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Grain-fed beef is the standard type found in supermarkets. It comes fro cows that are raised in crowded conditions, fed a diet of corn and animal by-products, and treated with antibiotics and hormones to ward off illness. Grass-fed cows, on the other hand, feed on pastures and are allowed to graze relatively freely.
Antibiotics and hormones generally aren't necessary for grass-fed cows because they aren't crowded into confined spaces, and because they roam freely, they're much leaner. As a conscious consumer, grass-fed beef is your best option and well worth the extra bucks -- it's hormone- and antibiotic-free, lower in calories and fat and boasts higher levels of nutrients. From an environmental standpoint, grass-fed is by far the winner - especially if you consider that the mass production and transportation of grain feed, along with output from factory farming conditions, contributes significantly to greenhouse gasses. In terms of cooking with grass-fed beef, you do have to take a little more care, since leaner cuts are tougher. To get around this, we suggest the slow-and-low cooking method - preferably in a braising liquid - to prevent the beef from drying out. The end result is a richly flavorful, healthy and eco-friendly piece of beef.
Registered dietitians Tiffani Bachus and Erin Macdonald are the co-founders and creators of URockGirl.com, a website dedicated to promoting wellness and a healthy, balanced lifestyle.