Grass Fed Beef vs. Corn Fed Beef

by Steve Johnson

Many believe that grass fed beef is a healthier option than corn fed beef. While we believe that when it comes to purchasing decisions many times “perception is reality”, but what about actual reality? Is everything we hear about grass fed beef true? Is corn fed beef really bad for you? Is there really that much of a difference between grass fed beef and corn fed beef? Is there ANY difference between corn fed and grass fed beef? What do you believe? Have you done the research?

If two cattle – genetically identical – are fed different diets – one grass, the other corn – does the beef change on a cellular level? Is one healthier than the other for consumption? According to the Animal Science department at Texas A&M, there isn’t all that much difference, and corn fed beef may actually have more of what folks interested in lowering their cholesterol are trying to incorporate into their diet. Have a read for yourself: https://animalscience.tamu.edu

When it’s all said and done, it seems that it really just comes down to a choice. And one of the great things about America is that we can choose a product based on whatever merits we believe most important and vote with our dollars. The internet has done an excellent job of making a great deal of useful information very accessible to everyone interested in a topic, possibly even to a fault. The ease of obtaining information also makes it easier for consumers to overanalyze a simple decision – on nearly any topic. The internet has also done a great job of leveling the playing field and making survival possible for small businesses like Nebraska Star Beef to be competitive in an ever growing market.

corn
Regular corn vs. steam flaked corn

Having a choice in how we do things means that all of us can vote with our dollars. Nebraska Star Beef invests in corn fed beef because we believe it is the best way to produce premium angus beef as efficiently as possible. That creates value. We take our corn one step further and utilize a steam flaking mill to soften and flatten the corn before its fed to the cattle. This makes the corn both easier for the cattle to eat and increases its digestibility. Corn fed beef is also more cost efficient to produce, which is what accounts for the higher price tag on grass fed beef products. In the simplest terms it takes a certain amount of food energy for a beef to grow to its finished weight. Corn has much more food energy than grass, therefore cattle take less time to grow to market weight.

Start to finish ration
Start ration (left) – lots of grass mixed with some corn, heavy on the hay and alfalfa. Finish ration (right) – there is still a lot of hay, alfalfa and corn stalks & leaves, but we also increase the amount of steam flaked corn in the ration.

Ultimately, Grass Feed Beef or Corn Fed Beef is a choice. We know that the consumer is better educated than ever before and while there are movements with their foundations rooted in the best of intentions, thankfully there is hard scientific data, readily available, that we can fall back on to make buying decisions – if we want to – ultimately, it’s about choice and we celebrate that fact. If you’re interested in further reading, here is another great article on the topic: http://www.beefmagazine.com/blog/grass-fed-beef-really-healthier

We believe that if consumers do the research they will come to the same conclusion that we have, grain fed beef is not second string to grass fed beef. In the face of a booming world population with a limited amount of agricultural acres that aren’t increasing as rapidly as the population, it is imperative that we as producers are as efficient as possible when it comes to the production of food products.