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The Real Difference Between Grain-Fed and Grass-Fed Beef

Grocery stores can be confusing places, and the meat department is no different. From free-range chicken to wild-caught salmon and everything in between, it can be hard to know which way to go—and more importantly, what’s worth the extra dough.

When it comes to beef, there are the obvious decisions, like which cut and how much, but from there things can get a little dicey. In particular, when you have to decide between grass fed vs. grain fed. Does the cow’s diet actually impact the taste of the beef, and why is it so much more expensive than its corn-fed alternative?

Grass-fed beef, which is the product of cows who spent their whole lives grazing on grass, can cost as much as $4 more per pound. That’s because it takes longer for grass-fed cattle to reach their processing weight on all all-grass diet. Raising beef this way, though more sustainable, is more expensive for the farmer.

Nutrition-wise, grass-fed beef is the way to go. According to Reader’s Digestthis link opens in a new tab, it’s higher in key nutrients, including antioxidants and vitamins, and has twice as many omega-3 fatty acids as regular beef. Because it’s learner than regular beef, grass-fed beef also has a slightly more gamey taste. Regular beef, on the other hand, has a softer texture and a sweeter flavor.

Most of the cattle industry starts their cows on grass and then transitions them to corn or grain in order to bulk them up quickly. It’s essentially fast food for cows. And because it’s not their natural diet, many farmers rely on antibiotics to keep their herds healthy.

“While this type of diet adds a ton of flavor to your steaks, it’s also sort of like feeding candy and cake to cattle; they’ll eat their greens if they have to, but they also love filling up on junk food!” Reader’s Digest explains.

Whichever beef you choose, just make sure you cook it right!