Why Is Grass-Fed Beef Slightly More Expensive Than Grain-Fed?
05 January, 2009 - 20:27
Several have asked why grass-fed beef is more expensive that grain-fed feed lot beef. Basically it is because of the longer time it takes for the cattle to mature. If you ship off your calves after six to eight months to a feed lot, you do not have much invested. Our cattle are close to 24 months old at harvest.
We do offer grain finished beef, but ours is NOT the type you get out of a feed lot. We only feed grain for a few months and it is given in limited quantity. The bulk of our grain finished cattle's diet is still grass. The combination will give you more marbling, but it also retains the natural flavors grass-fed beef has.
The article below discusses the difference in grain-fed and grass-fed.
Grain-fed and Grass-fed Beef: A Meditation
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy is a very scary term, I mean even the X-Files has an episode based on it. It basically turns your brain into Swiss cheese.
And it has been two long years since the appearance of US Beef on the sweltering shores of Singapore. Even though the ban was lifted (in a limited way), the local steakhouses have bought up so much beef that it took a while to clear those stocks.
It’s also been a while since the Dead Cow Society met for the prevention of BSE to other people. Such is our selfless charter.
But why the madness over US beef? All this talk and anticipation has made me very curious about the mystique of beef.
It’s all about taste. Beef, US or otherwise, comes, broadly, in either grain-fed or grass-fed. Both give distinctively different tastes. Grass-fed beef is gamey and the flavour is not as intense as grain-fed beef. And unless it is aged well, grass-fed beef can be tougher than grain-fed ones.
The good news is that a recent study in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the meat of grass-fed livestock not only had substantially less fat than grain-fed meat but that the type of fats found in grass-fed meat were much healthier. Grass-fed meat has more omega 3 fatty acids and fewer omega 6, which is believed to promote heart disease; it also contains betacarotine and CLA, another ”good” fat.
Grain-fed beef is sweeter and more intense because it contains more fat. It is the preferred beef for a lot of people.
Unfortunately, grain-fed beef from feedlot cows is also very unhealthy because of the higher levels of saturated fat. However, that’s not the most terrifying thing about it.
Feedlot cattle are basically cattle who are weaned off their mothers and grass and are placed in pens and fed grain. This fattens up the calf rapidly and tremendously.
There are many side effects to this practice, most of them bad. This is because corn is not a natural food for cows. Cows were meant to eat forage, but foodlots make them eat grain.
This causes a lot of problems such as feedlot bloat. Cows create a lot of gas which is usually expelled, but when on a diet low in roughage and high in starch, a layer of foamy slime that can trap gas forms in the rumen. The rumen inflates like a balloon, pressing against the animal’s lungs. Unless action is promptly taken to relieve the pressure (usually by forcing a hose down the animal’s esophagus), the cow suffocates.
So listen to your mom and eat your vegetables else you fart. A lot.
Moving on, a corn diet can also give a cow acidosis. Unlike that in our own highly acidic stomachs, the normal pH of a cow’s stomach is neutral. Corn makes it unnaturally acidic, however, causing a kind of bovine heartburn, which in some cases can kill the animal but usually just makes it sick. Acidotic animals go off their feed, pant and salivate excessively, paw at their bellies and eat dirt. The condition can lead to diarrhea, ulcers, bloat, liver disease and a general weakening of the immune system that leaves the animal vulnerable to everything from pneumonia to feedlot polio.
A feedlot cow does not live more than 6-months. A sustained feedlot diet would eventually “blow out their livers” and kill them. As the acids eat away at the stomach wall, bacteria enter the bloodstream and collect in the liver.
Enter the antibiotics. Its use reduces the gas and helps to prevent liver infection. However, it is acknowledged generally that such a practice led to the evolution of “super bugs” which are resistant to antibiotics.
A distinction should be made between clinical and non-clinical uses of antibiotics. Clinical usage is to help sick animals get better whereas the other is to promote growth. Therein lies the paradox: antibiotics is administered to feedlot cattle to treat the sick animals who become sick because of what we feed them.
A less concerned person may note that it’s all for the greater good of mankind. After all, US Corn-fed beef tastes sublime.
Well, apart from BSE, the other worrying thing about grain-fed beef from feedlot cows is Escherichia coli 0157 or E. Coli 0157. This is a new strain of intestinal bacteria that was isolated in the 1980s and it is acid-resistant. Ingesting E. Coli microbes can be fatal.
Here’s the scare: most of the microbes that reside in the gut of a cow and find their way into our food get killed off by the acids in our stomachs, because they are originally adapted to live in a pH-neutral environment. But the digestive tract of the modern feedlot cow is closer in acidity to our own (because of acidosis), and in this new environment acid-resistant E. Coli 0157 have developed that can survive our stomach acids and go on to kill us.
Increasing the acidity of a cow’s gut with corn, we have broken down one of our food chain’s barriers to infection.
There are other impact such as environmental ones, yet why are we still doing this? Basically it’s the price. Grass-fed beef is more expensive as grass-fed cows take longer to “harvest” and corn is very cheap. Besides, everyone likes corn-fed beef.
But how cheap is corn-fed beef actually? Is it worth it? So long as the mass market demands it, there will be no stopping.
It is commonly said that we are what we eat and for me, the thought of consuming beef that consumed grass that consumed sunlight is getting more and more appealing.