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Thread: The grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef debate

  1. #1 The grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef debate 
    AI's Have More Fun Bad Robot's Avatar
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    I read the following article, and I would like to try some grass fed beef. However, the local stores don't seem to sell it here, and if they did it would be priced a bit high for my taste. But I would like to hear from others that have tried it. Is it worth the extra money? I haven't had a steak in a very long time, because even regular beef is a bit pricy for me. But I might spring for a try it out steak if others say it's worth it.

    The grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef debate - CNN.com


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  3. #2  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    It's a different texture. Lower fat content as well. I've only had grass-fed a couple times and it was slightly less flavorful than meat from the cows being fed what they're not supposed to eat.


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  4. #3  
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    A lot can depend on the quality of the pasture the beef is on. Places with lush pasturage can produce well fattened beef with tender muscles because it is easy for the cattle to eat and they do not travel far eating.
    Cattle from poorer ranges might have to cover a lot more ground eating much lower quality feed. They usually will be tougher, darker, leaner, and a bit more tasty.
    The darker tougher meat has more myoglobin in it and it usually has more of that "beef" flavour as a result.
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    A lot can depend on the quality of the pasture the beef is on. Places with lush pasturage can produce well fattened beef with tender muscles because it is easy for the cattle to eat and they do not travel far eating.
    Cattle from poorer ranges might have to cover a lot more ground eating much lower quality feed. They usually will be tougher, darker, leaner, and a bit more tasty.
    The darker tougher meat has more myoglobin in it and it usually has more of that "beef" flavour as a result.
    So far I'm not feeling like spending more for grass fed beef.
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  6. #5  
    Northern Horse Whisperer Moderator scheherazade's Avatar
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    Before buying your next cut of beef, consider these two photographs.
    The top one is of the Harris Ranch Beef Company feedlot along Interstate 5 about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. There, up to 100,000 cattle at a time are crowded on top of their own excrement into one square mile of what can be euphemistically called mud (winter) or dust (summer). From the highway, the stench wallops you like a punch in the face and lingers in your car and clothing for miles—and in your memory forever. Critics call the feedlot Cowschwitz.
    Harris gained a flicker of national fame when its chairman, David Wood, wrote a letter to the president of California Polytechnic State University threatening to reconsider “financial support” for the college unless it cancelled a solo lecture by Michael Pollan, who was critical of feedlots in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, a position in part inspired by driving past Harris’s facility. Money talked, and Pollan was relegated to being part of a panel discussion,
    Most of the beef consumed in the United States comes from such feedlots, where cattle arrive after living for six months on pasture and grass to be finished for another six months or so on a corn and other grains. Because a diet mainly made up of corn wreaks havoc on the digestive systems of cows, which are ruminants and designed for grass not grain, they are fed daily rations of antibiotics.
    The bottom photograph was taken across the valley from Harris’s feedlot on ranchland leased by Open Space Meats. Those cows will stay on pasture eating grass for their entire lives, “doing what God intended a cow to do,” said Seth Nitschke, who owns Open Space with his wife, Mica. When I visited, Nitschke was at the ranch for one of his weekly inspections to see that all was well with his cattle and check on their rate of weight gain.
    From the crown of his worn Stetson to the pointy toes of his boots, Nitschke is every inch a cowboy. He often checks his cows on horseback, but that day his steed was a mud-splattered all-terrain vehicle. I jumped on back and held on for dear life as the contraption bucked, heaved, and lurched across streams and blasted through steep, rock-strewn pastures and stands of oaks where the flat valley floor gives way to the foot hills of the Sierra Nevada.
    Raising beef cattle on pasture is inherently more challenging than fattening them on feedlots. Nitschke’s first problem was one the folks at Harris never face. There was no sign of any of the 75 cows that called the 1,100-acre ranch home. Near the stone foundation of an old forty-niner’s shack, Nitschke cupped his hands to his mouth and issued an impressively authentic mooooo.
    A 1999 graduate of California Polytechnic, Nitschke is no stranger to the feedlot beef business. After graduating, he became cattle buyer for Excel Fresh Meats (part of the agricultural giant Cargill), where he purchased 150,000 animals a year. But when the time came to strike out on his own, he did an about face.
    “The way I raise my cattle is more expensive and takes longer (his cows go to slaughter at between 18 and 24 months of age versus 14 months for a feedlot animal), but grass is a wonderful thing. Cows eat it. They get fat, and I produce a better product. They aren’t maxed out to all their livers can handle. We don’t need hormones or antibiotics.”
    Nitschke let out another bellow, and this time a few dozen stocky black and brown cows reluctantly emerged from the forest. “The real cowboys say that I’m producing ‘hippie chow,’” he said, in a drawl that would be at home on any range. “But I have a whole lot of customers who love what I do—and I sleep well at night.”
    We get our beef from LaPlatte River Angus Farm, which raises a few hundred head a year on pastures near our Vermont home. Perhaps because of my British heritage (via Canada) we faithfully observe Boxing Day, which wouldn’t be Boxing Day without a standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding. But this year, when we placed our order, the grocer said that all the LaPlatte roasts had been spoken for weeks earlier. All he could get was “Western beef.” Images of Cowschwitz flooded into my mind—and nostrils—and I demurred. Then, after rechecking his supply, the meat man corrected himself. There was one unclaimed roast.
    Our beef won’t measure up to Nitschke’s standards. Although the cow that produced it never received antibiotics and grazed on fields for 12 or 15 months, it joined about 80 comrades at LaPlatte’s “home farm” for a couple of months to fatten on corn and hay. Not perfect, but with the help of a big Rhône red, I’ll swallow it.
    Meet Your Meat: Feedlot Vs. Free-Range
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  7. #6  
    AI's Have More Fun Bad Robot's Avatar
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    Okay, I'm back to wanting to try grass fed beef again. Picking the right beef and knowing how to cook it probably helps a great deal.
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  8. #7  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    It's natural vs. artificial.

    You have to understand that when we alter a natural process, it is usually for a direct benefit. In this case, the meat has a more palatable (depending upon who you ask, I suppose) texture and flavor. Grass-fed, free-range beef is purely a return to a more natural grazing process which is better for the animal and the environment, but produces a less satisfying steak (in my opinion).
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    It's natural vs. artificial.

    You have to understand that when we alter a natural process, it is usually for a direct benefit. In this case, the meat has a more palatable (depending upon who you ask, I suppose) texture and flavor. Grass-fed, free-range beef is purely a return to a more natural grazing process which is better for the animal and the environment, but produces a less satisfying steak (in my opinion).
    I was at Costco earlier today, so I thought I'd check and see if they were offering grass fed beef. They had hamberger labled "Organic" It's appearance was darker than regular hamberger it was 85% meat & 15% fat and 4 pounds cost close to $18.

    For about the same money you could buy 6 pounds of 88% meat & 12% fat regular hamburger. I didn't buy either one, but I know what the regular hamburger taste like and the darker organic hamburger didn't look all that appetizing to me. Should I take the risk and pay more for the organic hamburger?

    I have been buying Angus choice already cooked patties that are frozen. They go into the microwave for 2 minutes and come out perfect every time. But that won't work if I want to make a meatloaf now will it?
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  10. #9  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    I'll be honest, I don't have a clue what 'organic' means. Is it just no pesticides or antibiotics, etc? Seems like everyone wants to slap that word on their food so they can upmark it 20%.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    I'll be honest, I don't have a clue what 'organic' means. Is it just no pesticides or antibiotics, etc? Seems like everyone wants to slap that word on their food so they can up mark it 20%.
    Maybe, but in the OP article it stated that grass fed beef was darker meat. and this organic beef was darker by quite a bit. It was easy to see that it was a different type of meat. So it wasn't just the same meat relabeled. But then I can't say what it was exactly because like you said the standards for organic do not always mean better.
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  12. #11  
    ...matter and pixie dust wegs's Avatar
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    I think there is a definitive (better) taste difference between organic poultry and red meat than non-organic.
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  13. #12  
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    I'll be honest, I don't have a clue what 'organic' means. Is it just no pesticides or antibiotics, etc? Seems like everyone wants to slap that word on their food so they can upmark it 20%.
    Well, I'd start with a tentative assumption that "no antibiotics" indicates beef being grass fed rather than grain fed. So if you're after grass fed, that'd be a good place to start.
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  14. #13  
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    Wow, If I only new as a child and teen that I was living "high on the hog(or cow)" at the time. I grew up on a subsistance farm( Everything we grew and raised was just for our own comsumption.) Our beef animals and one milk cow lived off our own pasture, and we wintered them on hay grown on our own land (and fertilized with the manure from same said cows). We grew vegetables in our own garden. So, I grew up on grass fed beef and organic produce. Little did I know that decades later people would be paying premium prices to eat like I was!

    Of course, their was a price to pay. Since we didn't make any money off of the farm, My dad had to still work a regular 8 hr work day and run an 80 acre farm at the same time, so needless to say, this was not for a lay-about.
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  15. #14  
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    being from "Ranching" country.......observations after talking to ranchers both here and those in Mainland (YES, we are a cow town)

    Grass fed does not get as marbled......not as tender.

    Takes double the time to age for restaurant use.

    Is better for you.

    I prefer BISON hamburger over grass fed any time.....
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  16. #15  
    Theatre Whore babe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wegs View Post
    I think there is a definitive (better) taste difference between organic poultry and red meat than non-organic.
    I have had absolutely HORRIBLE organic poultry.

    Then again had the same experience with farmed.

    Grew up on about a 85% organic diet.

    I have found not all organic chickens are the same.

    My favorite thing is organic eggs.....to die for.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Janus View Post
    Wow, If I only new as a child and teen that I was living "high on the hog(or cow)" at the time. ....
    I can still remember my dear old grandmothers Sunday chicken stew with dumplings. She made it when we visited for a weekend.
    The old "free range" rooster went into the pot after we kids caught it, killed it, drew it and plucked it. It was usually a very merry chase to catch that tough old bird.
    Then it was slowly simmered for all day Saturday and Sunday with the vegetables added Sunday afternoon. Just before supper time the dumplings were put on top of the stew to finish the cooking. Even after all that cooking there were still pieces of chicken, a modern factory farmed bird would have simply fallen apart and been wasted.

    You can't buy good chickens like that now.
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  18. #17  
    Theatre Whore babe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Janus View Post
    Wow, If I only new as a child and teen that I was living "high on the hog(or cow)" at the time. ....
    I can still remember my dear old grandmothers Sunday chicken stew with dumplings. She made it when we visited for a weekend.
    The old "free range" rooster went into the pot after we kids caught it, killed it, drew it and plucked it. It was usually a very merry chase to catch that tough old bird.
    Then it was slowly simmered for all day Saturday and Sunday with the vegetables added Sunday afternoon. Just before supper time the dumplings were put on top of the stew to finish the cooking. Even after all that cooking there were still pieces of chicken, a modern factory farmed bird would have simply fallen apart and been wasted.

    You can't buy good chickens like that now.
    Yes.

    Grandma in Slovenia when we came for dinner.....the chicken was caught, plucked and cooked...*S*
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  19. #18  
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    We didn't have a farm - at least not once I was going to school. But we grew most of our veggies, apart from potatoes and onions, as well as keeping chooks for eggs and growing about 7 or 8 kinds of fruit, easy to do on a reasonable sized suburban block here. Killing a chook to eat (!) was for celebration meals only - the Xmas, Mother's Day sort of thing.

    I remember them as tasting good - but being special meals the rest of it was pretty good as well. But I do confess to preferring organic chicken now.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post

    I prefer BISON hamburger over grass fed any time.....
    Are you suggesting that the bison wasn't grass fed?
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Janus View Post
    Wow, If I only new as a child and teen that I was living "high on the hog(or cow)" at the time. ....
    I can still remember my dear old grandmothers Sunday chicken stew with dumplings. She made it when we visited for a weekend.
    The old "free range" rooster went into the pot after we kids caught it, killed it, drew it and plucked it. It was usually a very merry chase to catch that tough old bird.
    Then it was slowly simmered for all day Saturday and Sunday with the vegetables added Sunday afternoon. Just before supper time the dumplings were put on top of the stew to finish the cooking. Even after all that cooking there were still pieces of chicken, a modern factory farmed bird would have simply fallen apart and been wasted.

    You can't buy good chickens like that now.
    Up until the age of 11, we lived in Northern Minn. It was a lot of work to winter the chickens since the coop was unheated, so what we usually did was butcher them all in fall and get new chicks in the spring. My dad would behead the chickens and my sister an I would carry them up to the garage where my Mom, Aunt, Uncle and cousins would be waiting to pluck and clean them. They were then kept in a freezer until we needed them.

    It wasn't until we moved to Oregon that we could winter the chickens and do the butcher as we needed them method.

    Sunday dinner usually was something along the lines of a roast (sometimes steak) or chicken from animals we raised ourselves, homegrown potatoes and vegetables, milk from our cow and homemade bread (with butter made from the cream of same said milk.) Dessert would be likely a home baked pie, sometimes rhubarb(our own, either fresh or frozen depending on the season).

    Monday's supper was typically a stew or a Pasti( a type of meat/vegetable/potato pie) made from Sunday's left-overs. If Sunday's potatoes were mashed, they were usually made into patties and heated up on a frying pan. (This was before you could just reheat things in a microwave.)
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  22. #21  
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    I source my grass fed beef from a local farm - the meat is darker because that's the colour meat is. The bright red stuff sold in my local supermarket is dyed to look that colour. I go out of my way to buy grass fed animals for different reasons. An animal that has been looked after correctly will provide more nutrition. Stressing animals and not feeding them optimal nutrition results in a sick animal that has vitamin deficiencies - so as well as making an animals life miserable for no good reason they are not even useful in death because they don't provide nutrients when they are eaten.
    I prefer organic because of the lack of routine antibiotics but that's not to say they never get given antibiotics, just that its not a routine part of their feed. Again its down to welfare too - if the animals are not standing in their own faeces or are not being fed rubbish feed they don't need daily antibiotics. Whatever goes into their body works its way into yours when you eat it and it may or may not do harm - I don't think there are any studies on second hand antibiotics but there probably should be.
    Grass fed beef most definitely has a different taste for me than anything I have bought in the supermarket and is also more tender. Add that to home grown veggies and you get a meal that tastes far superior and is much healthier than anything you can buy in a supermarket - processed or 'fresh'.
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  23. #22  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bad Robot View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post

    I prefer BISON hamburger over grass fed any time.....
    Are you suggesting that the bison wasn't grass fed?
    Dunno but it's not dry and mealy ike some of todays hamburger........

    I like good meat!
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  24. #23  
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    always bought the meat from our local ranchers.....
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