Cruising down the meat department on your grocery runs, you may have noticed beef that’s labeled “grass-fed” and others that say “grass-finished”. If you’ve always wondered what the difference is, you’re in luck!
Grass-fed means that the cows started on grass but didn’t eat grass exclusively their entire lives. This is sometimes referred to as “grain-finished”. Typically, they’re brought indoors and fed grains (soy and corn) for the last 3 months of their lives before slaughter. The two reasons for doing this are 1) grass may not grow year-round in the region the livestock live and 2) feeding grains makes the cows gain more weight faster, which means more money for farmers. The grain feed may contain GMOs.
Grass-finished means that the cows ate nothing but grass their entire lives. There isn’t a lot of room for this type of process in North America, so you may find that grass-finished beef is sourced from Australia or New Zealand where grass is more plentiful and grows all year. Grass-finished beef takes longer to produce and yields less, so it’s usually priced higher that other options. There are some key differences to grass-finished beef though. Grass-finished is:
• Higher in Omega-3 fatty acids than other types of beef
• Higher in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which may have cancer-fighting properties
• 3.5% higher in Vitamin E than grass-fed beef
• Known for having a distinctly different taste
All this being said, grass-fed and grass-finished still offer more vitamins and fatty acids than standard grain-fed beef and contain less fat. And all beef contains natural sources of essential nutrients such as iron, protein, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.
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