the difference

grain-fed vs. grass-fed

One of the biggest beef debates is all about diet – what food your food is eating.

With the grass-fed movement emerging in recent years, there have been a lot of arguments for and against grain-fed beef. While there are valid points for each side, many arguments are based on misconceptions around the taste, quality and environmental effects.

History Lesson

where did grain-fed come from?

The use of grain-feeding originated as a way of keeping cattle well-nourished during winter months when there is a severe lack of quality grazing. Over the years, it has become even more difficult for farmers to grass-feed cattle all year round because the demand for beef has increased, which means a lot more land is needed for grazing. This has a myriad of implications, including efficiency and sustainability but let’s look at how feeding affects the quality of your beef and how much you pay for it. 

 

Tenderness

how the cattle's diet affects the tenderness

One of the key differentiating factors consumers often notice is the tenderness or texture of grain-fed beef compared to grass-fed beef. Grass-fed cattle take much longer to reach their slaughter weight and are often much leaner from the exercise they get from grazing. Thus, . Grain-fed cattle reach their slaughter weight sooner, meaning their meat is younger and more tender. The little extra fat helps insulate the meat when cooking, keeping it soft and juicy.

Taste

what's the difference in flavour?

When it comes to flavour, personal preference is usually the decision-maker here. Some consumers note a strong ‘gamey’ flavour in grass-fed beef but the fact is that there are a range of variables that affect the flavour. That great beefy taste differs according to breed, age, how the meat has been matured and of course, how it has been prepared.

Price

what's it going to cost you?

The biggest difference between grain-fed and grass-fed beef is the price. As mentioned, grass-fed cattle require more land for them to receive enough nourishment and are fed for longer as they gain weight much slower. This increases the costs for producers and therefore, increases costs for consumers. While grain-feeding is often seen as a ‘cost-cutter’ feeding method, the reality is that it gives all South Africans access to affordable beef - an important source of protein and other vitamins and minerals.