Traditionally, all beef was grass, but in the United States and Canada these days, commercially available beef is almost all from a feedlot. Why you may ask? It’s faster, and so more profitable. 60 years ago, cattle was 4 or 5 years old at slaughter. Today, they are 14 or 16 months. You can’t take a beef calf from a birth weight of 80 pounds to 1,200 pounds in a little more than a year on grass. It takes enormous quantities of corn, protein supplements, antibiotics and other drugs, including growth hormones.
Research has revealed that meat from grass fed animals is both lower in calories and has up to one-third less fat when compared with a similar cut from a grain-fed animal. Grass fed beef is also higher in omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and vitamins. CLA has been shown to moderate body weight, body composition, glucose metabolism and the immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids have been publicized to significantly reduce triglyceride levels in the blood and decrease the risk of coronary heart disease.
Better for the Cattle
A grass diet is also healthier for the cow itself, allowing it to exercise its natural environment to roam and graze in pastures. Cows raised on grain are often confined to small spaces and given antibiotics and growth hormones to manage the effects of corn-based feeds and prevent the possible spread of disease.
Commercial meat industry’s practice of keeping cattle in feedlots and feeding them grain that is responsible for the heightened prevalence of E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria. When cattle are grain fed, their intestinal tracts become far more acidic, which favors the growth of pathogenic E. coli bacteria, which in turn kills people who eat undercooked hamburger.
Environmental benefits are another factor spurring interest in grass fed beef as it is a more sustainable form of agriculture. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) account for more than 250 million tons of manure every year and studies have shown that chemical and infectious compounds from animal waste can migrate into nearby soil and water, potentially coming into contact with humans. Since 100 per cent grass fed and forage finished animals spend the majority of their lives on pasture rather than a feedlot, the costs associated with manure clean-up and the potential for runoff into adjacent waterways are reduced.
It's these significant benefits that have lead to increased consumer demand for grass fed beef.
Though the taste and texture is slightly different from grain finished beef, people are much more open to new flavours. The biggest difference with grass fed: you need a steak knife to cut it —The secret to a cooking grass fed beef is patience – lower temperatures and slowing cooking methods yield the best dining experience