Is Grass-Fed Beef Worth the Money?

I won’t ruin your day by telling you how your hamburger gets to your plate. But if you have a picture in your mind of cattle grazing serenely in a green and lovely pasture, I can tell you that most of them raised for food in the United States aren’t so lucky. But the burgeoning market for meat from grass-fed cattle is more in tune with our visions of how the animals should be raised and fed. And it turns out that grass-fed beef is better for us than burgers, steaks or pot roasts from conventionally raised cattle.

First of all, while conventionally raised animals do get to eat some grass when they’re young, they’re switched to grains (mostly corn) when they’re about six months old. The grain helps fatten them up “so that they can go to the slaughter house as quickly and as profitably as possible, on average between 14 and 18 months of age,” The New York Times reported in June. As part of this process, they’re also fed antibiotics and growth hormones. Second, meat from grass-fed cattle is better for us. It is lower in saturated fat than meat from cattle fed on grain and isn’t routinely dosed with antibiotics and growth hormones. And, unlike meat from conventionally raised cattle, grass-fed beef gives us more of the omega-3 fatty acids that we need for brain and heart health. In addition, grass-fed beef provides vitamin E and conjugated linoleic acid, which also benefit human health. (Incidentally, most organically raised cattle don’t necessarily graze on grass – most are fed organic grains.) Another plus: grass-fed beef is often lower in calories than the conventional variety. The average American eats 67 pounds of beef per year. At that rate, switching to grass-fed beef should cut your annual calorie intake by 16,642 (the equivalent of 4.75 pounds).

As far as taste is concerned, grass-fed beef has a stronger flavor than we’re accustomed to in meat. It also may be a little less tender than the steaks you’re used to eating. However, in a taste test a few years ago, Slate magazine’s volunteers found grass-fed beef the big winner in comparison to prime steaks including $40 per pound Wagyu beef, the same breed the Japanese use for their famous Kobe beef (those cattle are massaged with sake to keep their muscles tender; their feed is purportedly made from a secret recipe that includes beer).

It is true that grass-fed beef is more expensive than most of the beef sold in supermarkets, but there’s some interesting evidence that Americans are increasingly willing to pay more for food they view as sustainable, healthier, more nutritious, better tasting and better for the environment than conventionally raised animal products. And there is no doubt that the grass-fed beef market is growing fast, from a retail value of $2 million a year in the late 1990s to $2.5 billion last year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

If you get sticker-shock when pricing grass-fed beef at the supermarket or specialty food stores, you can save a few bucks with the following tips:

  • Purchase free range bison or beef online. I provide a list of ranchers in my book, “The Omni Diet” that raise cattle and other livestock in a natural setting. Purchasing is a great way to save money and get the freshest meat possible.
  • Buy in bulk (if you have a big enough freezer).
  • Purchase with a friend or two and divide up your order. Grass-fed beef may cost a bit more, but it’s the healthier choice.
  • Decrease the quantity of meat you consume overall, and increase the quality. A diet of 30% high quality protein, and 70% plant based foods has been shown to decrease inflammation and the illnesses associated with it.

Recipes

Podcast

Supplements

Related Blogs

Avoid These Things When You're BBQing for the Summer Holidays
The sun is shining, the drinks are on ice, and you’re ready to grab some...
Danger! When the Diagnosis Is Wrong
Most of us trust medical professionals to guide us through the process of healing our...
7 Fun Ways to Keep Moving on Hot Days
With the mercury rising and family vacations pulling us away from our typical routines, it...
Does PTSD Ever Actually Go Away?
For the roughly 8 million people in the United States with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),...
Are Those Mocktails Actually Bad for Your Health?
Whether you’re celebrating Dry January or Sober October, joining the “sober curious” movement, re-evaluating your...
7 Ways to Beat Procrastination and Get Stuff Done NOW!
Let’s face it. The past few years really threw most of us for a loop...
5 Ways ADD Can Empower Your Life
Having ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is something a lot...
3 Ways to Cope with Angry Kids
Even though the U.S. has largely returned to “normal,” the impact of the past two...
Mom Guilt—The Unnecessary Burden of Motherhood
If you’re a woman with kids, I’m sure you know all about mom guilt—the belief...