Kitchen Myths

Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken

Grass fed beef is superior to “regular” beef

Update (August 2016): My original post is below, but since then I have experienced some grass fed beef that has changed my opinion about the taste. I traveled to Iceland where they raise beef and it is all grass fed–and what I had was excellent! This does not mean, of course, that all grass fed beef is automatically tasty (just like corn fed beef), but it illustrates the potential.

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Well, if you like dry, chewy beef, this may not be a myth for you. That, unfortunately, is how almost all grass-fed beef stacks up against corn-fed. Y’know, people didn’t start feeding corn to steers just for the heck of it! It produces a better product. Oh, you can find people who will look you in the eye and claim that grass-fed beef tastes better, but if you look closely you might see a bit of a twitch at the corner of their mouth (for the humor-impaired, that’s a joke so don’t get all het up).

There’s no denying that there are problems with the feedlot system, from which most beef in the US comes. This involves both the treatment of the animals and environmental issues. There’s more than one side to this issue, however. The fact is, most grass-fed beef comes from South America, where vast tracts of rain forest are leveled to make pasture for the cattle. Your grass-fed steak may not actually be as environmentally friendly as you think.

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16 responses to “Grass fed beef is superior to “regular” beef

  1. Kevin Liu March 25, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    While I usually like your posts, I have to disagree with this one.

    Think about it this way: 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese, largely because we overconsume a diet high in processed carbohydrates and low in vegetables. As natural hunter-gatherer omnivores, we evolved to eat wild game, and scavenged fruits, nuts, and vegetables. While we are perfectly capable of eating corn and white bread, their prominence in our diet has fattened us up.

    Our Western diet has increased the marbling in our meat, if you will.

    This same situation applies to cows. Cows are ruminants, which means they evolved to eat grass. While they are capable of eating grain (mostly corn), and while the grain does produce more fat-marbled meat, the cow will not have the same nutritional profile as an animal that has been allowed to eat only grass.

    However, I would agree that grass-fed beef is not necessarily “superior” to grain-fed beef. Nothing beat a rich, fatty steak. But grass-fed definitely tastes different (better, I think). If you can’t taste a difference, I would question the sourcing or production methods of the “grass-fed” product.

  2. Mel in Seattle March 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    I agree with everything the first commenter wrote and would like to add my two cents to the original post. I don’t know where you live, but I don’t understand why you’re eating grass-fed beef from South America. There are thousands of grass-fed cattle ranches across North America. I highly recommend the eatwild.com site, where you can find sources near you and also learn more about the many health benefits of grass-fed beef.

    As for taste, again you should try a different source, preferably a local ranch that is recommended by others. A few years ago I wrote a magazine article on grass-fed beef, which profiled an eastern Washington grass-fed ranch. I tried many different cuts and cooking methods on dozens of friends in a blind taste test of grass-fed vs. conventional beef, and grass-fed won unanimously (no mouth twitching detected).

    Another very important point is that because grass-fed beef is much leaner, it requires different cooking methods–namely by cutting the cooking time by about 30%. Think of it more like bison or venison. This is almost always the problem when people find grass-fed beef “dry” or “chewy” as you did: It’s overcooked. In fact, because it’s so lean, if you like beef medium or more well done, it’s best not to even bother with grass-fed, because it won’t taste good at that point. Get yourself a nice grass-fed New York steak from a reputable local ranch, watch it closely till it’s just barely medium rare, let it rest a bit, and enjoy!

    Finally, I strongly disagree with your statement that people feed corn to cattle because it produces a better product. It’s done for one reason only: MONEY. Cattle fed corn and other grain near the end of their short lives fatten up much more quickly, hence saving the ranchers big bucks. This is why beef is so cheap in the U.S. When I visited that local grass-fed ranch, I also went down the road a few miles and observed a standard feed-lot cattle operation. I could smell this place long before I saw it, and what a sorry sight it turned out to be: hundreds of cattle pressed up against one another, standing knee-deep in their own waste. In contrast, the cattle I saw on the grass-fed ranch were roaming around freely, and no nose-plugging was necessary. Your choice.

    • Yukon Farmer June 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      My husband raises grass fed beef and it is sold faster than he can raise it. Why do you think that is? It is tastier, leaner, ethically raised and killed humanely. I agree completely with Mel in Seattle. One must learn how to cook it properly and if you succeed you will never go back to eating force fed, overcrowded, stressed out feed lot beef.

      • jerry smith July 2, 2015 at 9:41 pm

        What does feeding grass have to do with how the animal is killed (killed humanely)? Speaking of killed humanely, what is the proper way to kill humans? After all, doesn’t humanely refer to how humans should be treated? I think most people would be appalled at how animals are processed for our tasty enjoyment. I thank you for what you do. How do you force feed a cow? Say to it, “Look here cow, if you don’t eat this, I am gonna eat you!!!!” Yes, I am a member of PETA – this one – People Eating Tasty Animals. I just don’t like advertising messages getting confused with facts.

  3. Pingback: Grass fed beef is superior to “regular” beef « Kitchen Myths | Organic Food Home Delivery

  4. American Alps Ranch March 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I could not disagree with you more! Where to even start.

    First, to suggest that people feed corn to beef cattle “because it produces a better product” is not only ridiculous it is completely false. Beef cattle were successfully and naturally raised for centuries in this country and around the world on their natural grass and forage diet. In the post WWll era when our country became more industrialized and supersized, big agriculture came into play and it became more “efficient” (profitable) to move cattle out of the pasture and into the feedlot. Corn – and any other type of starch “filler” the cattle will eat – is fed to feedlot cattle for the sole purpose of fattening them up quickly. Feedlot owners are paid based on the weight of the animal. Quicker weight gain means more dollars. Cows are ruminant animals; they are designed for a grass diet. The fact that bovines are sickened by a grain / starch diet is dealt with by also feeding the animals massive doses of antibiotics. It is reported that fully 70% of the antibiotics consumed in this country are fed to cattle. In addition to the antibiotics, feedlot or CAFO animals are often given a hormone implant to stimulate appetite, also to produce the fastest weight gain possible. It is NOT about quality or a “better product” it is about dollars.

    Second have you even considered that the quality of life for the animal has a direct correlation to the nutrition, taste and texture of the meat? Grass fed and finished beef is so far superior to feedlot beef that the nutrition profile does not even look like the same product – because it isn’t. Also, grass fed beef raised, processed and cooked correctly is tender, juicy and delicious. We raise grass fed beef and eat it regularly. If all grass fed beef was as you claim, “dry, chewy beef” we would not only be unhappy ourselves we would also be out of business. All grass fed beef is not created equal; if you have had some that is not good you need to keep looking. Talk to a local rancher and try their product.

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  6. Leah April 13, 2012 at 4:48 am

    I agree with the other posters. Also, if beef is dry and chewy, don’t blame the cows diet, blame the chef.

  7. ltollefs April 13, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    I was raised on grass fed beef. It is FAR superior to grain fed. There is nothing dry and chewy about it.

    • Amit May 24, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      Ed is right ya know…..everything in moderation, as many of us were taghut my our parents.Alcohol is exactly like Heroin or any illegal OR legal drug. It certainly helps a person deal with stress, temporarily. The cause is simply waiting until your drink has finished its apparent handy work.

  8. Curious August 3, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    It’s months after the discussion has ended… but here’s my 15 seconds for anyone looking.

    I got meats from the local supermarket. If I waited till a cut I wanted went on sale, they were an incredible bargain — roasts for $1 or $1.50 /lb.

    They tasted like cardboard.

    I didn’t have time/$$ to go to a restaurant supply for the real thing, so I just cut out red meats.

    Then I tried pasture fed beef from an upstate farm – not a supermarket like Wholefood$ but direct, frozen, you order in advance and they send it to a pickup point.

    Night’n day. The grass-fed stuff cooks quickly, and I’d requested lean cuts so there is not the automatic richness from fat. I was expecting it to be a bit bland.
    Nope. It was a revelation; it was so good I started eating red meat again! It has flavor! And a surprise, I got a burst of energy after eating it. At a base level it’s the “same” animal as sold in the stupidmarket, but the difference in eating is so great that I don’t bother with the bargain stuff, wouldn’t care if it were 10c/pound.

    • kitchenmyths August 3, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      If you appreciate grass fed beef, that’s fine. But really, comparing it to on-sale supermarket beef? Why do you think it’s on sale for $1 a pound? It was probably low quality to begin with and now is near or at it’s “sell by” date. I am in agreement with you about avoiding the bargain stuff.

  9. Ann August 17, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    A local farm here sells grass fed beef and it’s has far better flavor and texture than any other beef I’ve had.

  10. Burt Reynolds August 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    OMega 3 vs Omega 6 fatty acids (grass vs corn)
    the difference is more than just taste, its health

  11. SLIMES October 7, 2013 at 10:52 am

    I think the guy who wrote this article can’t cook. It’s not that difficult to keep grass-fed beef tender, even if it does take a bit more skill.

  12. ari-free January 12, 2015 at 10:36 am

    Grass fed doesn’t have to be lean. I’ve seen prime and even wagyu grass fed beef. It’s the lack of fat that is responsible for the poor quality of other grass fed beef.

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