Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Save vs. Splurge: Grass-fed Beef


Why Grass is Great for Cows
Cows evolved on a grass diet, so many people think grass is the best diet for them to eat.
Cows evolved on a grass diet, so many people think grass is the best diet for them to eat.
BananaStock/Thinkstock

Someone looking to eat healthily and still include a bit of beef in his or her meal plan might go the grass-fed route because grass-fed cows allegedly have a number of nutritional advantages over their corn-eating counterparts. For example, meat from grass-fed cows reportedly contains between 35 and 65 percent less saturated fat than corn-fed cows [source: NPR]. (It should be noted that cattlemen who corn-feed their cattle unsurprisingly say these claims are exaggerated.) One study found that grass-fed cows had more omega-3 fatty acids than corn-fed bovines, along with more conjugated linoleic acid. Between the two of them, they lower the risk of heart disease, boost the immune system, and help battle cancer and type 2 diabetes [source: Consumer Reports].

If you're looking for more reasons why you should splurge on grass-fed beef, consider the fact that it's allegedly loaded with vitamin A and vitamin E, which have been linked to disease resistance. You'll also be eating meat that's free of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Grass-fed cows rarely require (or are given) antibiotics, but corn-fed cows need them, or at least receive them, by the bucketful. In fact, an estimated 70 percent of the antibiotics consumed each year in the United States are popped down the gullets of various livestock and poultry. This is a huge problem in terms of disease resistance, which is a factor in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans each year [source: Time].

One potential drawback with this splurge, however, is that cows raised in the grass-fed manner will vary in taste depending on what type of cow they are and what sort of grasses they're snacking on. So while it's possible that you might find a particular type of beef not to your liking, you also might find a variety that'll have you singing its praises till the cows come home. On a related note, grass-fed cows also help decrease erosion and increase the fertility of their grazing land.

On the next page, get lots more information on a variety of food-related topics.


More to Explore