Topline Trend Tuesdays: Grass-finished beef

Prime Rib Roast

To say that it’s a bull market for grass fed beef would be true but it would also be a cheap pun so I won’t do it. Oh, wait… too late.

Moving on to the meat of the matter, just what is grass-finished beef? Most beef cattle eat a combo of grass and hay for part of their lives; however, they are generally moved in from pasture to a dry lot to be finished on an all-grain diet that consists mostly of corn. This diet change allows the cattle to gain weight quickly and produces a yellowy-coloured marbled and leaf fat that adds succulence and flavour to the meat – two things most consumers praise in a good steak or rib roast.

Grass-finished cattle aren’t put on a finishing diet. Instead, they stay on pasture until just before they’re slaughtered. The end result is leaner meat with higher Omega 3 content; however, the taste is different, too. While some people call it “beefier,” other people find grass-finished beef tougher and not as juicy as grain-finished meat.

But, even some of these folks are switching to grass finished beef because the farming methods used to raise it pose fewer health and environmental risks; likewise it has appeal because this is the natural diet cattle would eat if they roamed free.

Have you tried grass-finished beef? If so, did you miss the taste that a grain diet lends to the meat? Or, did you prefer its clean, beefy taste?


17 Responses to Topline Trend Tuesdays: Grass-finished beef

  1. Rosa says:

    That piece of meat looks fabulous! It sure gives it another taste…



  2. Funny, I almost can’t remember what a grain finished beef tastes like! We buy grass-finished or bison as our red meat choices at home.

  3. Barb says:

    I don’t believe I have ever had the choice.

  4. danamccauley says:

    Is grass finished meat widely available where you live Cheryl or do you shop at a specialty store? Here in Toronto it’s not in most grocery stores.

  5. Diva says:

    I far prefer the taste of grass finished beef. I’ve never been a big beef eater, so maybe that’s the reason … but to me, the flavor is “cleaner” and I like that its less rich. I only buy grass finished and have been doing so for a few years now. I used to have to search for it, but in the last year or so its become widely available … yay!

  6. As you might guess, I like both grass-finished and grain-finished beef, depending on the farm/breed/diet/aging technique, etc. What’s key for either is low stress growing conditions and handling farm to slaughter and a talented butcher who knows how to and how long to age.

    Personally, I’ve found the best tasting/textured grass-finished beef comes from farmers/graziers who put the cattle on a carefully planned finishing diet, just one comprised of grasses, hays, and sometimes legumes or vegetables rather than a mix of grains and grasses/hays. Sadly, some (esp. grocers) take a shortcut and offer unfinished cattle as grass-fed/finished, which does a dis-service to the grass-fed/finished industry as a whole.

    Okay, now I’m craving beef.

  7. I buy grain-fed from a source that I know is hormone-free, antibiotic-free and humanely treated. I don’t eat enough beef to make searching for a grass-fed source a priority, but if I see it, I’ll give it a try.

  8. Chantaie says:

    I don’t eat beef, I stopped a couple of years ago as a choice because of the environmental impact of raising cattle. I miss it and other livestock, which I have also let go. But I love food and grass fed beef sounds like a good alternative and compromise if you want to eat beef and still me environmentally conscious. Definite step forward.

  9. cheryl says:

    I’ve never tasted the two side by side, but I do buy grass-fed when I happen to see it, which I wish were more often. Your post makes me want to do a comparison.

    • danamccauley says:

      Cheryl, you should contact Carrie Oliver – that is a big part of what she does.

      I’m also planning to do this comparison sometime soon at my house. Likely after Labour Day.

  10. […] Originally posted here: Topline Trend Tuesdays: Grass-finished beef « Dana McCauley's food … […]

  11. Sharon Haslam says:

    My list grows ever long of items I need to look into that Dana blogs about. You sure have me thinking about where food lives before it appears on my plate. I like organic beef (but not the price)–it just tastes better and I feel it’s better for me. The whole grass finished idea sounds like a great alternative to grocery store beef–I’ll have to look into it in my area and compare price to organic. I was preparing to purchase a side of beef for the freezer for the winter (4 boys here!) I’ll have to start googling!!

  12. Sharon Haslam says:

    Dana, I love that you go back and read the late stuff–the personal answers are what sets your blog above all others! (in MY book anyway) I love butcher shops–the care they put into what they sell is well worth the extra $–even if only for a special occasion. I will check this new one out!! Thanks!!

  13. danamccauley says:

    You are too kind! THanks for the encouragement.

  14. Lia Huber says:

    Great piece, Dana. We don’t eat a lot of beef, so when we do I normally splurge for the grass-finished for just the reasons you mentioned above.

    Although I Carrie’s point above reminded me of a conversation I had with a grizzled old rancher who was selling his beef direct at the farmers’ market recently. I asked if his cows were grass finished and he said, “in some seasons they are, but in others I have to fatten them up on grain a bit before slaughter.”

    His point was that both for the consumer (a consistent product) and financially for him (a consistent yield) it was necessary to finish on grain–or, like Carrie said, an amended diet–occasionally. It was an eye-opening talk for me.

    So Carrie . . . when do you not crave beef? 😉

    • danamccauley says:

      It’s true. We think of grass like the stuff on our lawns, but the truth is even grass finished beef often eats clover or legume leaves to get all the nutrients they need.

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