I’m writing to brag about beef – so buckle up because I think it has some amazing qualities. I am sure everyone has heard this age old discussion – grass fed or grain finished beef. Which is better? Read on to learn the benefits of both!
First of all – let’s define grass finished versus grain finished. According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, grass finished beef is beef that spends its entire life eating grass or forage, but may or may not eat grass, forage, hay or silage at a feedlot. A grain finished cow is one who spends the majority of his or her life eating grass or forage and spends 4-6 months at a feedlot eating a balanced diet of grains, local feed ingredients, and hay or forage.
So what’s the difference? According to a study done by Texas A&M University, they are equally healthy! They tested ground beef since Americans consume 40% of their beef intake in ground beef. They in fact, found that 85% ground beef from grain finished and grass finished was almost identical. In a quarter pound of ground beef they found that grass finished provided 0.055 grams of Omega 3 fatty acids, while grain finished provided 0.020 grams. Grass finished beef provided 6.3 grams of oleic acid, while grain finished provided 8.3 grams. In terms of total saturated fat and trans-fat, grass finished provided 9.8 grams, and grain finished provided 8.2 grams. So you can see, both types of beef provide essentially the same nutrients – pretty cool right? According to Penn State, grass finished cattle grade lower when compared to their grain finished peers of the same age, which in terms means that they are leaner. Once again, there are benefits to both types of cattle – but both taste wonderful.
Let’s look at the cattle’s diet – while the name gives it away, grass finished beef – is finished on grass, forage or hay. On the other hand, grain finished calves are sent to feedlots where they are fed a scientifically balanced diet of grains, local feed ingredients (to include potato hulls and sugar beets) and hay or forage. Did you know that over the life cycle of a grain finished cow, 82% of their diet is forage? Another 7% is biproducts from human food, food production, and biofuels? Talk about the ultimate way to be sustainable and recycle! According to Dr. Sara Pace, cattle are producing more protein than they are consuming, and “we generate more high-quality protein by taking that corn and running it through cattle to make beef, than if we were to eat that corn directly.” On a personal note, I think it is amazing that we can use all these waste products and create a product which tastes great. Feedlots have a professionally staffed nutritionist to ensure the cattle are receiving the proper nutrition. Both types of cows are treated very well, and received balanced diets – so what’s not to love about either option.
Overall, no matter which type of beef you choose, you’re choosing correctly. Both grain finished and grass finished are healthy for you, the animal, and the environment. I cannot stress enough how amazing it is that in a town this size we have so many options! No matter what we choose it’s a great option and all of us cant thank you enough for supporting local beef. Your support means the world to us. Let’s go out and support our local ranchers – and eat a nice juicy steak while we’re at it!