What’s the big deal about grass-fed beef?

So the Hubs and I were talking about stopping at a new place to eat we’ve noticed on an upcoming road trip. Recently, a new truck-stop went in on Interstate 79 (sounds classy, right) and they built a Moe’s Southwest Grill inside.

We’ve never paid it it much attention, but a friend of ours stopped there and raved about the food–and the fact that the menu proudly features hormone-free and grass-fed meat. Really?!? That’s definitely not the norm around here.

I did some “recon” on the menu on their website. I was impressed by their “Food Mission.” All of their dairy items like sour cream and cheese are made without growth hormones.

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I am so excited about this. And I stopped to think for a second. Other people that eat there might not get so excited about it. They might ask “What’s the big deal about grass-fed beef?”

There are a bunch of reasons to et excited about grass-fed beef. Here’s my top four reasons:

1. TASTE – This is the number one reason in my book. Even if you don’t consider yourself an “environmentalist,” I’ll bet you like tasty beef. The taste of grass-fed beef is different than conventional beef. The first time I tasted it, I thought it tasted like super beef. Really beefy. Beefy beefy beef. I like it so much better.

If you’ve never tried it, get a steak from the farmers market or at the grocery store if they carry it. Marinate it in a marinade of equal parts fat and acid (like olive oil and red wine) and some aromatics like garlic or rosemary, some salt and pepper, and grill it. You won’t be sorry.

2. It’s better for you. Conventional beef is fed corn. And cows weren’t designed to eat corn. They cannot digest it very easily. So, they stay sick. And that means they get a steady supplement of antibiotics with their corn feed. Did you know that about 70% of all antibiotics used in the United States are given to livestock being raised for our food? This is completely outrageous! So, when you eat conventionally raised beef, you are getting trace amounts of antibiotics, too. No thanks! Not all grass-fed beef is anti-biotic free, but chances are that beef was raised with fewer antibiotics because it wasn’t as sick as beef that ate corn.

Also, grass-fed beef is higher in Omega-3 fats than regular beef. Omega-3 fats are the fats that are good for you–the kind that help you have a healthy heart, brain and skin. Everyone is talking about how great omega-3s are for us now. Turns out that the cow’s health isn’t the only thing that eating corn negatively affects.

So, even if you’re not into being “green”, there are a couple reasons to seek out grass-fed beef when you can get it. And feel a little better about eating at Moe’s than Taco Bell.

3. Grass-fed beef is easier on the environment than conventionally raised beef. The environmental impacts associated with feed lot beef (that’s how most of the beef raised for food in the U.S. is raised) are another reason to choose grass-fed.A couple weeks ago, a National Geographic photographer was arrested for taking aerial pictures of a feed lot in Kansas.(Click the link and scroll down to the photo he took)  The beef industry doesn’t want consumers to know how their steaks are raised. If you’ve never seen it, let me describe it. Hundreds of cows are crammed onto a square piece of land with no grass. The ground is just covered in mud and cow poop. And the cows have to live most of their lives in those conditions. When it’s feeding time, corn laced with antibiotics and hormones (to make the cows grow faster) is pushed down a chute for the cows to eat. They spend their days like this. Just eating constantly, pooping and walking around in it. Feed lots stretch for miles in Midwestern states. And, aside from the property that is destroyed by housing the cows, acres and acres of corn are raised to feed the cows. And this just isn’t any corn. It’s GMO corn. So, farmers can spray herbicide and pesticide on the corn since it’s GMO corn. Which destroys the land the corn is raised on (and surrounding land).

It doesn’t just stop there. Because of feed lots in the Midwest, there is now a huge algae “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the country’s largest fisheries. Because of the rainwater that runs off  the land where feed lots are located is so high in waste and chemicals from raising the cattle that when that water makes it to the Mississippi Delta and into the Gulf of Mexico, it creates conditions perfect for algae in open water. It is so bad now that the algae dead zone has created conditions in the Gulf of Mexico that will not support fish in places.

4. It’s easier on the cows themselves. Think about it, cows are animals that historically have grazed on grass in fields. Their bodies are uniquely built to digest grass and convert it to energy. Corn is different. They can digest it, but not very well. And because of the extra burden a steady diet of corn puts on their bodies, and the filthy conditions they live in in feed lots, the operations that produce these cattle must give them huge doses of antibiotics just to keep them from succumbing to sickness. In addition to the continual sickness they experience in feedlots, they cannot engage in their natural instincts to graze because there is only mud around them. So, they spend their days standing around in muck eating food that makes them sick.

If one of those four reasons isn’t enough to for someone who’s never had grass-fed beef to give it a try, I don’t know what might convince them. Sure, it’s a little more expensive than conventionally raised beef, but it’s not something that I mind paying because I can feel confident that it’s better quality beef. It’s great that restaurants like Moe’s are starting to understand that quality ingredients matter. And consumers can feel good about making a decision to support rtailers that offer meat that is humanely raised.

Salsa bar? Don't mind if I do!

Salsa bar? Don’t mind if I do!

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2 thoughts on “What’s the big deal about grass-fed beef?

  1. jennelle…. did you ever make to Moe’s ….. did you like it…. I actually work in the area and stoped for a bite and was a little disappointed… I come from Colorado where tex/mex food is a everyday meal and was hoping for some thing better then Tacobell… what i got was cold and Hard black beans and hard dry rice… so even with the beef I was not as happy with the meal as I had hoped… the chips and salsa was good and fresh at least they did do that well… I hope that your experance is better then mine and I hope that you are pleased with it…

  2. Yuck on cold beans and hard rice! Mine was pretty good, but it was no Chipotle–my fave “fast food” burrito. I wish we had one around here. I’ll be you had some excellent Tex Mex in Colorado!

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