Five Myths About Grass-Fed Beef

As Americans start to realize that factory-farming is cruel to animals and unsustainable, news about possible solutions are coming out. Articles like Carbon footprint menu: Let them eat grass keep popping up in small town papers across the country, suggesting that feeding cows grass is a good alternative to factory-farming. So what’s the deal? Is grass-fed beef better for animals, the planet and our health? 

Like many defenses of grass-fed beef, the Carbon Footprint Menu article is full of pseudo-science and unsupported claims that cattle who feed on grass make for better meat. It is about time we busted some of the common myths about grass-fed beef. 

Five Myths About Grass-Fed Beef 
Myth #1: Grass-fed beef is good for the environment.

False. Raising animals for food, especially cattle, is one of the leading causes of global climate change. In 2006, the UN release a study called Livestock’s Long Shadow which made the point that raising animals for food is the largest contributor to global climate change. The biggest environmental problem with raising animals for food is the greenhouse gases that they produce–methane and carbon dioxide. Feeding cattle grass instead of corn or soy is somewhat of a reduction of resources, but does not address the issue of greenhouse gases. It does not matter whether the cattle are located on a giant mega-factory-farm or on a small farm in Central Massachusetts, each cow still produce a huge amount of greenhouse gases.

Myth #2: Animals on grass-fed farms are happy.

False. There is certainly a gradient in the ways in which animals are treated in the meat and dairy industry, but even small operations are far from kind to animals. Cows are forcibly impregnated–a grotesque and cruel procedure. Many calves are taken from their mothers shortly after birth, to be sold to a veal farm or used as dairy cows. Did you know that many small farms send their animals to the exact same slaughterhouses as factory farms? In the slaughterhouse, animals are shocked with electric prods, hung upside-down and are slowly bleed to death.

Myth #3: Grass-fed beef is safer.

False. If you eat meat, you are increasing your risk of developing E. Coli. There is no evidence to suggest that grass-fed beef has a lower risk of contamination than factory-farmed meat. E. Coli is transmitted through contact with fecal matter and all meat has fecal matter contamination. Some prominent supporters of grass-fed beef have said that the stomachs of cows who eat grass are more resistant to E. Coli, which is a claim that has never been backed up by facts. This myth seems to have started with Nina Plank and became commonly known because of Michael Pollan’s writing. Slate recently published a piece, Beware the Myth of Grass-Fed Beef, which explodes the myth that grass-fed beef is safer.

Myth #4: Grass-fed beef is good for your health.

False. Grass-fed beef is still full of saturated-fat, cholesterol and growth hormones. It may be true that beef from cattle who are fed grass is somewhat better for your health than meat from animals who live their entire lives confined on feed-lots. However, eating a plant-based diet is even better for your health.  We’ve known for years that beef consumption is linked to the major killers: cancer and heart-attack. Furthermore, it’s a myth that beef from grass-fed cattle does not contain hormones. It is common knowledge that all animal products contain hormones, but you might be surprised to hear that grass-fed beef can also contain added artificial hormones. A short time before being slaughtered, grass-fed cattle are often fatten-up with by being fed corn, soy, and given unnatural growth hormones. If you eat meat, those hormones go right into your body.

Myth #5: If everyone ate grass-fed beef factory-farming would end.

False. Eating grass-fed beef does not challenge factory-farming, because it is not a viable alternative. It is expensive and there is not nearly enough grassland in America to raise that many cattle. Every year in the United States, over 10 billion land animals are raised and killed for human consumption. There is a reason why factory-farming persists: Americans continue to eat meat. There simply is not enough grassland to raise that many animals on pastures. Plus, ordinary people cannot afford the high price-tag of grass-fed beef. A small operation based in Hardwick, MA sells grass-fed ground beef for $9 per pound and $23 for rib-eye. Working people cannot afford that.

So what can we do? 
Eating Vegan Helps Animals, the Planet, and is Healthy

True. Eating vegetarian foods is inexpensive and accessible. Eating vegan dramatically reduces your carbon-footprint. It’s the best thing you can do to help animals, and it is great for your health! Plus it’s easy. Every grocery store in America now offers a selection of vegan foods–including vegetarian analogs like mock meats and soy milks. So don’t buy the myth. Avoid expensive grass-fed meats and opt for tasty vegan fare.

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Carol M.
Carol M1 years ago

I can't get back the time I wasted reading this article.

Gerald L.
Gerald L2 years ago

m j. what do you propose all the Global Grassland Inventory be used for? It emits Co2 and methane when it decomposes. Vegans rag about methane emissions from ruminant animal farts. How many billions of gallons of milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, tons of brick cheese, and at end of life cycle meat protein & leather products are provided for human beings?

Is it better to mono-crop Soy beans, corn etc. using Nitrate based fertilizer for all the wanna be imitation soy meats? With all the heavy Ag equipment, herbicides etc. Calculate the Life Cycle Co$t$ for Vega approved foods, and don't forget the Food Miles for Almond Milk to the Food Distribution Warehouse in Toronto, from California Orchards?

m j. @ 2:43pm PST on Dec 27, 2014
True, and no one needs to eat cows. Anywhere they are, they take up a huge amount of resources for a small amount of "food". And all the space wasted for grass?

Almost forgot about the synthetic fabrics approved by Vega, Rayon & Bamboo need Clear-Cut Forests and the Neurotoxin Carbon Disulphide. Footwear requires Oil Wells and Petro Chemical Plants.

Somehow SunCycle Grassland conversion makes more $en$e than Industrially produced sub$titute$.

m j.
m G3 years ago

True, and no one needs to eat cows. Anywhere they are, they take up a huge amount of resources for a small amount of "food". And all the space wasted for grass?

Pixelfairy D.
Pixelfairy D.4 years ago

lol! find me a more sustainable form of agraculture in the US (where i live) than grass pasture. so far, thats the only one ive seen with only sun and rain as external inputs. the pastures, btw, are lush and diverse. you learn this by actually going there instead of just taking in what peta tells you.

if half the crap vegans said about "excessive" protein and red meat was true, id be dead years ago. i mostly live on beef. (i also eat more vegetables than any vegetarian i know) i have a six pack, and excellent health markers. if you wish to verify this, come see one of my shows. youll see the abuse and blood loss my body goes through on a regular basis and still manages to stay healthy.

id love to see human fertilizer put into use instead of flushed out to sea, or more widespread use of aquaponics, but neither exist yet. in the former case, i dont know where phosphorus would come from without animal bones to grind up. i dont like it being trucked in from rocks.

Diane L.
Diane L4 years ago

Yeah, Joseph, that's why a leading neuro-surgeon (Dr. Stephen Sinatra) and a world-reknown cardiologist (Mehmet Oz) advise for eating grass-fed beef.

BTW, the last cases of E-coli were from contaminated vegetables. You just might try keeping up with the news, not to mention that this article is now 3 years old.

Joseph B.
Joseph B.4 years ago

This is a bunch of sod.

Myth #1: Grass-fed beef is good for the environment.

>False. Raising animals for food, especially cattle, is one of the leading causes of global climate change.False. If you eat meat, you are increasing your risk of developing E. Coli.

Dale O.

Since I am an omnivore, this is an interesting topic. However, the U.S. is not the entire world and even within the U.S. there are small organic farms that are not the factory farm horror shows. Depicting smaller farms as cruel is ridiculous. Then the author tells us to eat tasty vegan fare at the end of the article. Mystery solved...vegans disapprove of eating meat, 'Meat Is Bad', here comes the Boogeymeatman.

Vicky A, to label anyone who does not agree with you as an 'idiot' is both rude and obtuse. Interesting profile...try putting something on it.

Nothing like unfounded propaganda, where many of the 'facts' are misleading. Hide your honey, vegans will be out to ban that next, not to mention eating eggs. I wouldn't touch soy with a barge pole as most of it is GMO.

Diane L.
Diane L5 years ago

Well said Sean. I see you've been a bit "victimized" by the resurrecting of a very old Care.2 discussion to promote being vegan. This one is 2 YEARS old now, but it's been slow in Care.2 recently, so they've been dragging out all the old PRO-VEGAN nnsense again. Yes, you obvlously "get it" that it's mostly propaganda!

Sean Patrick
Sean Patrick5 years ago

Excuse me, Mr. Wilson, but as a scientifically trained individual I find this articles offensive. You claim to be "exploding myths" but provide no sources for any of the claims you are making. In addition, your article lacks complexity and makes no attempt to substantiate a single statement that you have made.

This kind of "take my word for it" style is generally the first sign of "propaganda" in my experience, and I invite you to review the scientific method.

Some of your claims may have some validity, but there is NO WAY for me to determine this, as apparently I am forced to "take your word" for everything presented here. If we look to recent studies (such as: A.J. McAfee, et. all. (2011). Red meat from animals offered a grass diet increases plasma and platelet n-3 PUFA in healthy consumers, British Journal of Nutrition, 105, 80–89), I can see that indeed, the results presented in this study are compared between consumers eating non-grass-fed beef and traditional, factory-farmed beef - one of your points (this will be the only piece of research I do for you... please take the time to do your own in the future).

However, to then decree that THEREFORE a plant-based diet is superior to Grass-Fed Beef diets is an affront to science and thinking people everywhere! (Do you mean ANY plant based diet? Do you include processed foods? Highly processed, GMO soybean-burger paties? Nuts? What about fiber content? Fruits and vegetables only? How many raw f

Paul Bourdon
Paul Bourdon5 years ago

If people want to be vegans that's great, but don't try to scare them into it with lies.