Should Grass-Fed Beef MOOOOOOOve onto your plate?

Photo: Scott Bauer, USDA ARS

Photo: Scott Bauer, USDA ARS

by Daisy Christophel, Communication major

Walking into the grocery store we have two general choices, organic or not. With beef, we have options: grass-fed, grain-fed, (regular) grass-finished, or corn finished. Grass finished means the steer is fed on grain for the first half of his life then his final year before slaughter is finished on grass, corn finished means the opposite.

It’s important to understand what grass-fed beef entails since it can be confused with “organic” or “free-range” labeling. By USDA standards, grass-fed beef means that for the entirety of the animals life it must always be fed grass, forage, and “cereal grains in the vegetative state.”  Checks are done on farms to ensure this process.

Grass-fed beef can still be given hormones, and antibiotics. There is also controversy over the USDA label because grass-fed beef can be imported and it’s a blurry line to decide at what point grains stop being in the vegetative state. Explain this a bit further

What are the good things about grass-fed compared to grain? In short, it’s better for the environment, us, and the cow. It’s better for the cow because it’s more natural., When cows are fed grain it causes a more acidic environment in their stomachs, making them more disease susceptible, which in turn can lead to diseases. It’s also better for us because it contains more vitamins and fatty acids like Omega 3s and CLA .It also contains fewer  calories than the same portion of grain fed meat.

Sound like a win-win? Not altogether, in multiple blind taste tests grass-fed fell short. It’s also not reasonable to completely shift to grass-fed as a society, it take land we don’t have and twice the amount of time for a finished product for our growing population. There’s the facts, the choice is yours!

More info can be found here:

This blog post was an assignment for  Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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