There's a lot of noise in the industry about what kind of meat is best. You'll see labels such as hormone-free, organic, grass-fed, free-range, and even more. It can be very confusing, especially when it seems like they all are good options, but clearly, there are some differences that may be affecting the flavor. We go into detail on the differences between organic, grass-fed, and free-range beef so you can find the perfect fit for your particular tastes and needs.
Let's first look at organic beef. Obviously beef comes from a natural source of cows, but beyond that, there is a deeper meaning to it. In many cases, organic labels on food mean there are lots of restrictions as far as what can be used on the food while it is growing. The same is pretty much the same for organic beef. Organic beef means the cows cannot be confined in a feedlot for an extended length of time, they cannot be over-crowded or left in unsanitary conditions, and they most certainly cannot be exposed to artificial pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, GMOs or anything else that is a synthetic contaminant. This even includes indirect exposure, so they cannot be near fields that have had certain fertilizers used. The main purpose of all these regulations is behind the idea that these pesticides and fertilizers could build up within the cow meat, and when we eat it, actually get into our systems and cause us health issues at some point in our lives.
Eating organic is a great way to help ensure that you are not exposing your body to different substances that could cause it harm. It also helps ensure the animals were treated fairly and kindly during their time on the farm.
Grass-fed beef offers a much simpler explanation than organic. Grass-fed simply means the cows were allowed to roam and eat fresh grass on their own. This keeps them on a fairly natural diet, though they may have been given alfalfa during the winter months when grass wouldn't have grown as much. They are not given any grains or anything that wouldn't occur in a natural diet. Grass-fed beef is generally leaner, healthier, and offers more flavor. The downside to this type of beef is that there are no guarantees that fertilizers or harmful pesticides weren't used on the ground these cows were grazing on. There is also no guarantee they were not given any kind of hormones or anything else to change their growth, it just means they only ate grass before they were slaughtered.
Free Range Beef
Free-range beef is not that much different than grass-fed beef. Essentially, free-range beef comes from animals who ate grass and lived on a range. So they were never contained in a feedlot but instead are allowed to roam freely on the many acres that are available to them. The point behind this is to allow the animals as much freedom as possible, that way they can live out a normal life whether they get eventually chosen for meat or not.
When looking at the differences between organic, grass-fed, and free-range beef, there are some that are notable, while others are very similar in their manner. Many times, you may find a variety of these processes listed, such as free-range and no antibiotics or hormones added. Other times, you may find that you see organic grass-fed beef, ensuring that the meat followed the strict organic standards, while also only feeding the cows natural grass without any pesticides applied.
Depending on your personal preferences, you may not care too much about organic, but want to ensure that the meat you eat was free-range before the slaughtering process. Others are more focused on them only eating grass but don't mind if they were penned up in a feedlot for their lives. There is no option that is better than another, it is strictly based on what you are more comfortable with and what you desire. If you prefer all organic, then purchasing organic is a good choice for your lifestyle.