BETTER BEEF: Do you prefer grass-fed or grain-fed beef?

Two black angus cows at Rowe Farms in Cleveland, Tennessee (Image: Dakota Casteel)

When it comes to the steak you're having for dinner, everyone has a theory on what's best.

A trending topic now is grass-fed beef or getting your beef directly from a farm to the table.

For information on health benefits and where you can buy local, scroll to the bottom of this story.

Dennis Rowe is a beef farmer in Cleveland and the owner of Rowe Farms.

He's a beef farmer in Cleveland and the owner of Rowe Farms.

Dennis feeds his cows mainly grass.

The grain he does feed them is served in the grass, so they're still getting nutrients from the grass while they eat.

"They're constantly always on grass, they eat grass all their life," Dennis Rowe said.

And they roam around, like cows do.

At Rowe Farms, the emphasis is on natural.

"We haven't had to use any type of antibiotics for those animals," he said.

The steak you buy at the store is usually grain-fed.


Cows can't digest corn and are typically healthier when they eat mainly grass.

Which means when you eat grass-fed beef, you're getting a better pay off too.

They're shown to have more omega-3 nutrients to them too because they're out in the sunshine and the grass their whole life.

We took these claims and a cut of beef from Dennis straight to Chef Nick Thiers at Virginia College.

We compared a grain-fed and grass-fed steak side by side.

"You're going to have a little less marbling," Thiers said while showing us the grain-fed cut of beef. "By marbling I mean intramuscular fat."

If I'm putting the cow in a pen and feeding it corn every day you're going to have a lot more fat in there.

Thiers says you can even tell them apart by the smell.

When we smelled each cut of beef, both of us could smell a difference.

"I smell it and I think of the forest," Thier said. "Smell it and see if you smell like grass smell like open pastures and stuff whereas this one you get that weird smell like, I don't know, something's been sitting in the plastic tub."

Nick says we'll notice a difference in taste, too.

First, we tried the grass-fed

"The grass fed has a little more chewiness to it," Thiers explained as we tried the grass-fed beef.

Then we tried the grain-fed.

"See how you have that weird first taste? It's completely different. You'll keep chewing and tasting this weird thing, that's your grain-fed," he explained.

But does home grown beef taste better?

Many people actually prefer the fattier taste of mass produced beef.

But Nick says that's up to YOUR taste buds.

Back at the farm, Dennis, believes the difference in taste, texture, and health benefits is worth it.

It's probably one of the most important decisions you'll make, esp if you have children, and if you're worried about your health too is what am I putting inside my body," he said.

More about the benefits of grass-fed beef (according to Mayo Clinic):

  • Less calories, but more nutritional value
  • More omega-3 fatty acids
  • More conjugated linoleic acid (fat that's thought to reduce heart disease and cancer risks)
  • More vitamins, like Vitamin E

You can find local grass-fed meat, eggs, and dairy here.

Find where to buy locally-sourced products here.

Let us know which beef you prefer by voting in our poll below!


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