Grass-fed beef allows cows to spend their entire lives in pasture, eating only grass, as nature intended. -File photo

Grass-fed beef allows cows to spend their entire lives in pasture, eating only grass, as nature intended. -File photo

Column: Grass, grain or organic beef?

Everybody loves a good burger.

Providing protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12, beef can be part of a healthy diet. However, we know that too much red meat is not good for our planet or our bodies.

Beef tends to be higher in saturated fats than other meats and requires more resources for its production than other animals.

What is the healthiest way to eat beef?

In conventional beef production, cows are sent to a feedlot before slaughter to be fattened quickly with a diet enhanced with grains, such as corn or soy. This reduces the time required for the cow to reach market weight and increases the marbling of fat within the meat itself.

With organic beef, any grass or feed given to cattle is free of antibiotics, hormones, synthetic pesticides and herbicides and genetically modified ingredients. It does not mean that the cows have lived their whole life “on the farm”.

Grass-fed beef allows cows to spend their entire lives in pasture, eating only grass, as nature intended. In the winter, they eat hay (dried grasses) and silage (fermented grasses). This lifestyle makes grass fed beef higher in omega-3 and B vitamins and lower in fat than conventional beef.

The main barrier to grass-fed beef for most people is cost.

Allowing cows to fatten naturally on grass takes six to twelve months longer to reach market weight. This translates to extra grass, care and labour.

Salmon Arm is lucky to have several grass-fed beef farms including Black Farm, Grass Roots Dairies and Balmoral Farms. Local, grass-fed beef can be purchased directly from farms or at specialty meat and farm-market stores. Balmoral will be selling its beef at Askew’s from Feb.1-3.

Whatever type of beef you choose to consume, it is recommended that you eat it in smaller portions. Including beef as part of a stew, casserole or stir-fry “stretches” how far it can go. Or have it as a weekly treat, rather than every day.

Nobody wants to give up beef, but we can consider eating it more sustainably.

-Serena Caner is a registered dietitian who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.