Organic vs. Grass-fed Beef

Can't decide what cut of beef to get for tonight's dinner or this weekend's barbeque? How about the organic selection? Or grass-fed beef? What's the difference? Which is healthiest? And what about taste!?

To begin, grass-fed beef comes from cows raised on pasture, the natural grass and shrubs diet of cows. Grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat and more nutritious than beef from grain-fed cattle. It contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, conjugated linoleic acid, and beta carotenes. Cattle raised on pasture tends to be leaner, making the meat less tender. Grass-feed beef is said to have a “gamey” taste. While many of the farmers that raise cows on pasture are organic or use limited amounts of fertilizers, pesticides, and antibiotics, such standards are not required to earn the grass-fed label.

For beef to be certified as organic, cattle must be raised on organic feed and have access to the outdoors. Organically-raised cattle cannot be treated with or fed antibiotics, growth hormones (which are strongly connected to cancer in humans), or genetically modified foods. Unless it is labeled grass-fed, organic cattle is fed organic grains (most likely corn). Therefore, organic beef is not as nutritious as grass-fed beef. What many people do not realize is that cows are natural grazers biologically designed to forage for plants, so feeding them grains, even organic grains, wreaks havoc on their digestive systems. There is also the environmental impact of all the fossil fuel energy used to grow the corn to feed cattle. As for taste, organic, grain-fed beef tastes similar to the traditionally-raised beef to which most people are accustomed.

Health-wise, grass-fed beef is the best option. When it comes to the environment, grass-fed beef has a slightly smaller carbon footprint than organic beef. And when it comes to taste, it’s really a matter of personal preference.

Still can’t decide what to barbeque this weekend? Try the healthier, more eco-friendly, less expensive option . . . . a veggie burger. Click here to learn more about how going vegetarian once a week can benefit your health and the environment.

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