For several years now, beef has had a bad reputation, whether for health or ecological reasons. Many meat eaters have traded beef for tofu. With the lack of transparency in the agri-food industry, it's only natural that we question the production and farming practices of what ends up on our plates. This newfound interest in their food is one of the main reasons behind the various types of meat now available in supermarkets, butcher shops, and even fast-food chains. Nowadays, we find organic meats, raised without hormones, raised without antibiotics, and more recently, grass-fed meat.
What is grass-fed beef?
Grass-fed beef is a relatively new product on the shelves and still relatively unknown to consumers. Currently, it can be found in specialized health food stores, but not in conventional supermarkets. The "grass-fed" claim may vary slightly from one farm to another, but in general, it indicates that the animal in question is fed grass, that is, on pasture, for as long as possible, and during winter or extreme weather conditions, it is fed hay. The final composition of fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals in grass-fed beef is greatly influenced by the animal's diet. Let's see how a grass-based diet affects the final nutritional composition and taste of beef.
A different nutritional value
Is this meat more nutritionally interesting? Yes! The first difference we can observe is that grass-fed beef is leaner and therefore lower in calories than conventional beef. Indeed, grass is a low-calorie food, and the animal has to work hard to ruminate it. Ruminating is a term associated with ruminants (e.g., cattle, sheep, and goats) that regurgitate their food to chew it again. This requires a lot of energy from the animal. The type of fat present in grass-fed beef is also different. Firstly, the color of the fat is altered by certain pigments present in the grass, such as carotenoids, for example. These pigments, having a high antioxidant power, give the fat a more yellowish hue. Secondly, the quality of the fat is also different. Studies have shown that grass-fed beef contains more omega-3 and has a more balanced omega-6/omega-3 ratio. Why is this ratio important? Well, omega-3 and omega-6 are considered essential fatty acids since our bodies cannot synthesize them. So it's important to consume foods that contain them. However, when the omega-6 and omega-3 ratio is imbalanced, the benefits can be reversed, and our cardiovascular health may suffer, hence the importance of a more stable ratio. Grass-fed beef also contains more precursors, molecules that participate in the synthesis of other molecules, of vitamin A and E than conventional beef. Additionally, this meat would have more vitamin B12, a vitamin that contributes to many, many important bodily processes.
What about the taste?
That varies from person to person. Some people like it, others don't. You can guess that the Réserve Locale team loves it! Just as grass affects the nutritional value of the meat, it also affects its taste. The meat is more flavorful, and the taste changes with the seasons. The grass also makes the taste less uniform from one cut of meat to another and from one animal to another.
Several environmental advantages have also been demonstrated in the past, and some Quebec farms even claim to produce carbon-neutral meat thanks to their grass-fed beef. Therefore, grass-fed beef from Quebec is a great way to reduce one's ecological footprint, benefit from different nutritional advantages, discover a new product, and support local producers.
If you want to learn more about the concept, the Réserve Locale team encourages you to watch the report by Radio-Canada for the show La Semaine Verte (Green Week), cited below.
To discover our grass-fed beef products, click here!
Sources used for writing this article
Bérubé, S. (2016). Le boeuf “à l’herbe”, une spécialité sous-estimée. Retrieved from https://plus.lapresse.ca/screens/aca1eda3-282c-4f32-9b9a-3b8c26925ca5__7C___0.html.
Daley, C. et al. (2010). A review of fatty acids profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846864/.
Leheska, J.M. (2008). Effects of conventional and grass-feeding systems on the nutrient composition of beef. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18641180/.
Corneau, M. et Marcoux, É. (2020). Boeuf carboneutre. Radio-Canada. Retrieved from https://ici.radio-canada.ca/tele/la-semaine-verte/site/segments/reportage/211430/boeuf-carboneutre-herbe.