What is Grass-Fed Meat?
Grass-fed meat is likely a phrase you’ve heard frequently, and its consumption is especially encouraged for people engaged in a paleo lifestyle, but while you may have even purchased grass-fed beef, you could find yourself asking, what exactly does this mean?
Grass-fed meat can include beef, bison, goats and sheep, and if they are classified as grass-fed this means these animals have only consumed their mother’s milk, fresh grass, and hay similar to grass, their entire lives. For pigs and poultry to be considered grass-fed, this means, generally, that they have eaten a majority of their diet in the form of grass, but they do also consume some grains.
Grass-fed animals are raised in the more traditional way, in that farmers keep their animals in pastures to forage on their native diet, rather than sending them to feedlots where they are given supplements, soy and grain, in order to fatten them more quickly. Farmers and ranchers that follow a grass-fed method, also avoid giving their animals any hormones or growth-inducing additives. The animals grow more slowly than they would with the additions to their diets, but they experience less stress, so there is generally no reason to give them antibiotics or drugs that animals at feed lots are frequently given. Animals that are raised in factory farms are fed diets with the exclusive goal of fattening them quickly to make more money, faster. Their diets consist of modified grain and soy, which are inexpensive and often contain by-products, such as garbage and chicken feathers.
Generally grass-fed meat has a variety of health benefits, including the fact that the meat is lower in fat, cholesterol and calories, versus traditional meat. Animals that are strictly grass-fed also have meat that shows levels higher in Vitamin A and Omega-3 fatty acids. Beef that is grass-fed generally has about the same amount of fat as a skinless chicken breast, or wild deer. The fats that are found in grass-fed meats are beneficial “good fats,” versus non-grass-fed beef, that is typically high in saturated fat. In addition to being high in Omega-3 fats, grass-fed beef is often high in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is another “good fat.” There is also a much lower risk that these animals will be infected with E. coli.
The key disadvantage of buying grass-fed meat, for the paleo consumer, is that it is often difficult to find in many retail supermarkets. Some mainstream supermarkets are beginning to carry grass-fed meat, but as a consumer, you may have to go to a specialty food market or supermarket to find grass-fed beef and other meats, but most people find it is well worth the extra time to find healthy, high-quality meat that is environmentally conscious.