Tonight at the grocery store, we walked around for 10 minutes – TEN MINUTES (not an exaggeration) – until Dan found just the right burger meat that he wanted. What, pray tell you ask, was he looking for in particular? What could possibly make use linger in the meat section for so long??? Two very magical words: Grass. Fed. So it got me thinking, what’s so special about grass fed? Is that something I should be worried about when buying my meat and dairy? Is grass fed beef really better for you? Or is it just another ‘fake’ claim made by meat and dairy companies to make it sound like their product is better for you? (i.e. like “farm raised” – aren’t all chickens, cows, etc.. raised on some type of farm???) (Want to know more about food claims? Check out: Food Claims and What they *Really* Mean)
And guess what!!! It IS better for you!! Buuutttt only by a little.
First off, grass fed beef is much leaner than its non-grass fed counterpart. It also is slightly higher in key nutrients including antioxidants and vitamins. It has about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than standard beef in the form of a beneficial fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). (CLA is that great fat you always hear about that’s found in fish. – It has been tied to improved immunity, weight loss, heart health, and has anti-inflammation benefits.) However, though the amounts are elevated, they’re still not as high as what you would find in said fish. A 100g serving (slightly less than 4 ounces) of grass-fed top sirloin contains 65 milligrams of omega-3 fats. The same amount of salmon contains 1,270 milligrams. (The recommended amount of omega-3 fats is about 300 to 1,000 milligrams (they vary per source) per day.) Grass-fed beef is 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.
So.. I know what you’re thinking: “Luisa, grass fed beef still sounds great! Better than normal beef at least!! But there’s got to be more of a catch??” Well, unfortunately, there is. According to the USDA, there is no finite definition for the term “grass fed.”The USDA specifies that to qualify as “grass-fed,” the animal has to eat grass and forage exclusively after weaning. The animal must also have “continuous access to pasture during the growing season.” It does not specify HOW MUCH feed has to be from that pasture.So, while to the end consumer, the label may sound like the cattle has only been fed a diet of their mother’s milk and grass. What it could really mean is that the cattle has spent some time – any amount of time – whether it be a few months or a few years eating grass.
Bottom line here: Is grass fed beef really better for you? Yes, probably, marginally, by some amount.