A year ago, we started buying our beef from a local farm/dealer, Grassfed Greensboro, that we could buy direct from. Over the last year, we have been very pleased with our switch to grass fed beef. We typically order 1/16 of a cow for $150 about every other month and have found out for our family of four (and sometimes 5) that works nicely. We are unable to place orders through the winter months because the cows are too lean so our last order before the cold weather set in we purchased 1/8 of a cow.
Each farm/dealer will quote the sizes and prices differently. Some will quote a price per pound based on the hanging weight. This is the weight before processing. Our dealer quotes the price per portion of cow (1/16, 1/8, 1/4, etc) based on the weight after processing. This makes it much easier to gauge how many pounds you’ll actually get. Typically a grass fed cow will also weigh less than a grain fed cow because the grain in a cow’s diet will “fatten” them. Therefore, 1/16 of a grass fed cow will typically render less pounds of meat than a 1/16 of a grain fed cow.
|1/16 of Grass Fed Cow (After Processing) 25 Pounds|
The quality of the grass fed beef has been impeccable. When browning the ground beef there is virtually no grease that cooks out. It is much leaner because the cow has not been “fattened” with a grain diet. There is much less grease left from the grass fed beef than even from the 93% lean beef from the grocery store. We still have a pound of beef in the pan after the browning. That’s quite a value when trying to feed a family.
The grass fed beef also tastes better. We really can taste a difference. It isn’t so noticeable of a difference with something like spaghetti or chili, but with a burger we can really taste an improved flavor.
We have been so pleased with our experience with grass fed beef and our local dealer that when they recently started providing grass fed pork we started purchasing smaller portions of this too.
Benefits of Grass Fed Beef
Grass fed beef has lower levels of saturated fat, total fat, and calories yet it provides larger amounts of vitamins and healthy fats. There are little and usually no antibiotics used and needed because the cattle are not so closely confined in feed lots. Just like caged chickens, large quantities of cows contained in a small confined space leads to more infection. Additionally, the cheap grain feed tends to breed E. coli bacteria easier in the cow’s stomachs than a grass based diet. Learn more about this in the Food Inc. documentary.
Health Advantages of Grass Fed Beef
- Lower in omega 6-fats – linked to heart disease
- Higher in omega 3 fats – reduced risk of heart disease
- Higher conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) – reduced risk of heart disease and cancer
- Higher levels of vitamins C and E
- No antibiotics
- Less food poisoning from E. coli
Other Advantages of Grass Fed Beef
- More flavorful beef
- Better quality of life for cattle
- More nutritious meat and dairy products
- Reduced flooding and soil erosion (pasture versus grain fields)
- Increased groundwater recharge
- More sustainable manure management
- More fertile soil therefore more nutritious forages
- More diverse and healthier ecosystems
- Reduced use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to grow unsustainable corn and soy
Disadvantages of Grass Fed Beef
- May be more difficult to find
- May be more expensive
- Cattle matures slower, increasing the production time
To us it is clear that the advantages far out way the disadvantages.
How to Find Grass Fed Beef
Unfortunately, it varies. There is no clear cut answer. Some retailers like Whole Foods carry grass fed beef, but it will be at a much higher cost. The most economical route will be to find a local producer/provider in your area. Below are a couple of websites with listings by state to find producer/providers.
These are some pretty good directories of providers. However, they still are incomplete. The provider that we purchased from, Grassfed Greensboro, is not listed on either of these directories. You may still have to do a little bit of research in your area.