Why you should have a beef with grain fed cows
13 Jul 2015
If you’ve ever wondered why it matters whether the steak on your plate was fed grass or grains, stop and take a minute to find out. Not some strange method of attempting to make beef vegetarian-friendly or a different shade of red, grass feeding cattle is actually better for taste, health and ethical reasons. Aimee Young from Young Farmers is a staunch supporter of grass-fed beef, and provides locally produced, ethical and sustainable beef to the carnivores of Brisbane. She gave us a run down on why grass fed is so much better – and gave us a craving for a big juicy steak. It’s better for your health Grass-fed beef has double the quantities of beta-carotene, almost three times the amount of vitamin E, and more CLA’s (conjugated linoleic acid), which studies have proven improve brain function, encourage weight loss (that’s enough of a reason for us), and reduce the risk of cancer. The most significant of all benefits of grass-fed beef stems from increased proportions of the more favourable omega-3 fats vs omega-6. Omega-3 fatty acids are proven to reduce heart disease and inflammation. Research has revealed that just 80 days of grain feeding is enough to totally destroy the omega-3 content in beef. Not cool. It’s more ethical Food does matter and the food of our food is equally important. Shifting the cows from a high fibre diet to grain feeding for the sole purpose of getting them fat in a short period of time has detrimental health consequences for the cows themselves. These issues are mainly digestive and include bloating, acidosis, rumen ulcers, liver abcesses, and lameness. It’s better for the environment Acknowledging that there are capacity constraints in feeding the ever-growing population of the world, grass feeding in spacious paddocks is better for the environment than feedlots. The animals’ wastes drop onto the land, becoming nutrients for the next cycle of crops. In the case of feedlots the waste builds up and is responsible for significant water and air pollution. The argument for grain So, if grain feeding isn’t ideal for health or farming, why does it occur? Grain feeding does have benefits to farming from an efficiency and financial perspective. Finishing cows on grain increases the consistency of a farmers sales all year round. It also reduces the time taken for them to reach optimal weight (and number of steaks). Finally, given a feedlot can feed a cow with only 10sqm, it substantially increases the amount of beasts a farmer can produce on the same amount of land. How to tell the difference For those who prefer to eat grass-fed beef, when labelling doesn’t help, you can tell a grass fed cut from the yellow tinge to the fat – it is very obvious when you put the two next to each other. Grass-fed beef has less marbling than the grain fed option. Finally, while grass fed beef is healthier, it is also often said to have a robust flavour while grain-fed has a mild taste. So while you don’t have to abdicate eating grain-fed beef altogether, stop and think next time you stop by the butcher pre-BBQ.