You’re pretty sure you know what grass-fed beef is by now. It’s in the meat section of your local grocery store, next to the conventional beef. But what about grass-finished beef? The truth is there’s a big difference between grass-fed and grass-finished beef. For starters, it stands to reason that the term “grass-fed beef” describes meat from cattle that ate grass. So what about “grass-finished” then? It might seem the two should be interchangeable. But, no, not quite.
Simply put, grass-finished beef comes from cattle that ate nothing but grass and forage for their entire lives. Grass-fed, on the other hand, may be used to label meat from cattle that were merely started on a grass diet but have either received supplemental grain feed or are finished on a fully grain-based diet. In fact, many “grass-fed” cows spend the last few months of their lives eating grain in feedlots to help them quickly gain weight.
The bottom line: Cattle are not required to have a completely grass-fed diet in order to get the grass-fed label on your beef’s packaging. Moreover, “grass-fed” cows are not necessarily pasture-raised. At the grocery store, that means grass-finished beef may be marketed as grass-fed beef, but not vice versa. And, keep in mind that “grass-fed” cows are not necessarily pasture-raised.
There are several reasons to choose 100% grass-fed, grass-finished beef, including a number of significant health benefits. Grass-finished beef is 20% lower in calories than grain-finished beef and has higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, CLA’s (Conjugated Linoleic Acid — an essential fatty acid that fights cancer and inhibits body fat), and Vitamins A and E. Grass-finished meat also has a higher level of carotenoids, which makes the fat appear yellow and meat a deeper red. More carotenoids means more antioxidants and nutrients, and bonus: more flavor.