Many people love to eat meat. While taste is the paramount reason, many individuals do want to justify their meat consumption for reasons beyond satisfying their tastebuds. Desiring to eat “healthier, “more humane,” and “eco-friendly” meat, omnivores have turned to grass-fed beef as their saving grace. Unfortunately, grass-fed beef often does not live up to its claims of better health for you and the environment.
Is grass-fed beef better for human health?
More consumers are choosing grass-fed beef because they honestly believe it is the better choice. They’re trying to be conscious consumers, but most people are unaware that nearly all cows are raised on grass for the majority of their life before slaughter. Anywhere from six to twelve months, calves exclusively consume grass until they are moved to a concentrated animal feeding operation lot (CAFO).
From this point until they are slaughtered, they are fed the now-commonplace feedlot grains, which are corn and/or soy based. Suddenly, the cows experience rapid weight gain and fattening, which helps beef manufacturers maximize profit. Much of the grass-fed base the cows start on is neutralized or overtaken by the non-natural grain diet. This feedlot corn and soy also contains antibiotics and growth hormones, which get passed along to the consumer. Ultimately, this means that even the meat advertised as fully grass-fed are not, and there is no defined or reinforced benefit of eating grass-fed over grain-fed.
Grass-fed beef is better for the environment, right?
Another myth of grass-fed beef is that it’s better for the environment. The problem isn’t what goes into the cows’ mouths, but what comes out the other end. Beef cows release more greenhouse gases than any other animal into the atmosphere every year, followed by dairy cows and pigs. Cattle churn out methane gases as their separate stomachs (rumens) digest their food, and they don’t churn out any less if they’ve eaten grass instead of grain. Then, as they are transported from pastures to CAFOs, the vehicles carrying the cows emit further CO2 emissions. The slaughterhouses pump out even more waste and toxins, resulting in a huge environmental cost to get meat from “farm to table.” Currently, the U.S. consumes more beef and veal than any other country in the world.
Whether your meat was first raised on grass or grain, nearly all cows raised for beef will provide the same effect nutritionally. But the point is to avoid meat in its entirety. Trying to justify the consumption of “better” or “more wholesome” meat is like trying to justify smoking a “lighter” or “less cancerous” type of cigarette. Every single day, you are voting with your dollars for the products you want to see in the world. When that product is meat, such an act is the approval to consume something that has drastically and unswervingly negative effects on the world at large.