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Organic Consumers Association

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Your 'Grass-Fed' Beef May Not Have Come From a Cow Grazing in a Pasture. Here's Why.

Grass-fed beef sounds like a lovely idea. Customers envision happy cattle grazing on green pastures, producing meat that is better for our health and the environment. It turns out that none of this is a given. The jury is still out on whether grass fed beef is better for the environment (it’s only slightly better nutritionally), and, “grass-fed” doesn’t mean a cow was never served grain. Other aspects about grass-fed beef that may surprise many consumers include that it tastes different from grain-fed beef, and can be trickier to cook.

Still, people are buying it. According to Nielsen data, retail sales of labeled grass-fed beef are booming, increasing from $17 million in 2012 to $272 million in 2016, although it only makes up an estimated 3 percent of U.S. beef.

Because grass-fed beef is more expensive than conventional beef, customers should know how to decipher the different beef labels to determine what you’re getting, and how to prepare it for the best results.

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