Ask Leah! The Ingles Dietitian

Sponsored: What is grass-finished beef?

Sponsored: What is grass-finished beef?

Do you have grass-finished beef at Ingles and does that mean that it is organic? What’s the difference Do you have grass-finished beef at Ingles and does that mean that it is organic? What’s the difference between grass-finished and other beef?

We do have grass-fed/grass-finished beef and we do have organic beef at Ingles. Organic beef is not necessarily grass-finished but any grasses/grains the cattle are fed have to be organic crops. 

I have visited Brasstown Beef and Hickory Nut Gap in the Western part of NC (we carry their beef at Ingles) as well as an organic beef farm in the middle of the NC and a large cattle ranch and feedlot in Nebraska. At all of these farms, some small with a few hundred cattle, and others large, with over 1000 head of cattle; the cattle graze for the majority of their lives on grasses. To provide them with the nutrients they need, they have to have access to specific types of grasses. This is typically determined by an animal nutritionist so the farmer can plant or give cattle access to the right sort of grasses. It is in the farmer or rancher’s best interest to make sure cattle can meet their nutritional needs so they grow at the appropriate rate and remain healthy and stress free. When grasses aren’t growing, during times of drought or winter, the cattle have to be fed. If the cattle are to be “grass-finished” they would remain eating grass until the time they are processed for their meat. The benefits to this is that the meat will be leaner and there may be small amounts of nutritional differences in the omega-3 fatty acid in the meat( but not enough to get excited about and you would do better to get your omega 3’s by eating fish or plant/seeds). The down sides of grass finished are really two things - you need grasses to feed them for a longer amount of time, than can get costly for the farmer and therefore the meat tends to more expensive to the consumer. Also, since it takes longer for the cattle to make it to the appropriate weight, they produce more methane and this affects greenhouse gas emissions. Many people can taste the difference between grass-finished and grain-finished beef and the latter often has more marbling so that makes it more desirable in terms of taste. Depending on the cut of meat, grain-finished would have a slightly higher fat content than grass-finished 

Having been to a feed lot (grain finished), I can tell you that the cattle are eager to eat their grain and grass ration. The feed is not all grain or corn (actually botanically corn is a grass!). I saw the cattle eagerly run up to the food troughs as their food was put in. All of their feed is calculated by an animal nutritionist to make sure they get the appropriate blend of nutrients as well as other vitamins and minerals. Sometimes they are also given probiotics to help their immune system and digestion. Since cattle are ruminants (their stomach that has 4 Chambers) they digest food totally differently than humans or other animals. 


Leah McGrath, RDN, LDN

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