Updated: Apr 9
By Kaidee Go
January 20, 2020
What is the difference between grass fed beef and grain fed beef? How beef is fed has a huge impact on their taste, nutrient composition, and texture but it all comes down to your preference.
Grass-Fed beef refers to cattle that is allowed to graze on green pastures for their entire life, until slaughter. You will often hear the term grass-fed, grass finished. This means the animal was allowed to only graze off the land for the entirety of the raising process. This method is considered the most humane, healthiest and least problematic for the cow, eliminating the need for antibiotics. Cattle that are grass-fed take longer to grow ranging from 18 months to 24 months. Feedlot cattle often are ready for slaughter by 14 months of age.
Grass-fed meats have unique flavor profiles that are different from a Grain-fed meat. Grass-fed meats also contain fewer total fats than grain-fed, but are richer in omega 3 fatty acids. When it comes to texture, grass-fed meats tend to be more substantial and condensed due to its less fat content making it a lean healthy choice. Grass-fed also has a more natural naked taste bringing a meatier flavor to the palate.
Grain-fed beef can refer to feedlot cattle that are fed a diet of corn or grain feed, which is often produced by factory farms and not considered the healthiest way to produce beef. However, grain-fed can also refer to pasture raised cattle that are allowed to graze on grass for 14 to 18 months and then the last few months fed a corn or grain diet. This method is called grass-fed; grain finished.
This type of cattle management produces a more familiar flavor that the average consumer is used to. Grain-fed beef has a higher level of fat as grain encourages faster growth. The higher fat composition causes a marbling in the meat making it more tender and juicier. As for the flavor, grain-fed beef is rich in umami and has a slightly sweet after taste. A similar flavor profile and texture can be obtained with grass-fed cattle when they are finished on grain or corn.
Despite the differences the most important thing is to eat real food. At The Harvest Market, you can’t go wrong with purchasing either, because we only work with small family run farms where the cattle are born on their land and raised in their pastures over the entirety of their lives. As for our grass-fed cattle in a grain-finishing system, they are allowed to graze on grass for 14 to 18 months and while still remaining on the farm, they are fed with ORGANIC, GMO-FREE corn for the last few months.
At The Harvest Market BDA, ensuring the meat we sell comes from farms that humanely raise their animals is our priority, because:
It lowers the risk of bacteria—studies show that pasture raised cattle have lower infection and bacterial contamination
The animals feel better—when the livestock eat roughage like grass, they produce more natural digestive enzymes that contribute to their better overall health
They are less fatty—meat from chickens and cows that have been allowed to roam and eat grass have a better dietary fat profile than their fully grain-fed counterparts
It’s better for the environment—humane animal farms typically use far fewer fossil fuels and release fewer air contaminants than feedlot facilities.
It supports small farmers—if you are concerned about the exponential growth of factory farms and large corporate food conglomerates taking over or food system, then eating humanely-raised products can go a long way to supporting small independent farmers.
Better food! Better living!