Grass-Fed is Best Fed
For grass-fed beef
In terms of recency, grass-fed beef has had growing customer interest around the world and for good reason. Many reasons accompany this growing desire for cattle to be grass-fed for their meat production.
While not all conventionally raised cattle are placed in cramped up spaces, there is a very large portion that are. Grass-fed cattle on the other hand are fed on largely open pastures. They are given more space and freedom of movement. They are in reduced contact from other cows that may be sick and are not given the large amount of antibiotics that many of the cattle raised in CAFO environments are given. These conventionally raised cattle are also pumped with hormones occasionally by large companies in order to have them grow to reach market weight in a faster amount of time. Grass-fed cattle also are able to eat forage such as hay and legumes. With this difference in diet, grass-fed cattle tend to be leaner and don’t have as many unhealthy fats. While grain-fed beef may grow to market weight at a faster time, the meat they produce are of inferior quality. When cattle are raised in the confined spaces that many companies keep them in, their stress levels raise and this affects their quality of meat as well as negatively affecting their social well-being. As a reaction to stress, the cows release cortisol which is a stress hormone that makes the cattle fatter and produce tougher meat.
Grass-fed beef is better for consumers because of its higher nutritive value. It’s higher in key nutrients, including antioxidants, vitamins, and a beneficial fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that’s been tied to improved immunity and anti-inflammation benefits. Plus, grass-fed beef packs about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than standard beef (although the amount is still far lower than the total omega-3s found in fatty fish like salmon). Grass-fed beef is also less likely to contain “superbugs”—bacteria that have become resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics—so it’s considered superior from a food safety perspective as well.
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues for human today, and it’s heavily related to our food system. Livestock production is considered a net greenhouse gas emitter, since the potent greenhouse gas, methane, is produced from ruminant digestion. Grain-fed beef is intuitively considered to be more environment-friendly by many people. However, a new modeling study released by The National Trust, a non-profit in the United Kingdom, found evidence to support the environmental benefits of traditional grass-fed beef production. Research on National Trust farms shows that while the carbon footprint of grass-fed and conventional farms were largely comparable, the ability of well-managed grass pasture on the less intensive systems to absorb carbon from the atmosphere — a natural process known as carbon sequestration — actually reduced net emissions by up to 94%, and even resulting in a carbon ‘net gain’ in upland areas. Restoring grasslands may become an important step in slowing down the process of global warming. The National Trust also asserts that “many agricultural grasslands and grass-based habitats are not suitable or capable of growing arable crops for direct human consumption. Grazing by livestock, therefore, is the only way to turn grass into human-edible food.”
Daley, C. A., Abbott, A., Doyle, P. S., Nader, G. A., ; Larson, S. (2010). A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutrition Journal, 9, 10. http://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-9-10
Sass, C. (2016, August 23). Is Grass-Fed Beef Really Healthier? Here’s Everything You Need to Know. Retrieved October 6, 2018, from https://www.health.com/nutrition/grass-fed-beef-tips
Murphy, E. (Summer). New Study Finds Grass-Fed Beef Reduces Carbon Footprint. Retrieved October 6, 2018, from http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/su12cfootprint
Gunther, A. (2012, July 18). National Trust Releases ‘What’s Your Beef?’ Report. Retrieved October 6, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-gunther/grassfed-beef-benefits_b_1522030.html
Is Grass-Fed Really Greener?
For grain-fed beef
In today’s world, grass fed beef is all the rage. People assume that it is healthier and better for the cattle overall because they are able to graze and have lots of space to do and eat as they please. That is not entirely the case. The truth is, grain fed and grass-fed beef both have their own health benefits, which can make one seem better than the other, but only in certain aspects such as the amount omega-3 or cholesterol. Grain fed beef cattle are sometimes also fed forage in addition to grain. Since cattle are ruminants, they have a special way of digesting the food that they take in. Feeding cattle 100% all of their life is not very good for the cattle, as they are indeed a grazing animal. The most popular advantage of conventionally raised beef is that their mostly grain diets help them grow to market weight at a faster rate. Grass fed cattle, on the other hand, take a longer time to reach market weight because their diet is primarily grass and forage.
When someone says “conventionally raised” it does not necessarily mean that the cattle are uncomfortably crammed in a feedlot, only eat grain and live miserable lives. It is possible for cattle to be raised in a feedlot in comfortable conditions as long as it is done properly. In an article from The Washington Post by Tamar Haspel, according to renowned animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, “The feedyard should have a 2 to 3 percent slope to keep it dry” (Haspel, 2015). If the feedlot is on a slight slope, the feedlot is able to be kept dry and comfortable for the cattle.
Many people assume that grass-fed beef holds more nutritional value simply because “grass-fed” is often associated with “organic” and “all-natural”. However, studies from the department of animal science at Texas A&M University found no scientific evidence to support that grass-fed ground beef is healthier than grain-fed ground beef based on evaluations of cholesterol levels and type II diabetes. Food labels make categorizing grass-fed beef and grain-fed beef into “good” and “bad” extremely easy, but since there is no evidence of grass-fed beef being a healthier alternative, consumers should make more conscious purchases based on environmental factors.
There are numerous components that are involved in gauging how beef production impacts the environment: water, land, and fossil fuel, greenhouse gas emissions, methane, and nitrous oxide. However, the grass-fed system uses 4 times more water and nearly twice as much land as the conventional system. Furthermore, the carbon footprint of the grass-fed system is 1.7 times larger than the conventional system (Capper, 2012). The numbers undeniably show that grain-fed beef is more environmentally friendly in numerous aspects.
Capper, J. L. (2012). Is the Grass Always Greener? Comparing the Environmental Impact of Conventional, Natural and Grass-Fed Beef Production Systems. Animals?: An Open Access Journal from MDPI, 2(2), 127–143. http://doi.org/10.3390/ani2020127
Stephen B. Smith, Ph.D. (2013). Ground beef from grass-fed and grain-fed cattle: Does it matter? Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University. Retrieved from https://animalscience.tamu.edu/2013/12/07/ground-beef-from-grass-fed-and-grain-fed-cattle-does-it-matter/
Haspel, T. (2015, February 23). Is grass-fed beef really better for you, the animal and the planet? Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/is-grass-fed-beef-really-better-for-you-the-animal-and-the-