The Health Benefits of Grass-fed Beef

Today we have a guest post from Megan Bucknum of Philly Cowshare discussing the benefits of eating grass-fed beef. In this post, Megan will give a little bit of background on her organization and what they do, as well as the differences in production and health between a grain-fed cow versus a grass-fed one, and why grass-fed meat costs so much more.

I have been a customer of Philly CowShare for almost a year and what initially drew me to order from them was that their beef was not only grass-fed, and humanely raised, but also grass-finished. That's the important point to make here. In the greater Philadelphia area it's hard to find grass-fed meat in the grocery stores; let alone 100% grass-fed meat. Whole Foods has a decent selection, but even their grass-fed meat is still grain-finished. Cows were not meant to eat grains and even a little bit of grains into their diet produces unhealthy animals.

I will buy an eighth of a cow comes at a time which comes as two boxes (roughly 40 lbs of meat total); which fits neatly into a standard size freezer when unpacked. One box is made up of ground beef and burger patties. The other box is roasts and steaks. These orders have been done as part of an entire cow purchased with seven other people at CrossFit Delaware Valley.

Included in the total order, we usually get an extra box of organs, bones and fat - if you're into that sort of thing, and I am - that is free for the taking. Liver from a grass-fed/pastured animal is probably the most nutrient-dense animal protein you can find. The bones are great for adding to stews, using to make stocks or bone broths which are also rich with minerals and collagen.

Enter Philly CowShare

Greetings from Philly CowShare!

Philly CowShare connects the local community of responsible farmers and butchers, with the urban community of people who want to simply eat well. We sell bundles of grass-fed beef, called CowShares, including cuts from across the cow. Our beef is dry-aged for 2 weeks and is free of hormones and antibiotics. Our cows are raised on healthy pastures within a reasonable drive of Philadelphia. 

Sharing the yield from an animal with people you know is an old-fashioned way of buying meat, but until now was not very accessible to people who live in urban communities. Whole animal distribution allows for a transparent and communal buying experience with less waste. Our shares come in 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and whole cow packages and whatever size you decide this bulk buying method can make this delicious product more affordable than buying a cut at a time from a grocery store or butcher. You may be asking yourself how does grass-fed beef differ from conventional grain-fed beef?

Cows are ruminants, which means they are designed to eat grass, plants and shrubs – all high in fiber.  This diet differs greatly from the starch-heavy, fiber-low grain-based diet that is fed to the majority of commercial cows in feedlots. Changing the way nature intended cows to grow invariably has affects on the nutritional quality of commercial feedlot beef. 

Grain-fed cattle eat mainly corn and soy, allowing them to get to their ideal weight very quickly through gaining fat in their muscles. In addition to grain, feedlot cows are given hormones to assist with rapid weight gain, resulting in additional muscular fat content. Grass-fed cattle are not exposed to this kind of diet, so they are on average 25% lower in fat than their grain-fed counterparts. 

The green plant based diet of grass-fed cows has positive affects on grass-fed beef, such as being higher in Vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and potassium and lower in saturated fats linked with heart disease.  Allowing animals to go back to their natural diets also allows for a healthy ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3, as well as a higher occurrence of conjugated linoleic acid, which has been found to reduce high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and insulin resistance. 

So why is pastured grass-fed beef more costly than conventional grain-fed beef?

In order to produce healthy grass-fed beef in harmony with the land, cows are raised on pasture where they can graze, fertilize the land and increase the soil health. Grass grows on land and land can cost a lot of money! 

In the conventional method, the food is brought to the cows rather than the other way around. Cows are placed in a central feedlot (i.e. CAFO) and cattle feed comprised of corn and soy are shipped in and rationed accordingly to promote rapid weight gain. In a grass-fed system, the grass stays put and the cows are rotated from pasture to pasture eating the tops of the grass stalk where the most energy is stored. Eating just grass and forage takes longer for the cow to gain enough weight for market, 18 – 24 months versus 12 – 15 months in a feedlot. In addition, the number of cows per acre is significantly lower than in a feedlot system. The cost of this land, more time needed to raise cattle and the reduced number of cattle per acre all increases the cost of producing grass-fed beef and therefore final price tag. 

Is there a way to make this great product more affordable? 

Yes!  Philly CowShare’s transparent approach to purchasing beef allows consumers to understand exactly what they are paying for and buying bulk decreases the overall price of the beef. Let’s face it; it’s not common practice to add up the amount of beef you buy over a year or how much you’ve paid for it. Buying a CowShare puts this information front and center. You pay one flat price for all the cuts and eat it slowly over time.   

Our shares come in 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and whole cow packages and no matter the size, buying meat in bulk makes this delicious product more affordable than buying beef cut-by-cut at a grocery store or butcher.  Additionally, our business model returns 50% of the food dollar back to the farmers who produce the meat, this figure is 40% higher than commodity beef figures. Buying grass-fed beef from local farmers is good on your wallet, your plate, and your community.

If you're interested in being a part of a CowShare, please visit Philly CowShare.

1 comment:

  1. I am happy that I always eat Certified Organic Grass Fed Meat and its feel better to know about the great benefits of eating grass fed meat. For those who are not healthy and very conscious about their weight they must prefer grass fed meat. I am very agree with the author's all the benefits shared about grass fed meat.


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