These days, eating healthier is actually hip. If meat is part of your diet, you've probably heard the term "grass-fed beef."
When Helen Driscoll shops for beef she looks for label "grass fed' on the package or requests it from the butcher. But what exactly does grass fed mean?
"Grass fed means 100 percent grass fed from the time it was born to the time that it meets a humane death," said Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., a board-certified nutrition specialist.
The USDA says there's "no official regulatory definition or federal standard for grass fed," but the agency does regulate the labeling of the term.
For a company to claim grass fed or 100 percent grass fed, "the animals could not have been fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season."
"Consumers should care very much about whether or not their beef is grass fed or not, because grass-fed beef is, if you'll excuse the pun, an entirely different animal from factory-farmed beef," Bowden said.
Some studies show grass-fed beef is healthier than grain fed.
But keep in mind grass fed is a different claim than raised without antibiotics or steroids, and grass fed does not mean organic.
There are some private certifications you can look for on beef, like the American Grassfed Association, which experts say have stricter standards.
Grass-fed meat might cost you a bit more. "Grass-fed meat is more expensive than factory farming," said Bowden. "That's just a fact of life. It takes a lot longer to raise an animal."
If Driscoll can't find grass-fed beef in a store or restaurant, she skips meat altogether. "For that meal I'm a vegan," she said. "It's going to be all vegetables."
If you see a label that says "grass finished," that means the cow must be raised on grain and then finish out its growing period eating grass.
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