The Difference Between Factory-Farmed & Grass-Fed Meat Is…

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Grass-fed meat: What’s the difference, and is it worth the premium? It all depends on what’s important to you…. This short article explains.

You may have been hearing more and more lately about “grass-fed” meats. So what’s the big deal?  Is grass-fed meat really better, and if so, is it worth the higher price?

The first question you need to explore regarding this debate is, “better” in what way? Or more accurately, better for whom?

If you’re wondering if purchasing grass-fed meat is better your health, well, there is some evidence to suggest that, although nothing has been proven conclusively. Better tasting? This is a matter of opinion – for me, a resounding YES!

Is it better for the environment? Yes – but with some caveats (farmers need to practice proper livestock management and rotational grazing to avoid overgrazing issues).

Better for the animals?  Absolutely – without question.

So it all comes down to what’s important to you. If you care most about your own health, and little for the environment or the welfare of your food animals, you may or may not want to spend the extra money on “grass-fed.”

Otherwise, grass-fed is the clear-cut winner.

In this interview, Anya Fernald, co-founder of Belcampo Meat Company, explains further:

Why does sustainable meat matter?

The main issue we see [consumers] connecting with is a focus on health and wellness. Americans have truly begun to realize the negative impacts of cheap, industrialized meat production and its impact on the well-being of their families. Our customers are concerned about toxins and antibiotics in their food supply, about foods that can cause weight gain, heart disease, and more. They want to know where their food comes from and what is in it.

Can you explain the differences between what sustainable farmers provide and the product you get from factory farms?

The quality of meat—its flavor and nutritional content—are tied directly to what the animals eat. Factory-farmed, grain-fed meat has lower nutritional value and often contains more total fat, saturated fat, and calories than its grass-fed counterparts…. Grass-fed and grass-finished beef may taste slightly different than what most of us grew up eating, but it tends to be more flavorful, with less need for sauces or heavy seasonings….

What do you mean by “grass-finished” and “grain-finished”?

Nearly all beef cattle in the U.S. are started on grass at the beginning of their life. After that, conventionally raised calves are moved to feedlots where they are fed a grain-based diet, and are often given high levels of hormones and antibiotics. Grass-finished cows continue to forage and eat grass for the remainder of their lives. Even 30 days on grain at the end of the life of a beef cow can completely alter the crucial ratio of omega-3s to omega 6s. It almost totally eliminates the significant health benefits of grass-fed beef.

So what are the health benefits of grass-fed meat?

Grass-fed and -finished beef tends to have higher concentrations of vitamins A and E, antioxidants such as carotenoids and conjugated linoleic acid (which has been shown to reduce body fat, improve the immune system, and prevent certain types of cancer), as well as fewer calories and total fat than their non-sustainable counterparts. Omega-3 fatty acid levels in grass-fed beef can be up to five times higher than in feedlot beef.

Any advice for people who really want to make the switch from factory-raised to grass-fed, but truly don’t have the financial means to afford it?

…Through the early part of the 1900s, people ate meat much more sparingly than we do today. And when they did, they purchased high-quality meat from their local butcher shop. The Industrial Revolution created an abundance of cheap meat through factory farming, and consumers began expecting to pay rock-bottom prices. However, these prices do not factor in the many external costs—such as environmental damages, health risks, etc.

Even as consumers begin to realize the value in paying more for sustainable meat, it often still remains a low percentage of their grocery budget. There needs to be a shift in the way we prioritize spending money.


Not everyone has easy access to sustainable farms…, but you can start by minimizing consumption of conventionally raised meats found in the supermarket and incorporating a few locally-raised grass-fed meats in their place when you can find and afford it….

For more information, check out the full article at Thrive.com


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