The Healthy Cook's Guide to Grass-Fed Beef
With a nutrition profile closer to salmon than grain-fed beef and flavor bold enough to seem like a different animal altogether, grass-fed beef should be a staple in your repertoire. But you may be cooking it wrong. Here's what you need to know about this robust red meat.
Grass-fed beef typically costs between $2 and $3 more per pound than grain-fed—because it costs more to raise livestock this way: Grass-fed beef ranchers can take up to 12 months longer to get their beef to market without the aid of antibiotics, hormones, and feedlot diets that slash production costs. Moreover, more grass-fed beef comes from relatively small, family-owned herds that lack the economy of scale of feedlot cattle businesses.
Olive Oil-Basted Grass-Fed Strip Steak
Brushing healthy fat like olive oil onto sizzling grass-fed steak keeps the lean meat juicy and adds rich flavor.
To generalize, grass-fed beef tastes different from grain-fed in that it's often pleasantly gamy and a little mineral- and lamb-like in flavor. But to generalize is to miss much of what makes grass-fed meat so unique. Its flavor depends on the particular breed of cattle, how and where it was raised, and exactly what it ate. Cattle that ate clover and alfalfa in Colorado will taste different from Black Angus in Georgia fed a rotational mix of bluegrass, sorghum, and legumes.
Grass-Fed Beef Sirloin Kebabs
Cubes of grass-fed sirloin can be a little tough and chewy—but thin slices stay tender and cook quickly.
Here's a quick guide to beef label terms. For grass-fed beef that meets the highest standards, look for products certified by independent accrediting bodies such as Certified Humane and A Greener World's Animal Welfare Approved.
CERTIFIED GRASSFED BY AGW
The strictest standard. Animal Welfare Approved ensures the cattle are 100% grass-fed, kept to high welfare standards, have no routinely been given antibiotics or hormones, and have been slaughtered humanely.
CERTIFIED GRASSFED BY THE AMERICAN GRASSFED ASSOCIATION
Same standards as the AWA certification but no welfare and slaughter requirements.
Vague term that doesn't preclude cattle eating grain for much of their lives or being given antibiotics or hormones.
HUMANE/HUMANELY RAISED/HIGH WELFARE
Label phrases without legal, regulated definitions. Beware of these claims without independent third-party certification from groups like Animal Welfare Approved and Certified Humane.
Juicy Grass-Fed Beef Burgers
Ultra-lean grass-fed ground beef cooks more quickly and dries out faster than conventional beef. To keep the burgers juicy, we add canola mayonnaise to the patties, which bastes the meat from the inside out as it cooks.
You may find yourself surprised at the numbers for grass-fed beef. The fat profile is closer to that of salmon than grain-fed beef. Grass-fed beef also has less than half the saturated fat of dark-meat chicken and a far better ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fats (the ideal ratio is less than 4).
G/100G of MEAT
Grass-Fed Beef: 1.87g Fat, 0.80g Sat Fat, 1.54 Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 Poly-Unsaturated Fats
Grain-Fed Beef: 3.65g Fat, 1.58g Sat Fat, 5.01 Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 Poly-Unsaturated Fats
Skinless Chicken Breast: 1.10g Fat, 0.39g, Sat Fat, 16.25 Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 Poly-Unsaturated Fats
Pork Chop: 3.38g Fat, 1.22g Sat Fat, 27.45 Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 Poly-Unsaturated Fats
Farm-Raised Salmon: 7.52g Fat, 1.41g Sat Fat, 0.80 Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 Poly-Unsaturated Fats
Grass-Fed Flat Iron Steak with Grilled Ratatouille
Pounding the flat iron steak breaks down the muscle fibers and tenderizes the meat.
If grass-fed beef isn't available at your local markets, we recommend ordering from these quality online retailers that ship nationwide.
Sign up for a subscription service that delivers a customized assortment of beef cuts to your doorstep each month.
Certified organic beef sourced from a collective of family farms in the Dakotas.
The site for U.S. Wellness Meats, which sources meat throughout the country. One of the broadest offerings we've found, including some cuts not available from other purveyors, like organ meat, brisket, oxtail, and beef cheeks.