat for flavor and tenderness.
Grass-fed beef is leaner than grain-fed beef, giving it a bold and meaty flavor. The grass-fed cows that produce this beef also have less saturated fat, which helps the meat stay juicy when cooked at higher temperatures.
The meat from grass-fed cattle is richer in vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, which is vital for healthy eyes. Vitamin A helps to convert light absorbed by the eye into an electronic signal that the brain can understand. This nutrient also combats certain types of cancer and promotes a strong immune system.
When you eat grass-fed beef, your body gets more amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. These amino acids include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, and valine. Generally, the more amino acid-rich foods you eat, the more muscle mass and strength you will build.
Most conventionally raised beef comes from crowded factory farms called CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). These animals are forced to live nearby and eat a diet filled with corn, wheat, soy, and other grains containing high fructose levels. These factory-raised cows are often fed antibiotics and hormones, which can impact human health by spreading these chemicals to our bodies. To avoid this, choose beef products labeled as grass-fed and organic.
Grass-fed meat is healthier than the grain-fed meat you buy in supermarkets. It contains more cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, and less of the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats. It is also higher in the heart-healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids and lower in saturated fats.
Feeding cows grass rather than corn or soy is better for the environment, too. The crops used to feed grain-fed cattle are treated with fossil fuel-based fertilizers and sprayed with chemicals, all needing a lot of energy to produce and transport. On the other hand, the grass that the cows graze on is nourished with natural fertilizers—the animal’s waste and the soil.
In addition, the nutrient-rich plants that grow in pastures provide more vitamins and minerals for the cow than the high-starch grains. For example, a cow eating 100% grass will get more potassium, zinc, vitamin B6, and riboflavin than a cow fed a diet of corn, soy, and wheat.
If you want to make a healthy choice, look for USDA 100% Organic Certified Grass-Fed and Grass-Finished beef (and lamb). This label means that the animals were raised on family farms in the U.S. and adhered to standards that prevent farmers from using GMOs, antibiotics, or hormones.
The fatty acids in grass-fed meat are healthier for you. They contain less saturated fat and more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and essential to health. Grass-fed beef also contains more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may reduce your risk of heart disease by decreasing cholesterol levels.
Grass-fed cows live in more natural environments and are raised without hormones or antibiotics. This is better for them, and it’s good for the environment as well. Cows raised on pasture produce fewer greenhouse gases and use less fossil fuels than those in feedlots. Grass-fed cows also maintain and fertilize the land they graze on.
In comparison, most cows are fed in crowded feedlots where they are given genetically modified corn, soy grains, and other types of food to fatten them up before slaughter. These animals live in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) until they are ready for slaughter.
Whether you’re craving a juicy flank steak, a hearty stew, or something simple like hamburgers, grass-fed meat is the way to go. It has superior tenderness and flavor because of its clean diet. Its rich and complex taste makes it more appealing to most palates. It’s important to cook it with care, though.