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Is grass-fed beef better?

Roughage-including pasture grasses or dried forages such as hay-are the most natural foods for cows and other ruminant animals. From a health standpoint, there's no question that cows do better on these natural foods than on grain-based feeds. For example, too much grain-feeding can cause excess formation of gas in the digestive tract of the cow and pose serious health risk. Not surprisingly, when cows are given the opportunity to follow a diet composed of their natural foodstuffs, the beef they provide as food is healthier as well. Grass-fed beef has been shown to contain more zinc and vitamin B12 than grain-fed beef, less total fat than grain-fed beef, and greater amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), even though the amount of these last two nutrients is still quite small. The differences in grass-fed and grain-fed beef are greatest when ample grazing time is allowed for the cows, and when the pasture land used for grazing provides high-quality forages and grasses.

Unfortunately, there is no requirement that certified organic beef be grass-fed, and so organic is not a guideline you can follow to obtain grass-fed beef. However, organic is still a guideline you can use to judge most other aspects of beef quality, and for this reason, the ideal beef for your diet is both certified organic and grass-fed. Since there are no large-scale organic, grass-fed beef producers in the United States, smaller scale local farms are going to be your best bet here. Many Internet sites also make organic, grass-fed beef available via shipment either from other states or other countries. As consumers become aware of organic, grass-feeding as a more natural approach to beef production and a more nutritious approach as well, we expect to see more widespread availability of this higher-quality beef.