If you’re working to become a more discerning shopper in the meat department, you may find yourself somewhat more confused than you’d imagine you’d be. If you look carefully, you’ll find all kinds of words that draw distinctions between one meat and another, including labels mentioning grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Will you be able to taste any difference between the two? And is one a healthier option than the other?
The short answer is: yes. The diet cows are fed has a substantial impact on both the taste and nutrients of your beef. Below we’ll take a closer look at grain-fed and grass-fed beef to see what you can expect to taste in each, and which one is the better choice for you.
Grain-fed vs. grass-fed beef
The early part of a cow’s life is mostly indistinguishable from that of any other young cow in America. They’re born, get their nutrients from drinking their mother’s milk and typically roam free, eating grass or other plants until they’re between seven and nine months old. At this age, cows raised for mass production of beef are sent away to feedlots, kept in narrow stalls and fed a grain-based diet (typically soy or corn) supplemented with some dried grass.
The grain-based diet is designed to quickly fatten cows up, and it does this well. After a few months, they’re sent to slaughter—about a year faster than grass-fed cows. But this diet differs significantly from the natural diet of a cow, and the two diets produce different meat.
- Appearance: Grass-fed beef is typically darker in color and has less marbling and fat throughout. Because of the cows’ diet, grass-fed beef will often have a slight yellow color to the fat that is present. This is a result of the diet’s high levels of beta-carotene.
- Nutrients: This meat is usually lower fat and contains fewer calories than grain-fed beef. It also contains up to five times more omega-3s and approximately twice as much conjugated linoleic acid (or CLA), a healthy fatty acid. The meat is rich in vitamin B12, B3 and B6.
- Flavor and texture: Due to the animals’ diverse diet, grass-fed beef is said to have a more complex flavor than most grain-fed beef, but because it has less fat, it’s generally chewier or sometimes drier.
- Appearance: Corn-fed beef, compared to grass-fed beef, is generally lighter in color, with more marbling and fat, which is bright white in color, as opposed to slightly yellow.
- Nutrients: Grain-fed beef is rich in vitamin B12, B3 and B6. It’s higher in monounsaturated fat, though it also has similar levels of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats to grass-fed beef.
- Flavor and texture: Because of its high fat content, grain-fed beef is generally more tender and buttery in flavor.
While there is much debate in the culinary community about the merits of corn-fed vs. grass-fed beef, both provide good nutrients—and eating too much of either can be bad for your health. Find a quality sourced meat that tastes good and fits into your budget, and stick with that. To explore our wide variety of natural, grass-fed, grain-finished, hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats, visit Tony’s Delicatessen & Fresh Meats. We’ll talk you through the selection process and help you find your ideal beef. Visit us online to learn about our selection, or just stop by the store today!
Categorised in: Meat Market
This post was written by Writer