Grain Fed & Grass Fed Beef (and why we choose grain fed)

Let's start by getting my goal for this post out in the open.  I would like to clear the smoke and clean the mirrors.  I would like to invite in some fresh air, wipe the smudges off traditional agriculture, and allow any open minded person to see the true reflection of one of America's most prized commodities: grain fed beef. 

Nearly all beef production is pasture-based.  This only means that the animal has spent the majority of its life in a pasture.  Usually, even pasture-based animals are finished on grain.

I am NOT going to criticize the choices you make for your family, and I'm certainly NOT trying to offend anyone.  The truth is I'm proud of any family that chooses to eat any kind of American beef.  We are so fortunate to have a safe and plentiful food supply.  And we are beyond blessed that we have the freedom and resources to be able to choose the meat that we eat.

That being said, I have always and I will always choose grain fed beef for me and my house.  It's more than tradition, it's more than trying to make agriculture more efficient for future generations...  Grain fed beef is delicious!

Get to know your local farmers and support those that you know to be good producers.

I say that lightheartedly, but the simple truth is grain fed beef is more flavorful, more tender, more economical, and science has produced solid evidence to prove that grain fed beef is just as healthy as it's grass fed counterparts... 

It seems traditions are tradition for good reason. 

 Our steers have shade from the sun and shelter from storms.   They have a constant supply of fresh water, free choice hay (for fiber) and a balanced grain ration (for energy).  They have bovine companions and watchful caretakers.  They can go from the barn to the acre-sized outdoor pen as they choose.

Our steers have shade from the sun and shelter from storms.   They have a constant supply of fresh water, free choice hay (for fiber) and a balanced grain ration (for energy).  They have bovine companions and watchful caretakers.  They can go from the barn to the acre-sized outdoor pen as they choose.


Though we've only just started selling our beef at the farmer's market, we've had several questions about this issue specifically.  Many people have questions, and many of them already believe that grain feeding our steers negatively affects the welfare of our animals, the environment, and the healthiness of our product.  I'm here to offer the truth.  It's up to you to draw your own conclusions.

  1. Grass fed beef does have less fat.  If your diet requires lean meat, grass fed beef is a viable option.  If you go this route, you should be prepared to sacrifice traditional beef flavor.  Another way to keep a lean diet without losing the delicious traditional beef taste is to ask for ground beef that has a lower fat content (90 or 95% lean), stick to beef cuts that are naturally leaner (most steaks and roasts), or simply enjoy a smaller portion of traditional ground beef.
  2. Studies suggest that grass fed beef can have more Omega-3 Fatty Acids.  And if you read the whole thing, you'll learn that grain fed beef can have more Omega-6 and Oleic Acids.  Both provide unique health benefits, but most nutritionists agree that both are equally good for you.  As part of a balanced diet, both grass fed and grain fed beef are great sources of protein, healthy fats, and essential minerals like zinc and iron.  
  3. Good producers keep all their cattle, whether grass fed or grain fed, happy and healthy.  Animal welfare has much more to do with the farmer than the animal's diet.  A good producer provides a nutritious balanced diet, plentiful fresh water, shelter from the elements, calm handling practices, and willing treatment for illness or injury.  An individual concerned about animal welfare could do the most good by getting to know local farmers and supporting the farmers they know to be good producers.
  4. Even grain fed cattle are on pasture most of their lives.  They spend only about 4-5 months eating a balanced grain based diet and are usually in a large pen with many other animals their age.  
  5. Today's grain fed cattle are good for the environment too.  Grain fed cattle produce less methane than their grass fed counterparts, and use less water, land, and energy to produce the same amount of nutritious beef. This combines to make grain fed beef production more efficient and grain fed beef products more economical for families around the world.
  6. Traditional beef taste can only be found in grain fed beef.  This is the result of the marbling that occurs when a steer eats grain.  But that doesn't mean grain fed beef is right for everyone.  If you prefer the grass fed taste, you should eat grass fed beef.  But do it because you like the taste, not because unqualified bloggers are proclaiming that eating grass fed beef is the only way to be healthy and love animals and the environment.

 Our farmer's market display shows the nutritious grain ration our steers eat.  It is carefully balanced by animal nutritionists to ensure that our animals stay healthy and happy.  Our feed includes ground corn, soybean meal, vitamins and minerals, and molasses for taste.

Our farmer's market display shows the nutritious grain ration our steers eat.  It is carefully balanced by animal nutritionists to ensure that our animals stay healthy and happy.  Our feed includes ground corn, soybean meal, vitamins and minerals, and molasses for taste.

As for us:

We produce grain fed beef because we believe in the foundation past agriculturists created. Today we are researching and fine tuning our methods to make beef production the best it can be. This is the only way future agriculturists will be able to feed the growing world.  We know our cattle are happy, healthy, and deeply cared for. At the same time, our farm's soil, water, and air is healthy and productive. 

We eat grain fed beef because it's delicious, and it provides our bodies with essential protein, fats, and minerals. 

We sell grain fed beef because we want our community to have a trusted source for healthy, local beef. 

 

What's for dinner??  At Giffin Farms the answer is always, "Grain fed beef!"

M

 

Check my sources and a few more places to find balanced information:

"Today's Beef Choices" - BeefNutrition.org

"Ground Beef From Grass-fed and Grain-fed Cattle: Does it Matter?" - Texas A & M University

"Grass-fed vs. Conventionally Fed Beef" - Utah State University

"Raising Kids and Conventional Beef" - Faith Family Farming

Beef Research - Beef Checkoff