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Grass-Fed Beef: A Slow Food Picking Up Speed
Read on to learn how the benefits of grass-fed beef extend beyond flavor to include health benefits such as less total fat and more antioxidant vitamins.
The quest for the perfectly marbled cut of beef led to a flurry of advancements in the art of raising cattle. But as rancher Jon Taggart told Time magazine in 2006, the new processes relied heavily on pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, and herbicides. As grazing animals, cows' ruminant digestive systems respond more naturally to low-starch, high-protein grasses instead of the artificial diets designed by feed houses. Dr. Martha Grogan posted about the health benefits of grass-fed beef on the Mayo Clinic's website, noting that, when compared to other types of beef, grass-fed beef can have less total fat, higher concentrations of healthful omega-3 fatty acids, and more antioxidant vitamins, including vitamin E. The taste varies depending on the breed of cattle, but can range from profoundly nutty to a more pronounced beef flavor.
Raising grass-fed beef is a labor of love for most ranchers. Cattle grow and mature more slowly without the carbohydrate-rich diet of corn or soybeans that is used by many feed houses, and producers need to constantly rotate the location of roaming herds to keep grass growing. Still, more and more ranchers are committing themselves to the practice, identifying ideal pasture sites as well as specific breeds of cattle that produce the most tender and flavorful beef after a strict grass-fed diet. Marian Burros discussed the increasing popularity of grass-fed beef in a 2006 article in the New York Times, claiming, "When I wrote about grass-fed beef in 2002 there were about 50 producers … Now there are about 1,000 of them, and after I grilled rib-eyes from 15 producers for friends, it was clear that more of them are learning to get it right."