If you’re a certified burger enthusiast, chances are you know about beef. You’ve probably heard the term “grass fed” thrown around by foodies and barbecue masters alike. It’s easy to get lost in buzzwords when it comes to selecting high quality products for your restaurant, special event, or backyard grill party.
Schweid & Sons has been in the beef business since the late 1800s and we know a thing or two when it comes to delivering the best beef products available. That’s why we’ve put together this short list of grass fed beef pro’s, con’s, and tips for making the tastiest grass fed burger yet. Get to the meat of the matter with these juicy facts about the grass fed difference.
So What Exactly is Grass Fed Beef?
The term grass fed may sound obvious, but it’s important to note the distinction between grass fed vs. grain fed beef. The key difference lies in whether or not cattle are raised primarily on feedlots or on open ranges. That said, all cattle eat some percentage of grass in their diet. Traditional feedlots supplement or replace a grazer’s diet with grain. This ultimately leads to a different quality of beef and, in many cases, a different quality of life for the cattle.
While grass fed beef does not necessarily mean that cattle are free to roam on a rotational or holistic grazing schedule, the term is often associated with cattle that are raised in a more natural setting and allowed to graze freely.
The Benefits of Grass Fed Beef
The pro’s of choosing grass fed beef are certainly something to chew on! Check out these top reasons to grill up some grass fed cuts.
Health and Nutrition
According to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, grass fed beef may be healthier than traditional grain fed products. The diets consumed by cattle have a significant impact on the overall nutrient content, fat, and quality of meat. Feedlot cattle typically consume a diet high in “additives” such as corn, grain, and soy. These ingredients are cheaper and primarily designed to add fat and calories in order to maximize the end gains. Most feedlots are large in scale and adopt the outlook expected of large factory farms in regard to low inputs (i.e. cheap, filling feed) and high outputs (fatty meat that is not always the best quality).
By contrast, grass fed cattle consume high quality nutrients, plant proteins, and antioxidants. This creates a better quality product that is leaner, lower in fat, and healthier overall. Grass fed beefs is rich in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and linoleic acid. Consumers who suffer from gluten and grain sensitivity may also find grass fed beef easier to digest.
Go Green with Grazers
Livestock account for nearly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. More and more farmers and ranchers have turned to eco-friendly models in order to do their part in ensuring a greener future. From holistic grazing rotations to sustainable farming equipment, the world of environmentally conscious agriculture is looking bright.
Grass fed cattle create less methane emissions and benefit the local ecosystem through controlling the grass and plant population. This in turn helps with everything from wildlife suppression to species conservation. A small change can make a big difference when it comes to sustainable agriculture.
The Downside to a Grass Fed Approach
There are a few con’s to a grass fed model that are worth noting when discussing different types of beef.
Grass fed beef is more expensive than grain fed, both for consumers and for suppliers. Converting to a grass fed model may be impractical for many farms that are used to a more traditional approach. Due to the high input costs, restaurateurs and foodies everywhere may find the cost of grass fed products less enticing than their previously named benefits. This gives consumers something to consider in terms of budget and practicality.
Lean and Mean
Due to the leaner cut of the meat, grass fed beef is often more challenging to cook. It can be tougher and less juicy than traditional cuts. Overcooking is a common mistake, especially when first making the switch to grass fed beef. Marbled cuts of conventional, grain fed meat tend to be easier to work with. Grass fed beef has a distinct flavor, like most cuts, and should be prepared to taste.
Preparing Grass Fed Beef
That said, you don’t need to be a 5-star chef to grill up phenomenal grass fed burgers and briskets.
Due to the leaner cut, there are a few ground rules when it comes to cooking grass fed beef. Foremost, the cook time should be significantly less. It’s very easy for meat to become overdone if left on the grill too long. Sear beef quickly so that the inside remains rare. Butter or olive oil can help keep meat juicy and prevent cuts from sticking. Most recommend cooking grass fed beef for about a quarter less time than you would prepare grain fed cuts. For added flavor, tenderize meat prior to cooking.
If you’re looking for recipe inspiration, grass fed cuts are ideal for Hawaiian inspired pineapple topped burgers, crispy tacos, and vegetable skillets for a healthy, flavorful alternative to basic fare. Low fat beef is also a great compliment to the Keto diet or Paleo lifestyle, being high in protein and low in carbs.
When you’re ready to hit the grill, check out more great tips on cooking the very best burger with Schweid and Sons.