• Do I Have to Eat Grass-Fed Meat?

    Well folks, this could very well be an ethical question for you…or one based on finances/budget or even availability. If you are relatively new to this paleo journey and are still trying to wrap your head around what to eat and how, considering the level of meat that you’re buying may be too much to think about right now. Whatever the case, it’s still best to do grass-fed if you can (for a primer on all things grass-fed including buzz terms like Omega 3 and CLA–conjugated linoleic acid–click here). But if the issue of grass-fed (or even organic) meats is keeping you from doing paleo at all or making your wallet hurt, here are some tips that can help:

    • Avoid fatty cuts of meat (think Porterhouse steaks, etc) and stick to leaner cuts (sirloin, tenderloin, round)
    • Trim all visible fat
    • For lean, tougher cuts (like stew meat), choose a “low and slow” cooking method such as slow cooking or braising
    And tips for affording higher quality while on a budget:
    • If organic is available but not grass-fed, it might be a better choice
    • Visit your local farmer’s market and make friends with the vendors!!! Support local!
    • Online vendors like US Wellness Meats will sometimes run coupon codes…stock up!
    • Check for sales on grass-fed meats from stores like Whole Foods, buy in bulk and freeze

    One last thing…my FAVORITE recipe using stew meat from Melissa Joulwan (aka The Clothes Make the Girl…aka my paleo-cook-crush): Rogan Josh!

    Steph Gaudreau is a certified holistic nutrition practitioner, weightlifting and mindset coach, and the author of the best-selling Performance Paleo Cookbook. Her recipes and expert advice have been featured in SELF, Outside Magazine, Elle, and Greatist. Steph loves barbells, cats, and anything Lord of the Rings. She lives in San Diego, CA.

    17 thoughts on “Do I Have to Eat Grass-Fed Meat?

    1. Is there any relation to the fat in the conventional raised beef being unhealthier due to the food / methods of being raised vs. grass fed, or is the fat just healthier because of the lifestyle of the cow? Sorry, this question came out better the first time when I didn’t have to reset my WP PW.

      1. Many environmental toxins, etc are fat soluble and accumulate in fatty tissues of animals. Beef raised in unhealthier conditions will therefore contain more of these compounds. Also, cows that feed on grass have higher levels of CLA and Omega 3 due to their diets so really, it’s a two-layered reason.

      2. Cows aren’t built to eat a large proportion of grains. Grain : cows as refined sugar : humans. Grain fed cows tend to be obese, leading to higher levels of inflammatory hormones suspended in their muscle tissue. Contrary to industry indoctrination, grain-fed meat is not well-marbled; the fat tends to be gristly and unevenly distributed. Rather, it’s a tactic to increase rail weight, increasing the cost to the processor and, ultimately, the cost to the consumer, Additionally, you’re mostly paying for fat that you (or the processor) are going to trim off and toss, which is a massive waste.

        If you like a bit more fat on your meat, go for grass-fed, grain-finished. Avoid meat that’s been grain-fed for the entirety of its life: from a purely sensual perspective, it’s generally tougher, gristlier and less flavorful. Crappy meat is just an affront to the whole culinary experience.

        1. Agree with you on these points, Zoe, but just playing devil’s advocate for a moment: what would you tell a family who cannot afford grass-fed meat?

    2. I came here from a link on Melissa Jouwlan’s page. I started my Paleo journey just about the time you took a hiatus – 4 months ago. It feels like forever with all the reading and learning (and good eating) I’ve doing, so I’m excited to find a whole new source of information, recipes. Fun, fun!

      1. Renee, you are beyond sweet! Thanks for coming over and checking out the site. Great job on all your hard work thus far. The awesome thing that I love about paleo is that what it means for me is constantly evolving, meaning I’m getting better at it and always learning new things. Plus, there are so many amazing people like Melissa out there who keep piquing our interests and palates with new goodies. Hope you come back soon!

    3. While I like the idea of locally raised beef and that cattle pastured have less stress than cattle that are raised in feedlots, the flavor is not the same. You can train your taste buds to like grass-fed beef, but it will not have quite the same depth of flavor as feedlot beef because it is leaner. And fat is flavor as any serious chef will tell you.

      The theory that grass raised beef is less ecologically damaging is subject to some debate as well. Grass-fed cattle take more room, that means more land for them to wander about on. While grain fed beef take less room, the grain itself requires acreage to grow. Both of the approaches impact the natural environment and wildlife.

      The view that less fat is good for you is also subject to continuing debate. Many things thought to be “bad” are starting to come back as science continues to evaluate them in light of new research and evidence.

      The bottom line is find beef you can afford, preferably raised locally (by a farmer you can actually meet), talk to them about their approach to raising their cattle. Try different cuts of “grass fed” and “organic” then compare them to the beef you have been eating. How is the flavor between them? What is the price? Do you have space to buy in bulk and store meat in a freezer? Each individual’s situation is different and make choices that are right for you.

    4. This was extremely helpful! Thank you. I was wondering about pork. I love bacon and so do my kids, but what do you do when all you can find is corn fed pigs?

      1. Hi Teressa…good question. I usually don’t eat a lot of bacon but when I do I usually spring for the highest quality I can find. There are some ranches/farms that do pastured pigs but it depends on which area you’re in.

    5. Steph, what is your take on CLA supplements in general? It’s hard for us to get grass fed here too? Thanks! Sorry if I missed this somewhere.

      1. Hi Priscilla,

        My stance on supplements in general is to not use them unless you can’t get enough of that particular nutrient from food OR you’re using them to cover up poor nutrition in general. If, however, you’re doing what you can from food (or it’s not available) I think it’s probably fine.

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