I have found myself becoming slightly irritated with the misperceptions going on in the Agriculture world. Whenever I meet new people they usually ask what I am doing with my life. This often leads to a conversation of why I want to be an Ag Business major. They instantly assume I will be raising cattle instead of crops. Then if I’m lucky they go on a rant about only wanting to eat meat from grass fed cattle. First of all I am going to be farming corn and soybeans, not all farmers actually have to raise livestock. That does mean some cattle will end up eating the crops that are being grown on my family farms. So yes I completely support cattle that are grain fed. Many who claim they only want grass fed cattle are about to be informed about the industry. The entire purpose of this blog is to educate you, therefore you can make better decisions about the meat you eat.
First off ALL cattle are grass fed at some point in their life. The difference is determined by how they are finished. They either finish on grain, or grass before slaughter which determines what kind of meat it will be labeled as. Price wise you must realize it is MORE expensive to buy meat from grass fed cattle. They come from much smaller operations, and it often takes longer for the cows to reach slaughter weight. Feeding cows grain can help them reach slaughter weight as quickly as a year before grass fed. This dramatically speeds up growth, and lowers the cost of feed resulting in cheaper meat for consumers. This also can enhance fat marbling which is used to determines a cut of beef’s USDA rating. The more fat in the meat, the richer the taste, which in turn results in a higher grade. Yes this makes it slightly fattier and unhealthier than grass fed, but not by much. You really have to weigh out the pros, and cons to the situation. Grass fed meat is healthier, but the health facts have been blown way out of proportion.
Shalene McNeill, who has a Ph.D. in human nutrition and is executive director for human nutrition research at the association, acknowledges that “if you feed (cows) grass, you can slightly increase the omega-3 content, but if you look at it in terms of a whole diet, it’s not a significant advantage to human health.” This supports that it just is not worth the price to buy only grass fed meat. A group of testers cooked both types of meat to see which tasted better. It ended up showing that there was no universal preference between grain fed, and grass fed. They each had various levels of beefiness along with juiciness. Basically there really isn’t much difference between grass fed, and grain fed cattle. I hope this will help educate you in some future decision about meat choices.
More info from my source: http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/03/29/grass.grain.beef.cookinglight/