Grass fed beef has been an increasingly hot topic over the last few years. I've had people ask me "do you really think this grass fed/finished trend is going to last?" To that I can only reply, "Grass finished beef is not the trend, grain finished beef is!" Human beings have been farming cattle for about 10,000 years. It wasn't until the early 1900's that humans discovered they could feed cows grain, and get them fatter faster.
This ultimately started when spent distillery grains needed a purpose, and in the newly growing cities of the early 1900's, these grains could be fed to cows, who were kept in feed-lots within the city limits and then supply the cities with beef. Before that, the amount of labor, cost, and time that went into growing and harvesting grains was far too intensive to waste grains on animals who could survive on pasture and forage. The grains had only been grown and harvested for HUMAN consumption for thousands of years. So again, if you ask me, the "trend" is grain-fed beef. 10,000 years of grass fed vs. about 70 years of grain-fed, you see what I mean?
For most people alive today, grain-finished beef has been more the norm, because the grain industry has lobbied very hard to get grain and cereal crops subsidized, and then market the grain as feed for cattle. Before the invention of modern farming equipment such as tractors and combines, as well as the availability of cheap fossil fuels (as opposed to oxen, mules, horses, yaks or whatever they had back then) to run the equipment, planting and harvesting grains in order to feed herbivorous animals was completely un-thought of.
Cows are herbivores, which means their bodies are designed to eat only grass and forage, which their rumen digestive system then turns into protein. A rumen animal basically has more than one stomach, and is essentially a fermentation factory. So when you feed high protein grains to a rumen, they ferment it, turn it into a lot of sugar, and get very fat very quickly. Which leads me to another point, the difference in marbling between a grass finished and grain finished beef.
Some people are concerned about the difference in the marbling of fat in grain-fed vs. grass-fed beef. Okay, so when you get an animal very fat, unnaturally fat, the marbling of the fat increases throughout its body. That's why grain-fed beef has so much marbling. That's not to say however that healthy grass-fed beef doesn't have marbling as well. Yes, it will be different than the grain-fed beef, that's one way you know you've gotten beef that was actually grass-finished. But if a grass-finished cow is allowed to live to full maturity, and gain enough healthy fat from eating grass, which of course takes longer, it will have a beautiful marbling of its own too.
Another concern some new converts have is the difference in flavor. Yes, grass-fed beef taste like cow. Cows are supposed to taste like cows. When cows are fed an unnatural diet of grain, it makes their meat more bland, and sadly, that bland flavor is what many people associate with beef. Suffice it to say, a cow should taste like cow. Think of how an heirloom tomato really tastes like a tomato!
And let's not forget about the pigs and chickens! Unlike cows, both hogs and chickens are omnivores, which means they are meant to eat a varied diet. Contrary to common belief, an all vegetarian diet is not the best way for a chicken to eat because they are not vegetarians. And neither are hogs. A well rounded diet of grass, forage, roots, bugs, worms, nuts, etc., are a natural diet for these animals. It pretty much goes without saying that another ingredient for optimal health in these animals is sunshine and fresh air, along with exercise and movement. Because omnivores require more high protein foods than herbivores, we supply our hogs and chickens with constant access to high quality, non-GMO grains, as well as pastures. When chickens get to be chickens, pecking at the ground eating critters and bugs, and pigs get to be pigs, rooting around and also eating bugs, worms, leaves, and whatever they can find, the animals are healthy and produce healthy fats within their bodies. This makes their meat a healthier choice for us than their caged and malnourished counterparts.
As far as specific health benefits, there are so many that I am providing links to a few articles below that address those details. And the health benefits don't only apply to the human eating the beef, hog, chicken or egg, they also apply to the animals, and to the earth. I know, it's not always popular talking about the environment, but growing massive amounts of mono-culture grain crops in order to then feed cows (which are herbivores) is a very real environmental concern. From the GMO's, to the soil erosion, to the chemical sprays used on the crops and the massive amounts of fossil fuels required to plant and harvest and then ship the grains. In addition to the concerns about mono-crops, confinement animal operations which concentrate unnaturally massive quantities of animals, all from one species, are another very real concern. The welfare of confinement animals is essentially not considered, disease runs rampant, and antibiotics are heavily used in order to simply keep the animals alive long enough to then harvest their meat. Confinement animals are so unhealthy during life that they cannot survive without medication, therefore the meat they provide is also sickly and lacking, which directly contributes to the health of the human who eats them. So rest assured that when you purchase 100% grass-fed and finished beef, as well as pastured pork, chicken and eggs, you are making a healthy choice, not only for your own body, but for the body and life of the animal you are eating, as well as for the environment.