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Benefits of Organic Grass Fed Beef?

Updated on June 23, 2017

Organic Grass Fed Beef: Eat Green WIthout Going Vegetarian

Over the years, I have published a number of articles about how eating a vegetarian or vegan diet is best for the environment.

Yet, I am not 100% vegetarian myself.

There are probably a multitude of reasons for my retaining meat in my diet: my husband and my children top the list. Fortunately, I have discovered that you can eat green without going vegetarian!

Organic grass fed beef is a superior option for those that desire a healthy lifestyle with a minimal environmental impact. This, combined with a more minimal approach to meat consumption (try Meatless Mondays), can significantly reduce your energy consumption and carbon footprint.

Organic grass-fed beef
Organic grass-fed beef | Source

Organic Grass Fed Beef is Greener

  • Raising animals on pasture "spreads out" manure in a natural manner
  • At a feedlot, cattle are crowded together and manure usually accumulates in excessive amounts. When rain washes over the piles, it contaminates the land, groundwater and surface water with polluting levels of nitrogen and phosphorus
  • Feeding cattle (and other ruminant animals) a grass fed diet can reduce greenhouse gas emissions because cows are less gassy, emitting less methane, and because pastured farms are covered with grasses that - like trees - capture CO2 from the air via carbon sequestration. Factory farms cannot do that!

How is Organic Grass Fed Beef Different from its Counterparts?

The American Grassfed Association (AGA) defines grass-fed as:

"The AGA defines grass-fed products from ruminants, including cattle, bison, goats and sheep, as those food products from animals that have eaten nothing but their mother’s milk and fresh grass or grass-type hay from their birth till harvest."

If you are serious about making a healthy diet change, switching to organic grass fed beef from grainfed meat will make a difference.

1. Grass fed beef is 3 times leaner than grain-fed animals, which results in about 15 fewer calories per ounce (an ordinary serving size is 6 ounces), saving you nearly 100 calories per meal.

2. Grass-fed meat provides more balanced omega-3s and omega-6 fatty acids, 75% more than grain-fed meat, and 400% more Vitamin A. It also contains 78% more beta carotene and 300% more vitamin E than its counterparts.

3. Mad cow disease has never been found in grass-finished beef, and it is far less likely to contain dangerous E. coli bacteria.

4. You can be confident that you won't be ingesting extra hormones and antibiotics with grassfed beef. These animals eat "cleaner" than feedlot cattle, which often eat many other products in addition to grain, including chicken manure, cardboard, garbage waste, discarded bakery items, even candy and wrappers!

Health Differences Between Grain-Fed and Grass-Fed Beef

 
Grain-Fed Beef
Grass-Fed Beef
Calories (per 3 oz. serving)
212
162
Fat (grams per 3 oz. serving)
8.5
2.2
Vitamin E (mcg/gram)
1.5
6.9
Beta-carotene (ug/gram)
.17
.74
Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 (ideal is 4:1 or lower)
14:1
2:1

The USDA Explains the Standards for Organic Grass Fed Beef

Benefits of Organic Grass Fed Beef

Grass fed livestock are generally healthier than their grain-fed counterparts because they are eating a diet that nature intended for them.

In turn, organic grass fed beef is healthier for consumption:

  • Steak from a grass fed steer is at least 33% lower in fat than that from a grain fed animal
  • Grass fed beef is equivalent in fat as skinless chicken
  • Lean meat can lower your LDL cholesterol levels
  • Grass fed beef is lower in calories; you can save about 100 calories for the same 6-ounce cut from a grass fed steer, compared to a grain feed steer (over the course of a year, you could lose 6 pounds a year, if all other factors of your diet remain the same)
  • Grassfed meat contains 2-6 times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids as other cuts, reducing your risk of a heart attack, and protecting against cancer, depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder (hyperactivity), or Alzheimer's disease
  • Even milk from grassfed cattle contains high amounts of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), up to 5 times the amount of that from animals fed with conventional feed.
  • CLA can prevent cancer growth; simply eating grass fed products each day (a glass of milk, one ounce of cheese or a serving of meat) can lower the risk of cancer; it possibly may have a regenerative role in improving the health of people suffering from chronic conditions

Advantages of Grass-Fed Beef

Grain fed livestock at a factory farm
Grain fed livestock at a factory farm | Source

Demand for Healthier Meat Means a Closer Look at Factory Farms

Even though raising grass-fed animals is the traditional method of ranching, range livestock fell out of favor last century.

Once it was discovered that cattle could be more quickly fattened for market (and make the rancher more money) while on a grain-fed diet while corralled in small stalls, factory farms became the norm here in the United States.

In the past 10-15 years, however, consumers have demanded healthier meat and better quality beef. Also, documentaries such as Death on a Factory Farm have raised significant concerns about the practice of factory farming. As a result, in the decade between 1998-2009, grass-fed livestock producers in the U.S. grew from 100 to more than 2,000. Local market share exploded from $2 million to $380 million.

You can now find organic, grass fed meat at many specialty, as well as mainstream grocery stores. While conventional beef is less expensive, it does not taste as good, is significantly higher in fat and calories and lower in vitamins and nutrients than grass-fed.

Many people believe that, for the quality and health benefits, its worth it!

The Grass-Fed Difference

Organic Beef is not Necessarily Grass Fed Beef

When you go to the grocery store, be aware of labels! Meat labeled as "organic" need only have been raised on organically certified feed - including grass, hay or grain. In addition, the livestock must have had access to pasture and were not given antibiotics or hormones.

Importantly, rules for organic meat do not prohibit farmers or ranchers from feeding their livestock as much grain as they wish (provided its organic, of course). The more grain in the cattle's diet, the less you will enjoy the health benefits associated with grass fed beef set forth above.

The reverse is also true: grass-fed beef may not be organic. Where farmers or ranchers use herbicides on the pasture or hayfield to eradicate weeds that are either poisonous or that crowd out grasses, cattle can ingest the toxins as they eat.

Make sure that you are indeed purchasing organic grass fed beef. Some meat carrying a “grass-fed” label may nonetheless have been “finished” on grains at a feed lot. You can guard against this mislabeling by looking for a USDA “process verified shield” or a label from the American Grassfed Association.

Do You Enjoy Organic GrassFed Beef?

See results

© 2012 Stephanie Hicks

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    • profile image

      Marntzu 5 years ago

      I spent a good portion of my childhood in Germany (7 years) and grass fed was the primary type of beef available in our area. I actually prefer the taste of grass fed beef. one thing I would point out, there is a big difference between grass fed and grass finished.

    • profile image

      Arlene V. Poma 5 years ago

      I enjoyed this Hub and the definitions given about Organic Grass Fed Beef. It is helpful for me because I've decided to shop a little more carefully when it comes to purchasing beef. After trying organic grass fed beef while on vacation, we know the difference. I doubt if we'll go back to eating the fatty beef found at the local supermarkets. Voted up and everything else.

    • fit2day profile image

      fit2day 5 years ago

      Really good information in this Hub. Grass-fed beef isn't sold at grocery stores near me, but is available through some of the farms and I think it's worth the extra cost, especially since cows can't really handle grain without getting sick.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I lived in the midwest where most of the beef if grass fed and the result is a move flavorful meat. You can taste the difference. Thanks for the informative and educational hub article. Voted up!

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Exactly Marntzu - grass finished is not the same quality as grass-fed. Excellent point! And, you are correct that the taste is different too. Thanks much, Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Arlene - another thing I should have noted is that you can often find grass-fed meat at Farmer's markets, or buy direct from a butcher to reduce the price. Best to you, Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi fit2day, you have hit on one of the primary reasons grass-fed is superior - cows are supposed to eat grass, not grain (and certainly not all the other crap they are fed on feed lots). Grass fed beef is available directly from farms, as you note, you can order online, or find it at some Farmer's Markets. Have a great day! Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image
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      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi teaches, I think it's a better meat because it has been raised on the food the animals naturally eat! Thanks and have a super day, Steph

    • EuroCafeAuLait profile image

      Anastasia Kingsley 5 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Hi Steph, you absolutely read my mind. I did some work on a shopping comparison last week and began thinking more about grass fed beef. Thanks for writing something that I was about to check out anyway. Love your photos, videos and facts written up in a table. Up and Interesting, Euro

    • BusinessTime profile image

      Sarah Kolb-Williams 5 years ago from Twin Cities

      This is an amazing lens. It's so important to raise awareness of what we're eating and bridge this ridiculous gap we have as a society between what we eat and where it comes from.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Euro - We always shop at the Farmer's Markets during summer months and I have explored some of the booths that offer organic grass fed beef (some sell jerky and some sell steaks). It is definitely worth looking into. Thanks much, Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image
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      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Business - yes, the gap you mention has definitely widened. We eat "food" that is not recognizable, and then we feed it to animals that are not meant to be omnivores.... then we wonder why we are fat and sick. Thanks for the comment, Steph

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

      Steph - I'll stick to well marbled beef myself.

      Good Hub.

      The Frog

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks The Frog! :-)

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Interesting--thanks so much for these details, some of which are very important to know.

      Odd to come across this now as I cooked my first organic grass fed beef tonight. It smelled better even before cooking, and the cooking aroma and taste were really so much better than I could have believed before we enjoyed this tonight. I've not been a big beef eater, but doc tells me I need more than I'm getting so I've been searching it out. The butcher said he didn't hear that very often. Now I don't have to dread it!

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Really interesting to hear that you just tried out organic grass fed beef tonight! Like you, I am not a big beef eater, but I do cook meals using ground beef regularly for my family.

      I've been concerned about added hormones and the environmental impacts of feedlots, but the more I have learned about the benefits of grass-fed, the better I feel about spending a little bit more for our health. Best, Steph

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      This is a great hub! We eat organic meat but I don't always specify if it is grass fed. Thanks for the useful information. Well written and presented. Voted up and useful!

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 5 years ago from home

      Steph,

      Feedin cows "grass" does that make them sick like when people eat it .... and wouldn't the cows become way more mellow if the smoked "grass"? mOO- dra *Cough* moo *cough* moo *Cough cough* * giggle*moo *giggle*

      its 420 and all the cows are smokin in the fields then around 445 they all start getting paranoid and think the cops are comin, but its just the real pigs *oink -oink*

      HEHE

      TH

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Tom - I don't even know how to respond....

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you Kelley - I learned a lot about feedlots years ago when I had a friend who was trying to convert me to a vegetarian diet. The more you look into it, the more disturbing it can be. Grass fed and organic is the way to go, for those of us that still enjoy meat in our diet. Best to you, Steph

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Thank you for this article. More and more I have been leaning toward no beef or the alternative: grass fed. This article was extremely helpful. Thanks! Voted up and U / I

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 5 years ago from home

      steph,

      tom reads your comment

      stands up

      dusts off his pants

      clapps hands together

      stands up reaches arms into the air

      Says to self "Ah my work here is done"

      walks off happly

      TH

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Denise - I can just say that, after driving past miles and miles of feed lots in Southern California this week, I am committed to 100% organic grass fed beef from now on! Thanks much for the comment and vote!

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Awesome, Tom! :)

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

      This is great information. I'm going to share it on my Healthy Food Examiner Facebook page. I've been writing a lot about the "pink slime" controversy and people have been asking a lot of questions about why grass fed beef is better. This is one of the best explanations I've seen.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Deborah! The pink slime controversy is so disgusting! Glad you found this explanation helpful. Best, Steph

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What a terrific hub, Steph! I am going to start looking for grass fed beef. You have given so many good reasons in this hub to start using it over the regular beef sold in supermarkets today. The cows also have a pleasant life prior to slaughter verses the ones in feed lots that are also filled with antibiotics, growth hormones, etc. It is no wonder we have so much more illness today as compared to the past. All of the videos were well worth watching! Up votes plus sharing this!

    • chspublish profile image

      chspublish 5 years ago from Ireland

      A very convincing argument in favor of meat based diet. It makes a lot of sense and certainly from the point of view of CLA etc, there's a very important need there to eat the meat.

      Thanks for the info, always good to read great hubs on theses pages.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you much Peggy! We have always tried to adhere to a healthy diet. The more I looked into the differences between organic grass fed beef vs. feed lot beef, the more I realized that it would be a small price to pay for significantly better quality and healthier meat. Glad you found the hub helpful! best, Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you chspublish! Appreciate the read and comment. Cheers, Steph

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