The grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef debate
March 29th, 2011
08:35 AM ET
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A large herd's worth of beef cattle has passed through the Cooking Light Test Kitchen over the past 24 years, almost all of it standard-issue, grain-fed supermarket meat.

But with beef, as with everything in the American diet, change is afoot.

Shoppers are seeing more and more grass-fed beef in regular grocery stores, along with meat from breeds marketed as special (like Angus), and meat from organically raised animals.

The local/sustainable movement has been singing the praises of the grass-fed cow, while the grain-fed industry has been under attack by food activists.

Read – The grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef debate

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Filed under: Business and Farming News • Farms • Food Politics • Meat • News

soundoff (387 Responses)
  1. tryecrot

    Yes there should realize the opportunity to RSS commentary, quite simply, CMS is another on the blog.

    August 27, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  2. Bison Man

    Go Bison! Lean and delicious. I have switched completely from beef to bison.

    •Slightly “sweeter” than beef. Buffalo is tasty, tender and nearly fat free.
    •70% to 90% less fat than beef. (depending upon the cut of the meat).
    •They are not subjected to questionable chemicals, drugs, steroids and hormones, and are not force-fed in high density pens.
    •Farm-Raised on open pastures.
    •Buffalo are very high in the essential fatty acids and have an excellent ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 acids.
    •Higher in Iron (great for women).
    •There is even a buffalo diet! Dieters claim weight loss and cholesterol levels reduced by 40-45% over about a 6 month period.
    •Because of the lean qualities, it is best prepare rare to medium rare for burgers, steaks and roasts.

    March 31, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • trevor123698

      why are you afraid of eating fat. fat and cholesterol are the most essential nutrients you can eat

      July 27, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  3. fromhouse2house

    Cows were designed to eat grass not corn. The E-coli problem that repeatedly sickens and kills many people increasingly every year is directly caused from the grain that is fed the cattle. If they ate 5 days worth of grass it would kill the E-coli in their gut, but no, instead, big business has a meat filler soaked in ammonia that kills E-coli stuffed into your hamburgers! That doesn't sound very effective or very appetitzing does it? By the way, cattle farms are basically non existant, they are now mass production cow lots. Cows don't move very much, and they stand in their own manure half way up their legs. They are coated and caked over their bodies with it by the time they go to the slaughtering house! It is very sad how big business mistreats not only the animals but ultimately us consumers. The biggest business consumer of beef, potatoes, and many other things is Mc Donalds's. And as we all know, they don't care about our cholesterol, sodium, or sugar. Do you really think they care about E-coli? Even the FDA can not put the repeat E-coli offenders(meat packers, etc..) out of service. Why? Because, the big businesses took the FDA to court and it was ruled that the FDA did not have the right to shut down businesses even if it repeatedly tested positive for E-coli and they knew about it and shipped it out. Public health and safety are in jeapardy! That's why grass fed is better.

    March 31, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  4. blessedgeek

    Whether grass or grain fed, the resources consumed to feed one cow eater could have been amply used to feed ten people. It's not hoiier-than-thou. It's about a dying planet. No Jesus is not coming soon, nor any Jewish or Muslim messiah, so start getting concerned and getting worried about the planet's dire state of affairs.

    Indulging in food that causes hunger to the rest of the world, throwing your gold trinkets and jewelry to be shaped in the form of a cow and bow down to worship it and partaking of food offered to beef idolatry.

    March 30, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • JRGidaho

      bg, In a 100% grass fed operation (and there are many of them), there is essentially nothing consumed by the cattle that could be eaten by a human and derive any nutrition. Much of the land where cattle are raised is unsuited for crops or vegetables. I'll won't argue against feedlots being a waste of resources, but pasture-based livestock production takes plant resources that could not be used by humands and turns it into valuable food.
      By the way, the planet may be changing, but it is not dying. Individual species are disappearing, but the planet is not dying. It is only human arrogance to think we can kill the planet and it is even more absurd to think we can save it. Extinction and evolution are the rules, not the exception.

      March 31, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  5. deb

    We have a farm: we sell beef animals:
    Anything dark brown/black is classified as "angus"
    Do you know what color it was before you bought it – NO! Are they "Angus" – frequently NO!
    The marketing people think the color is a distinction for higher pricing and a GREAT marketing gimmick.
    Get real people – and research!!!!!

    March 30, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  6. Ben

    All delicious

    March 30, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  7. john

    It doesn't matter what you eat, some of us wish we could survive on veggies, but we can't , or won't, whatever! Take a look at a FACTORY FARM VIDEO, see how these animals are treated, before you get to eat them, if you it doesn't bother you, you weren't much to start with! I know we are going to eat meat, but no animal should be treated like this! Now make sure you watch it all, don't be coward, I watched as much as I could, now I can't gt those images out of my mind! But I'm more angered at the way some of the people treat them before they die, go for it!

    March 30, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  8. Boka

    Does it really matter if the meat is grass fed or grain fed. It's still rotting corpse meat in your body. Not good.

    March 30, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  9. David

    I guess the holier than thou Vegans think they are special, because they eat vegetables, yet many of those vegetables have been sprayed with harmful chemicals!!!

    I'll eat my Ribeye any day over your funky brown, rotted lettuce!

    March 30, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • funky, brown and rotted

      as a vegan I like my hygine like I prefer my vegetables

      that brings me closer to god and makes me special, wanna sniff?

      March 30, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  10. Tazer

    Oh god, not again.

    March 30, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  11. Normanium

    Fact: Excessive beef production and practices are harming our planet. Greenhouse gas emissions are on par with driving vehicles.
    Fact: Meat eaters experience higher rates of fatal cancers than vegetarians.
    Fact: Nearly 70% of agriculture lands globally are devoted to beef production.
    Fact: Most of that meat is consumed by the USA, followed by western Europe. (70% of agricultural land devoted to feed 1/6th of the world population?)
    Fact: Humans are not required to eat beef. We choose to.

    Make your choice, admit and own the consequences of it.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • The Witty One@Normanium

      Fact: You are an idiot.

      April 4, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • trevor123698

      Fact: everything you said is a lie. I was a year long vegetarian and it almost killed meat. i eat lots of factory farmed meat now. raw and rare only because well done is a carcinogen.

      July 27, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
  12. CharlieB

    I buy my meat at local butcher shop which gets its meat from local farms and as I live in Maine sometimes the animals cannot get out to graze. But it does not come from a feedlot with diet of horomones and antibiotics and corn.

    March 30, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  13. Observer

    Every vegan I know is a retard.
    Just sayin.

    March 30, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • everyone that you know

      lonely? knowing one person is not everyone

      March 30, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  14. EBeekman

    "grain-fed" beef in feedlots rarely receive anything more than a 50% grain-based diet. They need forages (grasses) to maintain rumen function. As a farmer, yes I want to be as efficient as possible, but I also want to provide the best care possible to may animals. Sustainability is not just an environmental idea, it is also a business principle. If I can't make a little money raising food for consumers, I lose my livelihood (and you lose a source of food). Also, just like with ourselves, we try to avoid giving antibiotics to our animals – it can create resistance and whenever any antibiotics are given to our animals, we must wait until the withdrawal period has passed before slaughtrering them. I like that this article talks about the importance of giving consumers choices – I'm all for that, but some things it says – about getting back to concentratingon breeding and husbandry – are not realistic. I spend hours researching the genetic traits of the sires I use and matching them with dams so that the they have the best possible offspring. I use computer software to track each animal and monitor it's health, any medications given, its breeding history, weight gain and find abnormal trends that might indicate a problem before its apparent just by looking at the animal. Probably the best and truest piece of advice from this article is to buy directly from the farmer. With our traditionally raised beef (and its not even what most of you would call a true feedlot, we're too small), we spend about $2.27/lb for a whole steer's worth of meat (animal, processing, etc.). A chest freezer pays for itself with one animal. Our customers know how their meat was raised, who raised it, who slaughtered it, and IF it ever received any medications. If you'd like to save money and eat better, contact your local extension service office or Farm Bureau office and I'm sure they can put you in contact with a local farmer where you can purchase your meat (beef, pork, goat, lamb, turkeys, chickens, etc.)

    March 30, 2011 at 8:14 am |
  15. ArrowDog

    Forget the whole beef argument. Eat more RABBIT. Lowest in cholesterol, great protein – and delicious. Rabbit strips are fantastic over a leafy salad (for all you vegen's who want to cheat – I won't tell if you don't).

    March 30, 2011 at 5:22 am |
  16. Scott

    The meat industry isn't sustainable and damages the environment. I eat meat still, but only from local farmering and ethically raised locations. That being said, if everyone in the world "consumed" (in all senses of the word) as Americans do, it would take 4 Earths to sustain life (The Empty Ocean by Richard Ellis). The truth is we don't need meat to survive, so we are farming high volume meat for our own want, not need. And if you want to use the "protein" excuse, just google "vegan bodybuilding" and get suprised. P.S. There is no good meat substitute for bacon, dang't.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
  17. CatastropheCathy

    I will pay higher prices for a better product. It's not just about taste. Health and environment are important to me too. Some time ago someone decided food should be cheap. Food is probably the most important purchase we make. I'd rather have a healthy meal and skimp somewhere else. You are what you eat. I don't want hormones, antibiotics and or ecoli!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  18. Mouth Breather

    Henceforth ALL self righteous VEGETARIANS who will not STFU are required to subsist solely on SOYLENTGREEN.

    No,...wait.... it's made of oceanic plankton so there are SOME teensy ANIMALS in it. The Soylent Corporation is researching the issue and will get back to you with a purely vegan planktonic brew. Here's some green tea that should hold you for a while.

    No,... wait....the soil the tea was grow in has WORMS in it. Maybe some worm stuff got sucked up into the tea plant. Well,'s some fresh air to hold you for a (shorter) while.

    March 29, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • MalaDee@Mouth Breather

      Create something like a Soylent V-Green from vegans. Then vegans can consume it without reprisals and the PETA gods won't rain down fire & brimstone on their heads (or whatever they think will happen if they eat meat) .... WIN WIN!

      March 30, 2011 at 6:43 am |
  19. Sy2502

    As a natural body amateur builder, I eat meat every day, at least twice a day. I have never been fitter or healthier. My cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar are absolutely perfect. There's nothing wrong with the meat you buy at the local supermarket. Sure, grass fed probably tastes nicer, but it's more expensive. Nothing wrong with treating yourself, but don't buy into the stupidity of "how bad the meat pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, and fed corn". The problem with American diet isn't corn fed beef, it's too much junk food and not enough exercise.
    As for vegetarians and vegans, all the ones I know are sick looking. They are either fat (because they eat too many carbs and not enough protein) or sick thin (because they don't eat enough period). And yet they insist that vegetarian/vegan diet is better for you. Please!

    March 29, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  20. Homer

    They should feed the cows donuts...mmmmmmmmm donuts,

    March 29, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
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