What Is Grass-Fed Beef and What’s So Great About It?

Beef in the embers

Grass-fed beef. You hear the term more and more, not just at natural foods markets, but at a new generation of barbecue joints. So what exactly is grass-fed beef and how does it differ from conventional beef? Why should you consider buying it the next time you fire up your grill or smoker? Are there any special techniques you need to cook it? We interviewed Randy Strauss, who with his brother Tim, runs one of the nation’s foremost purveyors of grass-fed beef: Strauss Meats.

What is Strauss’s background, and why do you raise grass-fed beef?
Our family has been in the meat and livestock industry since the late 1800s. In 2005, my brother Tim, my wife Diane, and I made the decision to focus on sustainable and humane raising practices. At home, we embraced a natural, organic lifestyle, and we wanted our business to reflect the same ethics and ideals. At first we focused on how to raise veal humanely. Soon, we developed Free Raised® veal: authentic and 100% pasture raised. Over time, we added Free Raised® beef—100% grass-fed and grass-finished—a logical addition to offer our customers.

What is real grass-fed beef and how do you know you’re buying the real McCoy?
It’s important to understand that all cattle start by eating grass, so technically all beef is grass-fed. The difference is that most beef cattle are finished on corn or other grains (“grain-finished”). Grain finishing typically occurs in a feedlot, where cattle are fed a diet high in processed grains (typically corn). The goal of grain finishing is to produce as much fat (marbling) as possible in the shortest amount of time. When cattle are grain-finished, the health benefits from their previous grass-fed diet are eliminated. In contrast, Free Raised® beef is 100% grass-fed and 100% grass-finished, meaning our cattle are finished on a diet of high-quality grass and stored forages (hay), never on grains. To be sure the beef you are buying was truly raised free of grains, look for the words “grass-fed” and “grass- finished” on the USDA-approved package label.

Why is grass-fed beef better than conventionally raised beef?
Good meat is the direct result of a healthy animal living naturally and comfortably. Cattle are ruminants, and they were designed to graze. With unlimited access to natural pasture grass and forage, our cattle develop a strong immune system, eliminating the need for antibiotics. Independent research has repeatedly shown 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, and higher in Omega 3s and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid—see below) than conventionally raised beef. In addition, our cattle are never administered growth stimulants. We want our cattle to grow at nature’s pace. This might take a little longer and cost more, but less stress and a natural diet results in more tender, delicious beef.

Fresh Herb and Olive Oil Marinated SteakWhy are there differences in quality between Free Raised® and other grass-fed beef?
Grass-finishing is an age-old tradition that predates industrialized agriculture, but it takes longer and costs a little more to finish cattle this way, therefore the practice was largely abandoned when cheap corn production became prevalent. Today, with proper genetic selection, high-quality pasture management, and farmers who understand the art of true grass-finishing, you can enjoy tender, marbled and juicy grass-fed steaks. Look for grass-fed beef that is bright red in color, with flecks of white internal fat (marbling) throughout the inner muscle of the steak.

Are there any special cooking requirements for grass-fed beef, compared to conventional beef?
While Free Raised® grass-fed beef is nicely marbled, it may be leaner than grain-fed beef. Thus, grilling it a little more slowly and at a slightly lower temperature than the typical method will provide better results.

How can grass-fed beef improve the health of the hardcore BBQ enthusiast?
Some people used to think that by eliminating red meat from their diets, they would be healthier. It’s not the color of the meat, but the way the cattle is raised that matters most. One hundred percent grass-fed, grass-finished beef contains many nutrients—including good fats. Did you know that the fat in 100% grass-fed beef is so good for you that you can buy similar capsules sold in the supplement area of a health food store? Grass-fed beef is loaded with omega-3s and CLA.


  • Omega-3 is a type of fatty acid that is important for heart health and brain function.
  • Consuming more omega-3s may reduce your risk of cancer.
  • Grass-fed beef contains higher levels of omega-3 than beef finished on grains.


  • CLA is a fatty acid that improves metabolism.
  • CLA reduces body fat, especially belly fat, and increases muscle strength and endurance.
  • CLA helps fight certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and allergies.
  • CLA supports and improves immune health.
  • Research has shown that a serving of grass-finished beef could provide up to 15% of the required daily amount of CLA. Grass-finished beef contains 2 to 3 times more CLA than grain-finished beef.

Many people who once had trouble digesting conventional grain-finished beef, or who felt sluggish after eating it, find Free Raised® beef to be completely different. We have received many testimonials from customers sharing how they reintroduced beef into their diet after trying our products. Some say they are so spoiled by our beef that it’s now hard to use anything else.

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