Grass-fed beef comes from cattle raised in grass pastures, as the name implies. Grass-fed beef may be healthier to eat because it's lower in saturated fat and higher in nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. Many claim the meat has a superior taste to grain-fed beef.
The environmental impact of grass-fed beef is also be lower than that of grain-fed beef: inhumane factory farming techniques, the spread of disease, waste management problems, and the overuse of antibiotics and hormones in conventional beef production have all been well documented.
By contrast, grass-fed cattle typically live their entire lives grazing in open pastures, which is, of course, the way cattle evolved. But critics charge that livestock pasture lands are hardly eco-friendly or "natural" environments, especially when forests are cut to create cattle grazing areas. Grass-fed meat is also slightly more expensive because of the additional time and effort required to bring it to market.
Grass Fed Beef vs. Organic Beef
Beef that is labeled "Grass-Fed" may or may not be organic beef, i.e., the cattle might have been raised on antibiotics and some commercial feed. Look for the "USDA Process Verified" label that certifies the farm was inspected by the agency. The American Grassfed Association is promoting the use of its certification process as proof that your beef, bison or lamb has been raised on grass its entire life without hormones, antibiotics or grain.
Because grass-fed beef is lower in fat, it should be cooked differently than a well-marbled cut of conventional grain-fed beef. Overcooking is a common mistake; cook grass-fed beef for a shorter period of time and keep it rare, medium-rare or medium. And if you're making hamburgers, try adding chopped onions or other water-containing vegetables to the meat.