Grass Fed Beef, Pt. III: An Introduction to the Cons of Grass-fed Beef
This is the third part in a 4-part series relating to grass-fed beef – we already presented an introduction to grass-fed beef and the pros of grass-fed beef; now we will present the cons to grass-fed beef (this article here!), and then we will present you with our own assessment of whether grass fed really is better, or if it is not as good as you would hope!
From Week 1, “An Introduction of Grass-fed Beef”:
“We love beef – as a nation, as families, and as individuals… really the whole world over (barring specific religions) is in love with a lovely pink and marbled piece of meat. It probably goes back to our primal instinct to eat the highest-energy food available to make the hours of hunting and gathering give us enough energy to keep going.
Or, maybe it just tastes godly, and for that reason alone we seek it out!
I know that I love beef, and I am sure that you are here because you are also in love with the sizzle of the steak, the smell of the searing beef, and the taste of a perfectly cooked piece of meat. Better yet, smother it with onions and mushrooms… maybe serve it with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and some roasted broccoli…
But NEVER serve it with steak sauce (Sorry/not sorry, A-1)… because properly cooked steak is one of the best tasting things on the planet!
However, most of us know that there are various qualities of steak – to learn more about meat qualities (and get a killer selection of recipes), make sure to request our complementary e-book on all things meat.
With all of the information we gave you in that book, there is still one key thing that we did not cover in that book, and it is important that we talk about it… and that thing is grass-fed beef.”
If you were well tuned-in and following along with the information that we provided to you last week (or the last two weeks for that matter) you are aware that we have introduced the idea of grass-fed beef, explained why there is controversy to the term grass-fed beef, and we have already mentioned some of the good points that should be thought of when this is considered.
However, like anything in life, there are two sides.
Two sides to a coin… two sides to a card…
And of course, there are two sides to your flaming piece of meat on the grill… and you have to be sure to time each side appropriately!
Sorry… we are beef people… we couldn’t resist!
Joking, and bad double-sided jokes aside, we are now at the point where we have to look at the cons of grass fed meat. That being said, without any further ado, let’s dive right into:
The Cons of Grass-Fed Beef
Yep, the cons are there… you just have to know that they are. The grass-fed movement that has been taking place in recent years has gotten a number of people to view this as the next great thing, and that it is universally better than grain-fed beef. While it does have its perks in comparison, for every perk that stands on its own, it also casts a shadow that you have to note.
Is it really healthier? Most of the current studies that surround grass-fed beef are showing that it is lower in bad fats, higher in good fats, and still lower in the overall fat percentage. However, research on what this does to the protein or the absorb-ability of the macro and micro-nutrients is incomplete.
OK… for those of you that do not have a degree in Biology, Nutrition, or Medicine…
There is not enough information for us to definitely say that grass-fed beef is more nutritious and better for your heart than grain-fed beef. While most of the current research suggests that this is the case, the problem we may face is a change in the overall content of the meat our bodies have evolved to digest might to be digested as well as the grain fed beef that you are used to.
Protein has something called a BV, which is biological value, and this BV basically tells us how must of the protein in our food our body can process. A higher BV is better, and most of the time meat products (including eggs and dairy) have a higher BV than non-meat products.
A point to make with this is the egg… the egg is one of the highest BV proteins that exists. However, many people have gone to consuming mostly egg whites to avoid cholesterol, but in the 90s there were studies that showed when the yolk was removed you drastically reduced the BV of the protein in the egg. That being said… will the same happen with your beef?
At this stage, we do not fully know. However, the fact that we don’t know is a point of concern as definitely places this aspect of grass-fed meat into the “cons” category.
The Price. Let’s be honest… most of the time the meat that you get in the supermarket is not going to be the best quality (not the same as you get from a butcher or a meat market), but people will buy this meat because of the price… it is usually the cheapest at your supermarket. Now… even when you are purchasing at the supermarket, you are often getting sticker-shock at the prices listed on beef.
I remember when the price of ground beef went up… and a lot of people got up in arms about it because they already thought it cost more than it should.
Here is the thing… even if they think it costs too much, people will still buy beef. Selling higher-quality beef is what keeps Wayside running, and we know that you, our savvy customer, wants the better-quality meat.
Of course… better quality costs a little more, and we all know that. It is why not everyone will buy from their local butcher or meat market… most people do not want to purchase beef once, let along 1.2 – 1.5 times.
Yes… stay with us, all of this build up is leading somewhere.
If you cannot, or do not, want to spend 2 times what you normally would for beef, then you should steer clear of grass fed. The meat almost always costs nearly ouble what the grain-fed meat costs, and since the information about the nutrition is out, you might actually be getting less while paying more.
While there are some benefits to grass-fed meat, price is not, and likely will never be, one of them.
Accessibility. I know some people who have decided to go with grass-fed beef as their only beef choice. While this is not bad, as everyone has different budgets, different needs, and different tastes, there is a real problem with quantity and accessibility of grass-fed beef.
Most of your supermarkets and butchers do not carry it… it takes longer to raise a grass-fed steer or cow, and this means that there is going to be less supply for people. Some of the people that have sworn off grain-fed (even if you do prefer grass-fed, do not just swear off grain-fed, please) cannot find enough grass fed meat of any kind and simply choose to go without.
If you are in a position where you have to go without something because you are holding out for something that is exacting, and that exacting standard is hard to find/rarely available, then this might not be a good option.
Some argue that the inaccessibility of grass-fed meat creates scarcity and then those who have it should be lucky…
Do you want to feel lucky to be able to enjoy a burger?
Yeah… I want to be happy, not lucky. You won’t sell me on the scarcity of one meat type making it matter more to me.
This also brings us to our next point! Our next point is:
Sustainability. For some time pasture-raised and grass-fed beef was effectively thought to be the second coming. Everyone wanted to believe that this was most sustainable and a better option than grain-fed beef.
Well, newer studies as recent as 2018 prove that grass-fed is not a sustainable option. With it taking longer for the steers to become the appropriate weight and age for slaughter, the larger amounts of land that are required to make less meat, and the growing consumption of meat in the western hemisphere taking at least 24 months, but more often closer to 36 months, to raise cattle is creating more scarcity.
Increased scarcity will further drive up price. A lack of sustainability is what makes it so most people cannot afford things, and I think we can all agree that we all deserve to be able to eat properly.
While the overall pollution produced by grass-fed meat is slight less or equal to that of grain-fed, the overall practice of grass-fed is not sustainable as a mainstream source of meat.
The Taste? Just like with our “pros” list of grass-fed beef, we put the question mark at the end of taste.
Taste is subjective, make no mistake, but at Wayside we do come down firmly on the taste of grass-fed being a con.
Grass-fed beef is often very gamey, and it being very lean often leaves it with little other flavor other than the general gaminess that you might experience. The western tongue is generally more well suited for the taste of grain-fed beef; sweeter, stronger, and richer in flavor, this is the taste that most of us prefer to have.
Along with taste is the idea of texture, as well. If you think about friends you have that love beer but refuse to drink it out of those little plastic cups at the state fair, then you understand… texture is a huge part of taste.
And most people find the texture of grass-fed beef to be, basically, unappealing. Some people do prefer it, just like anything else… but the overall texture tends to be tougher, and with less marbling their tends to be less juiciness in the meat, leaving it dry.
Make Sure to come by NEXT WEEK…
This all had to build up to something, right?
Next week we will actually compare the different pros and cons and tell you what we think is better. There are good points of grass-fed and of grain-fed beef… but that does not mean that we cannot decide that we prefer one over the other.
Next week, right here, that is what we are going to do. As always, please leave any comments down below, and we look forward to hearing from you!
Until next time, live well, eat well, and be well!