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Why is grass-fed beef better?

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Grass-fed meat is the choice of top chefs at award winning restaurants and home cooks alike. But why is grass fed beef better than grain fed beef?

Grass-fed beef involves slow, natural growth of animals in free-range environments. While this is essential for ethical meat production and high animal welfare (the core of the Provenir philosophy), there are many benefits for meat quality as well. A lot of this has to do with the type of fat content in the meat, with grass-fed meat having different kinds of fat – essentially, much lower overall fat and higher proportions of good fats.

The back story – grass fed vs. grain fed meat

Much of Australia’s large corporate agriculture (and indeed, much of the global food system) operates on a principal of maximum financial return, which focuses on fast consistent production targets and high inputs.

For beef production, this often means high efficiency, high density feedlots with high grain fed rations, a diet which in this concentration, is unnatural for cattle. The stomachs of cattle are not particularly well designed to digest high grain diets. In fact, switching cattle from a grass-fed diet to grain fed diet can be so disruptive to the animal’s internal digestive system that it can cause severe sickness and even death if the process is not carefully monitored. The high energy grain feed regime coupled with the restriction of movement in small pens means fast growth and and in particular rapid fat development, with the goal of consistency of weight, profitability and at the expense of animal focused well being and quality of life.

Growth hormones are often used in feedlots to further speed up growth and minimise the time that it takes for an animal to reach slaughter weight. These high intensity feedlots are a breeding ground for bacteria and consequently antibiotic use is very common in these feedlot environments (ironically called “growth promotants”). This is a huge problem globally as antibiotic resistance becomes common place in our food supply.

These industrial feedlot systems have a significant effect on animal wellbeing (see more about animal welfare and traditional beef agriculture at our recent article, “Let’s talk about animal welfare: stress and on-farm processing”). These impacts are not just physical, but cause stress to the animal in many different ways. The presence of sustained stress on animals has been scientifically shown to have a significant impact on meat quality.

In contrast, steady natural growth of grass-fed beef in free-range environments creates the best quality beef in the most natural way. Grazing pastures in familiar herds in natural environments is the way that Provenir wants to engage with farmers, the way nature intended for cattle.

Provenir beef is proudly grass-fed (and grass-finished), antibiotic and hormone free beef.

Grass fed beef – the end product

While grain-finished beef has animal welfare implications, there are also significant differences in the quality of grass-fed meat. The unnatural diets and fast growth of feedlotted cattle result in similarly unnatural development of both muscle and fat – the latter being the key difference.

Grass-finished beef has a very different fat constitution to grain-fed beef – grass-fed beef is lower in overall fat content (approximate 65% less than grain-fed counterparts), but is proportionately higher in healthy fats, including many that are known to prevent cancer referred to as Omega 3s Omega 6s and CLAs.

Grass-fed beef is;

  • Approximately 65% lower in total fat
  • Lower in trans fats
  • Higher in fat-soluble vitamins
  • Three to five times higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) – a well known anti-cancer fat with anti-inflammatory properties
  • Higher in vaccenic acid (which converts to CLA)
  • Higher in beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant which has anti-cancer properties
  • Four times higher in vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol), which is essential for good for cardiovascular health and is also an anti-cancer vitamin
  • About five times higher in total omega-3 fatty acids which are good for the cardiovascular system, anti-cancer and improving mood
  • A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids – good for cardiovascular health, anti-cancer, better mood and reduced potential for obesity
  • Lower in the specific types of saturated fats (palmitic acid and myristic acid) that are linked with heart disease
  • Contains about four times more anti-cancer selenium, which may also improve mood

One of these antioxidants (Carotene) is a pigment from absorbed from the grass that cattle graze. This is the same pigment that makes carrots and can result in fat that has a yellowish tone. If you’re used to eating grain fed meat, you may be more familiar with fat that is whiter in colour.

Does grass fed meat taste different? Yes, grass fed beef has a rich and earthy in contrast with commercially produced grain fed meat and this difference in flavour is due to the variety of pastures that the cattle have in their diet. Grain fed meat may taste sweeter as a consequence of the high carbohydrate grain based mixes fed to the animal.  However the rich, complex and natural flavour of grass fed beef is highly sought by chefs in premium restaurants.

Is grass fed beef more expensive? The answer is yes. Grass fed beef is slower and more expensive to produce. Grass fed beef is also typically produced by smaller farmers with greater attention to detail and their animals. We believe that the quality, health benefits, social and animal welfare implications are priceless. With many of our farmers implementing regenerative practices on their farms, it’s better for the environment too.

How do I know if meat is grass fed?

If you’re shopping at a large retail outlet (or you’re buying supermarket beef), chances are it is not grass-finished. The key here is ‘grass-finished’ – all cattle are grass fed at some point in their lives, but very few enjoy this natural diet the whole way along. The labelling systems in Australia mean that some information can be misleading. Therefore, identifying how beef is finished is often difficult, if not impossible. The safest way to ensure the highest meat quality in your diet is to know where it comes from and how it is grown – its Provenance.

Each pack of Provenir beef details the exact breed and farm that the animal was processed on. Whilst that level of information is uncommon in the industry, Provenir wanted to provide provenance not just traceability. As such Provenir’s unique Provenance Platform has a QR code which you can scan to read detailed information about the farm on which the beef was produced. Here you will find information about farming practices, location and breed of cattle. It’s not always simple or accessible to buy meat direct from the farmer (and in fact, is often far more difficult that it should be!). Provenir is determined to change that.

About Provenir

Provenir is Australia’s only licensed commercial mobile on-farm butchery and meat processing operation, dedicated to processing the highest welfare beef in Australia. Provenir allows consumers to buy beef direct from the farmer and delivers a six star promise;

Highest welfare

Provenir farmers utilise low stress handling techniques and raise their livestock on open pastures within a familiar herd structure; allowing the animals to express their natural character.

On-farm processed

Instead of the livestock being transported, the abattoir comes to the farm. Eliminates unnecessary stress on animals associated with live transport. Less stress means less adrenalin produced, and thus more retained glycogen stores in the meat, leading to exceptional eating quality, taste and tenderness

Full traceability & true provenance

Provenir oversees the whole operation from purchasing livestock on farm direct from our partnering farmers, to the on-farm processing, into our butchery and on to you. By processing on-farm and utilising the latest in digital traceability technology we are able provide full transparency and guaranteed provenance.

Grass-fed & free range

Provenir partners with farmers who raise their livestock free range and grass-fed. For cattle and lamb this means they are fed on natural grasses, pasture, hay or silage.

Exceptional eating quality

Our on-farm process and artisan butchery techniques ensures that the quality of the meat is retained and maximised throughout the whole process.

No added hormones, herd antibiotics or intensive feedlots

Provenir farmers raise their livestock naturally: they do not feedlot, nor do they add hormones or antibiotics to the feed as growth promotants.

How to Purchase Provenir

If you do care about animal welfare, and of course great tasting, high quality meat, visit the Provenir Shop now and find out for yourself why people are trusting Provenir. Provenir enables a connection between you and the farmer, via a unique QR code on each meat pack, that tells you the entire paddock to plate story behind each cut of meat.

You can also keep up to date with Provenir news by signing up to the Provenir newsletter.

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