The grass-fed ground beef that I get from a local farm is so much tastier than anything I get at the supermarket, even organic beef, that I’ve stopped using any other ground beef. I know, because I can ask the farmers who bring the meat to the market, that in addition to the cows being fed a natural diet, they aren’t given any unnecessary steroids or antibiotics.
At $5.50 a pound, the ground beef I buy can be twice as expensive as some of the ground beef sold in the grocery store, but it’s well worth it. The benefits of grass-fed beef for those who eat it include meat that’s lower in fat than conventional beef and also lower in calories. It also contains more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidant vitamins. And, while not all grass-fed beef has been raised without the use of steroids or antibiotics, much of it has been.
More consumers are finding this better tasting, healthier beef desirable, and demand for the grass-fed beef is rising. In September, the USDA released its first Market News report covering grass-fed beef, making transparent the prices that those who raise domestic grass-fed beef are getting for the meat. The fact that the sales of grass-fed beef are large enough to warrant a USDA report is significant.
The American Grassfed Association reports that it’s getting more calls from grocery stores and supermarket chains wanting to know where to buy grass-fed beef to sell in their stores. Capital Press says that while the demand for grass-fed beef is increasing, domestic ranchers have to compete with “cheaper-priced grass-fed beef flooding the U.S. from foreign markets such as Australia and Uruguay.”
It's not just home cooks who are increasing the demand for beef from grazing cows. Meat and Poultry is reporting that there is a continuous burger boom at restaurants in the U.S. While the trend of crazy buns (like pretzel or waffles) is dying down, using locally-sourced meat for burgers, which is often grass-fed, is still trendy.
What does this mean for those of us who include beef in our diets? If demand for grass-fed beef is higher than the supply, the prices may rise some. While nobody likes it when prices rise, an increased demand will also mean that more ranchers will start rising grass-fed beef which is good for the cows, good for the environment, and better for the health of meat eaters.
It also means that our choices are making difference. As more consumers choose foods of all kinds that are better for themselves and better for the environment, producers will change the way they do things.
Do you see the increase in grass-fed beef demand as a good thing?