A Grass Fed Beef Primer

Grass-fed beef is all the rage.  The health benefits are promoted by Dr Oz and validated by mainstream websites like Medscape.

I just picked up my annual quarter of grass fed beef from a local farmer and am excited to continue a healthy, delicious tradition.  Allowing me to support small farms and providing better fat composition, it’s a great path to guilt-free indulgence.  Here’s why:

Better Fat Composition

Cattle are designed to eat grass.  Compared to conventional beef, grass-fed meat is lower in cholesterol and saturated fat, contains less total fat and has fewer calories.  Grass fed beef is higher in “good” fats, providing 3 to 5 times more Conjugated Linoleic Acid (linked to lower cancer rates), and 2 to 6 times more omega-3 fatty acids (may help prevent heart disease and cancer).

Source: eatwild.com

Lower E. coli Risk

Grass feeding beef may also aid in reducing bacterial contamination.  In a Cornell University study, grain-fed cattle harbored higher numbers of dangerous, acid-resistant E. coli, which thrived in their higher acid stomachs.  In addition the altered bacteria are better able to survive the acid barrier that human stomachs normally provide.

Animal Treatment

In addition to health benefits, grass-feeding practices may offer greater sustainability and a more humane, healthful lifestyle for the cattle.  Dairy cows on grass live 12 or more years versus an industry average of 3 to 4.  Baileys Harbor, WI farmer Tom Lutsey decided to take stress seriously and installed a handling system built by Temple Grandin (of HBO film fame) that gently coaxes the cattle through gates and passages for an even lower stress environment—and presumably healthier, tastier beef.

How to Make Grass Fed Beef Work for You

If you are ready to try some grass fed beef, here are some things to consider:

  • Locating sources.  Don’t expect to pop into your neighborhood supermarket and find grass fed beef.  Good sources include health food stores, farmers markets, and local farms, which may offer the most economical solution.  Some farms sell single cut packages or larger convenience packs of varied cuts, as well as the traditional quarter or half of a cow.  And since all beef is not created equal, you may wish to try a small amount of beef before making a big purchase like a quarter of beef.
  • Grass-finishing.  Ask if your meat is grass-finished.  The health benefits drop off rapidly if cattle are switched to grain before slaughter.

Source: eatwild.com

  • Cooking Instructions.  Because the grass fed meat has a lower fat content, it may benefit from slight modifications to cooking style.  Tougher cuts like chuck roasts will be tenderized by slow cooking at low temperatures and steaks will be more tender if cooked medium-rare rather than well done.   When I switched to grass-fed, I didn’t do any new recipe research but simply tried not to overcook.  The results were delicious.   Note that standard safe cooking and handling practices still apply to grass-fed beef.

It’s peak beef sale time at family farms right now as they prepare for winter.  If you would like to locate a source near you, check out Local Harvest.   Then enjoy!

You may also enjoy: Beating the Heat: Pot Roast From an Improvised Summer Kitchen

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13 thoughts on “A Grass Fed Beef Primer

  1. Louise

    Kudos to you, Inger! My daughter is expecting her side of beef mid-Nov. She is so excited and did a ton of research before choosing. Just because it says it’s so doesn’t mean it is:)

    I can’t wait to see what you “whip” up for us now that you went and shared your catch!!!

    thanks for sharing…

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  4. OysterCulture

    Great primer on grass fed beef. I recently attended a beef tasting similar to a wine tasting and the difference in taste and texture is amazing. I found it fascinating to learn of the unintended consequences of eating corn fed beef – ie greater chance of disease. We have a barrier of resistance as the cow does not the high acidity to digest grass as opposed to corn, and a few other intriguing facts that escape me at this moment. You have me craving a good steak right now.

  5. Brady's Beef

    I would add that it’s increasingly important to ensure your beef is grass finished, meaning the animal reached physical maturity and was fed grass all the way until butchering.

    PS Does your local farmer have a website? If so I’d love to see it. I’ve been having a lot of success online and when my customers write about me I try to have them link to my website to help others find me.

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