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NPR: The Truth About Grass-Fed Beef

For last week's Tiny Desk Kitchen, Allison Aubrey conducted a blind taste test of grass-fed and corn-fed beef. The participants, Ari Shapiro and Susan Stamberg, actually thought the grain-fed beef was tastier and tenderer, but as Shapiro explained at the end, "On the basis of taste alone, I prefer [corn-fed beef]. I would choose to order something that I knew was more sustainable even if I found it to be a little less tender or a little less beefy tasting."

Aubrey says the reason that grain-fed beef is a bit more palatable to most people is because it's fattier. "It's the difference, for humans, between eating bags of spinach all day vs. dense, calorie-rich oatmeal." I think that analogy is too soft, because cows can't properly digest corn. Michael Pollan says it's actually more like humans eating a diet of only Snickers bars. "It wreaks havoc on a digestive system that has evolved to do something quite miraculous, which is digest grass."

According to the NPR piece, grass-fed beef is generally leaner, and therefore healthier, than corn-fed beef, because grass-fed cows spend energy roaming around the pasture. Grass-fed beef is also said to have twice as much omega-3 fatty acids than corn-fed beef.


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Reader Comments (5)

When dining out, consider asking the manager/owner to offer grass fed beef.

Not only is it better for our hearts, it's better for the air, water, soil. And it doesn't require tax subsidies like corn fed beef.

Thanks for listening :)

April 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim Magner

I realize that NPR did the piece from a purely foodie / taste perspective, but it's too bad they avoided the environmental cost of cheap beef production.

April 12, 2010 | Registered CommenterOrganicNation.tv

I raise purely grassfed beef in the foothills of California. It is a joy to me to watch my cows out on rolling grasslands. The farm butcher comes to my ranch so the cows are never enervated. I have a small operation and sell to a couple of clients who love the meat and the sustainability. For me it is a lot of work, mending fence, feeding in the dryest season, but the constant excercise keeps me healthy too!
Caution however: I have been told that the federal appelation standard allows for beef to be called "grassfed" if it is 90% grassfed which means it can be corn/grain fed at the end which changes the rumen to manage the non-natural food. That in turn changes the quality of the fat and gives conventional beef to the buyer.
I urge people to support local small beef, lamb and pork operations that are truly grassfed and caring producers.

April 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergretchen fretter

You make some great points regarding the health benefits of Grass Fed Beef. Omega 3 acids contributes to enhanced heart health and reduced risk of obesity, arthritis, insulin resistance, allergies and autoimmune disease. So that fat that grass fed beef is high in omega 3 and beta-carotene and low in calories and fat makes it it much healthier option than grain fed beef. I work with La Cense beef which sells 100% grass fed beef directly to consumers, and its delicious!

June 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

If more people ate grass fed meats we would see healthier and happier people. I've lost count of the number of people I've talked to who have included grass fed meats into their diet and have gotten great results from them. The right types of foods can heal you. I see it and hear about it all the time.

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