Why should you care? Beyond the obvious animal care issues and environmental impact, (all worthy of their own posts) you should care for health reasons.
Cows were not meant to eat meat. Cows were not meant to eat grains. That means cows weren't meant to eat corn, soybeans, animal by-products, chicken litter, pig blood, remains of other cows, euthanized pets, or restaurant scraps.
While I appreciate the ingenuity of finding a use for all of those waste products and renewable grains, the fact remains that cows are herbivores. Dare I say obligate herbivores? They were built to eat one thing - grass.
There are numerous studies and references available about what actually happens when a cow eats grain (i.e. corn) and I'll direct you to The Omnivore's Dilemma to get a more thorough explanation. I'm going to keep it simple here: cows that eat grains get sick.
They require antibiotics to stay alive. They are pumped full of hormones and other drugs to help them grow fat (and fast!) They have more e-coli in their guts (and in turn in their feces which is spread all over their bodies and gets into the meat we eat.) Oh, and they have a less favorable Omega 3/Omega 6 fatty acid ratio.
It is healthier to eat animals that were allowed to grow the way nature intended, just like it's healthier to eat real food as opposed to processed food products.
I know what you're thinking. Organic and grass-fed beef costs more than regular beef. That's true. Grass-fed beef costs anywhere from $2-$5 more per pound.
If you eat 200 pounds of meat each month, then this is going to be a problem. If you eat a more reasonable portion of meat, you'll hardly notice the price difference, especially if you cut back on some of the overpriced processed foods you may be purchasing.
For the past 2 years, I have been buying my Grass-fed beef at Target. I like it and I'm so glad to have a nearby source, but my husband has complained about it. In fact the words "grass-fed beef" are fighting words in our house. I care about it (for all the reasons mentioned above) and he doesn't.
He claims that there is a taste difference. I happen to like Grass-fed beef. In fact, I prefer it. So I went on the hunt for a new source of Grass-fed beef and I happened upon Prescott Frost. Located in Nebraska, Prescott Frost raises 100% grass-fed beef with no hormones, no antibiotics, and no corn. They are USDA Certified Organic.
They sent me 2 packages of ground beef and a package of gluten and nitrate-free all beef hot dogs. The products were excellent. I cooked up the ground beef and received no dirty looks or comments from my family. They ate it up and asked for more.
I thought it tasted great too. Personally, I think it may have been the packaging? My husband didn't see the familiar wrappings and thought I had made "regular beef." Whatever. It was great. The hotdogs were great.
The only thing that wasn't great was that they had to ship from Nebraska. If this product was in my local Target or any of the other local grocery stores, I would buy it every time. I'm really starting to wish I lived in Nebraska... Not just for the grass-fed beef. They have unbelievable land prices and a warmer growing zone so I could have my orchard and eat my grass-fed beef too.
But that's another story. I was very impressed with Prescott Frost. I will buy their grass-fed beef in the future - but in bulk - so shipping makes sense.
In the mean time, you should look at the meat products you are buying. If your meat does not say grass-fed, you are not buying the best quality meat for your family. Yes, I said it and it's the truth. You can start small - buy 1 lb of grass-fed beef at your local supermarket (most really good grocery stores have at least one brand to choose from) or your local farmers market.
When you find out you like it and you find a way to adjust your grocery budget (1 bag of chips would make up the price difference of buying a pound of grass-fed beef) - then you can check out places where you can buy in bulk. I recommend Prescott Frost and enjoyed their products.
*I received complimentary product samples for review purposes. No compensation was received and all opinions expressed are my own.