Friday, July 27, 2012

What's The Big Deal?: Grass-Fed vs. Grain-Fed

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If anyone should say 'NO' to red meat, it's this girl. I was once chased down by a pack of angry cows in a pasture in North Georgia (no, I didn't deserve it), I'm dating a guy who hates hamburgers (I know, I know, so un-American) and I recently watched the documentary 'Forks Over Knives' (yikes!). After watching it, I actually tried to be a vegetarian, or more specifically a pescatarian, but it was just too hard! I grew up eating my dad's amazing grilled hamburgers... I now date a committed carnivore... and I live in the restaurant capitol of the world! 

Give me a break!

Although I still eat meat, I have made a conscious decision to watch my intake, choosing the fish or veggie option when I'm not having an intense craving for that beefy goodness. I also try to buy (or order) grass-fed beef, since becoming more knowledgeable about the differences between grass-fed and grain-fed. 

Here's the quick breakdown so you can understand what you're eating and buying...

In the olden days of yore when children walked to school uphill both ways, the cows were grass-fed. They were placed in a pasture, and they did what they knew best - graze. But in more recent years, farmers got hip to the idea of feeding the cows grain - usually corn, soy, and other grains with LOTS of added hormones and antibiotics (not good for you, obviously). It was all about making money and making it fast! The corn fattened up the cattle faster, which meant they sold more meat each year. It also cost much less to feed cows grain because they didn't need to purchase and care for so much land. They were able to house more cows in a smaller space; thereby, increasing their profits.

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This all sounds lovely for the farmers' wallets, but what does it mean for us?

When we eat grain-fed beef, we are losing out on nutrients AND consuming more fat. It's as simple as this... grass-fed cows are ingesting grass and clover, which is where they obtain their omega-3's. According to studies, your grass-fed beef will have double the amount of heart-healthy omega-3's than the alternative, grain-fed beef. 

In addition to nutrient-content, your grass-fed beef is more lean, meaning you are consuming less total fat and calories. This of course will change the flavor profile slightly, since most of the flavor comes from fat, but I, for one, don't think the taste is noticeably different if the beef is cooked well. Even adding more butter to flavor your grass-fed beef will put you in a better position than choosing grain-fed because most of that butter won't cling to the meat. It will still add less saturated fat to your meal overall than if you went with the grain-fed option.

On the downside, grass-fed beef is slightly more expensive to purchase (with often a $2-3 price difference), but when you consider what you're doing for your body, in my opinion, it's worth the cost. If you consciously invest in your health then you will actively reap the rewards.

What do you think? Can you taste the difference? Are you willing to pay more? Leave a comment below!

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And... if you're in the NYC area, you can try one of my favorite grass-fed steaks at Gustorganics, the first and ONLY certified organic restaurant in New York City. They even have a USDA certified organic that's crazy talk!

519 6th Avenue (at 14th St.)
New York, NY 10011

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