Grass-fed meat is harder to find, more expensive and harder to cook. Is it worth it? Let’s start with a little background: Cows eat grass. In fact, most of the beef produced in the U.S. up until the 1940s was from cattle that ate grass. But as the country grew, it eventually became necessary to improve the efficiency of beef production. Agricultural scientists discovered that mass production of beef was attainable by feeding high-energy grains to the cattle; this decreased the amount of time each animal had to be fed before being slaughtered — a shortcut if you will. (And yes, you read that correctly: We feed cows grains to make them fat, yet grains are supposedly “heart-healthy” for humans.)
Unfortunately, as with all things health related, there are no shortcuts. Research over three decades shows that the type of feed a cow consumes significantly alters the fatty-acid composition and overall antioxidant content of the beef it produces. This is so remarkable that as the concentration of grain increases in a cow’s diet, the ratio of “good fats” to “bad fats” in its meat decreases in a linear fashion. It is also worth noting that within 30 days of switching a cow from a grass-fed diet to a grain-fed diet, the resulting meat suffers dramatically. In fact, a review of existing research, published in Nutrition Journal in 2010, showed that meat from these cows — fed grains for a mere 30 days — will have a far more inflammatory fatty-acid composition and will lack the antioxidant content that is otherwise present in the meat of grass-fed animals.