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What's the beef with grass-fed beef?

Posted at 11:24 PM, Nov 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-30 23:26:13-05

These days eating healthier is actually hip and if meat is part of your diet you’ve probably heard the term “grass-fed beef.” 

When Helen Driscoll shops for beef she looks for this label on the package— or requests it from the butcher. 

But what exactly does grass-fed mean?

“Grass-fed means 100% grass-fed from the time it was born to the time that it meets a humane death," says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., a board-certified nutrition specialist.

The USDA says there’s “no official regulatory definition or federal standard for grass fed.” 

But the agency does regulate the labeling of the term.

For a company to claim, “grass-fed or 100% grass-fed"..." the animals could not have been fed grain or grain byproducts and must have had continuous access to pasture during the growing season."

“Consumers should care very much about whether or not their beef is grass fed or not because grass-fed beef is if you’ll excuse the pun, an entirely different animal from factory farmed beef,” says Bowden.

Some studies say grass-fed beef is healthier than grain fed. 

But keep in mind “grass-fed” is a different claim than “raised without antibiotics or steroids” and grass-fed does not mean organic. 

There are some private certifications you can look for on beef, like “the American grass-fed association”, which experts tell us has stricter standards. 

Grass-fed meat may cost you a bit more. 

Bowden says, “Grass-fed meat is more expensive than factory farming. That's just a fact of life. It takes a lot longer to raise an animal.”

Helen says if she can’t find “grass-fed” beef in a store or restaurant, she skips meat altogether. 

“For that meal, I’m a vegan. It’s going to be all vegetables.”

If you see a label that says “grass finished” that means the cow must be raised on grain and then finish out its growing period eating grass.