What’s the deal with grassfed beef?

By: Arthur Anderson

For the last few years we’ve been hearing about the benefits of grassfed beef versus grain-fed beef but it hasn’t been easy to access grassfed beef in Reno. Now a local rancher, Alturas Ranches, has teamed up with Double Edge to offer three cuts of grassfed beef at Midtown (filet mignon, New York and ribeye). So what’s the big deal with grassfed beef other than it’s more expensive than grain-fed beef? Let’s look at that question from three different viewpoints.

Number One: Grassfed beef is more healthful and nutritious than grain-fed beef. The fat profile is the same for both types of beef; 40-50% saturated fat, 40-50% monounsaturated fat and about 8-10% polyunsaturated fat. The saturated fat in grain-fed beef is higher in fats likely to raise your bad cholesterol levels and lower in fats likely to raise your good cholesterol levels, when compared to grassfed beef. The Omega-3:Omega-6 polyunsaturated fat ratio for grassfed beef ranges between 1:1.2 to 1:3.3, which is below the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommended diet with a ratio of no more than 1:4. Grain-fed beef has an Omega-3:Omega-6 ratio of 1:11 to 1:22. This ratio is important because a high ratio leads to the development of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Grassfed beef also contains less fat, has 3 to 6 times more vitamin E, is higher in minerals such as iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc, and richer in a variety of antioxidants, than grain-fed beef.

Number Two: Grassfed beef is better for the environment. This is a tough one to measure. Livestock production is a net greenhouse gas emitter, primarily of methane. But there is also the carbon footprint from the land and feed used in both grassfed and grain-fed beef. Grassfed beef can use marginal (unfarmable) farmland and it uses less fertilizer, pesticides and fossil fuels than grain-fed beef production. Cows are grazed on pasture land and rotated from paddock to paddock allowing for natural growth of the land that helps with carbon sequestration.

Number three: The well-being of the cow. Where would you rather live, free roaming the grasslands or in a feedlot with a hundred of your closest friends?

Grassfed ranchers are not getting rich on their beef even though feed and supplement costs are reduced. It takes a greater amount of land to raise grassfed beef and a greater amount of time, 22 months versus 14 months for a grain-fed cow. While grassfed beef is more expensive than Grain-fed Beef it does have nutritional advantages as well as environmentally sustainability advantages. If you are still concerned about the expense think about the money you might be spending in supplements and vitamins to make up for the nutrient deficiencies in our Standard American Diet (SAD). I find that when I eat grassfed beef I tend to be satiated sooner and don’t eat as much. Give it a shot, it may lead you on a path of more nutritious eating and indirect environmental activism.