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The debate has been raging forever and we've decided to drop the hammer and state which one we would recommend based on our own research and conversations with experts in the field.
One of the biggest concerns is that grain-fed cattle are mistreated. Based on the conversation we've had with Dr. Peter Ballerstedt (@GrassBased) on one of our podcasts, animals are mostly kept on the pasture but during the finishing operation, in order to reduce the methane emissions(which is a whole other topic for debate), animals are fed a high energy diet which contains grains.
As far as cows living their entire lives in concentrated and soggy feed lots, that is definitely a concern we share and would agree with on those who are up on arms about animal rights. This is a topic we would like to pursue further. A point to note here is that cattle can be in closed off squalid conditions while still being fed grass. Maybe pasture-raised is a better word we need to use.
Our verdict: Let's try to make things better!
The term grass-fed seems rather vague and isn't clarified completely. Generally speaking, grass-fed and grain-fed cows spend most of their time in the pasture. However, aforementioned, during the latter part of their life, they may be either have a grass-fed or grain-fed diet. Having the label of grass-fed is an additional cost to the farmer and may not be a feasible option since not every location may allow a fully grass-based diet, especially in winters when there is no pasture and obtaining grass can be rather expensive.
Our Verdict: Nutrition Labels Suck!
We think it's important that if people have disposable income to spare, it's far more important to help support local farmers. There aren't many places on earth that can maintain the integrity of a fully grass-fed diet for cattle. One of the strengths of ruminant agriculture it seems is to utilize land that isn't fit or usable for agriculture and it's important to utilize this strength as our global population is on the rise.
Our Verdict: Go local and go home, if you can afford it!
Many of us are on a carnivorous diet and don't concern ourselves with the omega-6 to omega-3 ratios. Beef is an extremely poor nutritional source of both Omega 3 and Omega 6, disregarding whether it is grain-fed or grass-fed. The concerns may arise because of higher Omega 6 content rather than the fluctuation of Omega 3. Additionally, most nutritional studies pertaining to Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratios have been conducted on a high carb diet and may not be as relevant to a Ketogenic or a carnivorous diet. As far as the impact on cholesterol, heart disease and the lipoprotein system is concerned, that topic has been addressed on this podcast and this one and context is important here since meat isn't consumed in most diets on its own. Additionally, we are very skeptical of words like 'more than' and 'seven times' as seven times of a very small amount is still a very small amount. Additionally, once again, the RDA is based on a moderate to high carb diet and the nutrient needs may be different on a carnivorous and ketogenic diet. This could also mean that grain-fed, pertaining to the way of eating, could potentially have a superior nutritional profile.
Our Verdict: Context of the diet matters. Generally, we're agnostic to it.
Based on anecdotal observations and various accounts, the grain-fed beef has more fat content and marbeling which is rather ideal on a Ketogenic or a carnivorous diet as fats are one of the primary sources of fuel on these diets. Hence, our vote goes towards a grain-fed cow on this matter.
Our Verdict: Grain-Fed
The grass-fed beef tends to have a more earthy, smokey and fishy flavor which hasn't been our favorite. Some people may actually prefer that and it may even be an acquired taste. The grain-fed beef on the other hand is crunchy, juicy and more fruity than its grass-fed counterpart. The texture of the grass-fed is very chewy and gamey. It is a bit difficult to work with since it is rather lean. The grain-fed is very easy to work with due to its higher marbling and fat content. Taste and texture may be a subjective but once again, grain-fed wins this category.
Our Verdict: Grain-Fed
This one goes hands down to grain-fed since it's far more affordable at the moment across the board while Grass-fed and finished is a more niche and luxury item at the moment which may be penalizing new and existing ranchers and farmers. Additionally, if on a budget, grain-fed ground beef packs quite a punch for pricing and can even be obtained at fast food joints in the form of burger patties. If price point isn't an issue, we are still skeptical of utilizing grass-fed beef due to aforementioned reasons in this article. Humans live in the realm of wants and we earn money to have our wants and luxuries met so if you got plenty of cash, why not explore other forms of meats instead?
Our Verdict: Grain-Fed if Broke, If Not... Foie Gras, Kobe Beef, Exotic meats.. sky is the limit!
Nutritional claims are everywhere and are strangulating our food businesses while building unwanted 'middle' industries to which many food producers now have to hold accountable to. This may force the food producers to find alarming and low cost workarounds and loopholes to bypass these gatekeepers while creating a disparity between the consumer and the food producer. Hence, it's very important to support your local rancher, grass-finished or not, if you have the cash flow to do so. For the rest of the community, the grain-fed beef will have to suffice while the consumers push the industry in the direction of a high quality food while improving the living conditions of animals.
Final Verdict: Grain-Fed is a Thumbs Up!
PS: Our Ghee, made at our own Ketogeek Kitchen in Napa, California, is sourced from Pasture-Fed & Organic Butter from a local creamery called Straus Family Creamery in North Bay, about 30 minutes drive from us and located in Petaluma, California. Their cows are loved and treated with care while they let them stay on the pasture when the weather allows it. At night and in wet or winter weather, the cows sleep in an open barn in open stalls that are fitted with cushioned cow mats and natural bedding. You can read more about their cows here. In other words, we practice what we preach! It costs us quite a lot more for using this butter but we want to drive a positive change in the world by supporting our local ranchers while finding the best sources of ingredients we can find. We care for you guys and our animals a lot! We use the same Ghee in all our Energy Pods as one of the key ingredients!
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