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What is the difference between Grass-Fed Beef & Grain-Fed Beef (5 Min. Read)

Grass-fed beef and grain-fed beef have distinct characteristics. The choice between them depends on personal preferences, cultural upbringings, nutritional priorities, and desired culinary experiences. Learn about the differences here.
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At Horizon Farms, our grass-fed beef comes from cows that primarily eat grass and forage as their main source of food. This includes grazing on open pastures where they consume various types of grasses, herbs, legumes, and other vegetation found in their grazing area. The specific plants and grass species can vary depending on the region and climate.

We also offer grain-fed beef which comes from grain-fed cows that are initially grass-fed on open pastures just like regular grass-fed cows but are then primarily fed a controlled fully vegetarian diet consisting of grains, such as corn or soybeans and feed such as silage (fermented grass or crops), hay, and other byproducts of the agriculture industry such as distillers grain and cottonseed meals for additional marbling, flavor and tenderness.

At Horizon Farms, we only source beef from small-scale free-range farms that and do not administer growth hormones or antibiotics - be it grass-fed or grain feed beef.

Flavor

Grass-fed beef is leaner in texture and reflects the natural grazing habits of the cattle through its earthy flavor. It shines in dishes where the natural taste of meat is desired. Grain-Fed beef is rich in marbling and flavor and is almost buttery in texture and therefore suits a wide variety of dishes. When it comes to flavor, we strongly recommend grain-fed beef.

Consistency

Grass-fed beef offers a unique and ever-changing flavor experience, influenced by a myriad of factors. Throughout the seasons, the taste of grass-fed beef varies, as the cows selectively graze on different types of pasture grasses, influenced by the climate, weather conditions, genetic composition, age, and more. This natural variation contributes to the distinctiveness and complexity of grass-fed beef.

However, if you prefer a consistent taste and flavor profile, grain-fed beef may be the preferable choice. Grain-fed cows are carefully fed a controlled ratio of grains that complement their genetic composition. This targeted approach ensures that they are "bred for taste," resulting in a more uniform flavor experience. The controlled diet of grains imparts specific qualities and characteristics to the meat, offering a reliable and predictable taste.

Nutrients

Both free-range grass-fed beef and free-range grain-fed beef offer nutritional benefits. Grass-fed beef is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins such as vitamin E and vitamin A, and also contains a lower overall fat content. Grain-fed beef is rich in vitamins such as thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, has a high profile of high-quality protein and is packed with minerals. Research will always tell you that grass-fed beef always has slightly better health benefits, however both are packed with nutrients.1

Fat Content

Grass-fed beef generally has a leaner fat profile, with lower total fat content and lower levels of saturated fats, while grain-fed beef tends to have more marbling, resulting in a higher monounsaturated fat content and a richer flavor. If you're looking for leaner cuts, we recommend grass-fed beef. In terms of quality and monounsaturated good fats, grain-fed beef is recommended.1

Cooking

Grass-fed beef requires careful cooking techniques to prevent overcooking and maintain tenderness due to its lower fat content, therefore we recommend cooking it to medium-rare. Grain-fed beef is more forgiving during cooking and offers a juicier result more easily due to the marbling. No matter your choice, both are easy to cook and are sure to satisfy your taste buds.

Animal Welfare

Whether you prefer grass-fed beef or grain-fed beef at Horizon Farms, rest easy knowing that we only source from farms that prioritize animal welfare and raise their livestock free-range, which allow cattle to roam freely in open pastures, exhibiting natural behaviors and ensuring their well-being. By choosing Horizon Farms, you actively support small-scale farmers and ethical farming practices that prioritize the humane treatment of animals.2

Safety

We understand that growth hormones and antibiotics are a great concern to our health-conscious customers. At Horizon Farms, rest assured that we only source meat from farms and ranches that are free of growth-promoting hormones and preventative antibiotics. The widely spoken about mRNA vaccine is not administered by our partner farms either.

Budget

Free-range grass-fed beef often presents a more affordable option, as it's cheaper to produce, hence offering a flavorful choice that aligns with your financial goals. If you're willing to invest a little more, grain-fed beef provides a premium experience that elevates your dining occasions. For special occasions, we strongly recommend choosing grain-fed. When it comes to diet choices, whether it's a carnivore diet, we recommend grass-fed.

Personal Preferences

Personal preferences and cultural upbringings play a significant role in the choice between grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Some individuals prefer the distinct flavor and perceived health benefits of grass-fed beef, while others appreciate the luxurious tenderness and milder taste of grain-fed beef. At Horizon Farms, you have the chance to choose between both and decide if you are a grass-fed or a grain-fed person.

Disclaimer: Please note that while our explanations are correct they are very simplified for shortness and understanding. We encourage you to do further research on this topic. 

 

Sam Tumeh About the author: Sam Tumeh (Founder & CEO of Horizon Farms, Inc.) has joined the consumer food and meat industry of Japan in 2010. 

Sources

1 http://www.paleoplan.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Paleo-Paper-beeffed.pdf
2 https://www.ciwf.org.uk/media/3758848/Nutritional-benefits-of-higher-welfare-animal-products-summary-of-keyfindings-2012.pdf

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