Busting the Grass-fed Beef Myth
The Bottom Line
Marketing claims that grass-fed beef is healthier or more eco-friendly are a myth. Grain-fed and grass-fed beef are defined by production, marketing and taste distinctions, not by nutritional or environmental differences. The No. 1 reason consumers purchase beef is taste. Grain-fed beef, like the Certified Angus Beef ® brand, delivers the superior taste consumers desire.
All Cattle are Grass Fed
Cattle spend the majority of their lives in pastures eating grass. Grain-fed cattle spend 50-75% of their lives grazing and are on a grain-based diet for a relatively short period of time-four to six months (only 120-180 days).
Understanding Nutritional Claims
Marketing claims that grass-fed beef is healthier than grain-fed beef are not true. Statements that grass-fed beef has higher levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids are accu rate; however, the differences are not significant enough to impact health.
Beef is an excellent source of zinc, iron and protein, plus many B vitamins. However, it should not be considered a reasonable source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Pasture- or grass-fed meat is perceived to be more eco-friendly than grain-fed beef. However, the time needed to grow an animal on grass to harvest weight is nearly double that of grain. This means that energy use and greenhouse gas emissions per pound of beef are increased threefold in grass-fed cattle.
It is important to understand the entire U .S. agricultural sector accounts for only 6% of annual U .S. green house gas emissions according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Livestock production is estimated at only 2.8% of total U.S. emissions.
In total, finishing the current U.S. population of 9.8 million fed-cattle on pasture would require an extra 60 million acres of land, that’s about the size of Wyoming.