Every week, I receive an email from SeaBreeze Organic Farms. This is thee place to get local meats, eggs, cheeses, milks, and more. Usually the email begins with a “Don’t forget your cooler” (they make local stops where people pick up their orders), but the subject of this email was “Grain-fed versus grass-fed beef.
I thought this would make an interesting topic this week. In addition to doing research on beef, I decided to include eggs, after all, the variety of egg cartons and verbiage on each can be quite confusing.
Let’s begin with beef. For many years, ranchers released their cattle to pasture to feed on grasses, clovers, and wild onions. As the demand for food became greater, the majority of those in the agribusiness chose to feed their cattle corn. In one reference from an NPR story, this was analogous to going from eating spinach to hearty oatmeal; the corn fattened the beef up quicker and subsequently the meat was ready for market sooner.
Today grass-fed beef is just the way it was. Cattle forage on the range. They are leaner than their corn fed counterparts and as such have less fat, or marbling. Blind taste tests suggest that grass-fed beef is chewier and has a distinct flavor from the various grasses the cow has eaten. Corn-fed beef on the other hand provides that “melt in your mouth” feel absent in the chewier, grass-fed.
Grass-fed beef tends to be more expensive than grain-fed although, with the drought in the midwest, that may change. Most supermarkets now offer both qualities of meats so you can taste it for yourself. As far as eggs are concerned, you have probably seen these labels: organic, vegetarian, cage-free, free-range. All of these have meanings but are difficult to discern without any poultry knowledge; fortunately, I am a proud member of the Palm Beach Poultry Fanciers so I have a little insight on the subject. Free-range chickens are those that have a chance to go outside and feed on whatever is growing outdoors. Chickens love to peck on insects, grass, and even other chickens (hence the cages). Free range chickens lay an egg with a much darker yolk than those that are fed a vegetarian diet. Cage free eggs mean that the chickens are allowed to roam around the hen house. Some cage free farms offer their chickens pine or straw bedding with nesting boxes. It depends on the farm, however, how much room the hens have to move about. Organic eggs are those whereby the hens are fed organic feed. The feed needs to be grown on certified organic land, no pesticides or herbicides. The hens are kept healthy without the use of antibiotics, hormones or other drugs. They may not consume genetically modified crops.
Vegetarian hens are those that eat only grains. Unlike free range hens that consume grubs, worms, and other forms of insect protein, vegetarian hens feed only on seeds and grains. The yolks of these eggs tend to be much lighter in contrast to those that are free-range.
So there you have it; a basic idea of grass, grain, vegetarian, organic, cage-free. Now when you visit your butcher or your grocery you can have a better idea of how your meat and eggs are raised. Keep me posted about your shopping experience and if you decide to choose grass-fed beef or try a new variety of egg, let me know if there is a difference in taste. You can write your story here on the blog, at the JumpSport Fitness Facebook page or @Fittrampoline on Twitter.
Heidi Aspen Lauckhardt-Rhoades
Writer and Social Media Correspondent