HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Oct 27, 2008 06:22 PM

Beef: Questions Re Grass-Fed

I have read that feeding cattle corn and other grain causes them ulcers and pain (in addition to fattening them) and that this is one reason why they're given antibiotics. On a website advertising grass-fed beef, it said that the cattle are also fed "silage." Does anyone know if this is the same thing as feeding them grain and does it also cause ulcers?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. "SIlage" is primarily fermented grain stalks, such as corn and sorghum. Failed grain crops often go into silage whole, so would contain the grain too.

    If it causes ulcers in cattle I'd be very surprised, since cattle eat it in preference to just about anything else if they can get it. It's fed mostly to dairy cattle, not beeves (spelling intentional).

    I've looked at the innards of a lot of home-grown cattle and never noticed ulcers. Where did you hear this? This may be true of feedlot cattle, but I don't think it's grain that's causing the diseases.

    I don't like feedlot beef, but home-grown grain-fed beef is tastier than home-grown grass-fed beef. I'd say if you want more omega-3s in your diet, take a supplement. Grass-fed beef is what was available back in the 1800s, when everybody preferred pork, because the beef wasn't any good.

    12 Replies
    1. re: vtnewbie

      Agreed. While I support grass feeding for health reasons and for the independence of many small, hardworking producers, the relationship between grain feeding and the need for antibiotics is an urban myth scare tactic. Corn and grain feeding cattle predates antibiotics, and it has always produced better beef. In 17th and 18th century Europe, the grain fed cattle were reserved for the nobility. That said, commodity beef (almost all the beef you see, whether at the butcher or steakhouse or supermarket) is all administered a heavy bundle of antibiotics. Certain "brands," if you can find them, are antibiotic -free. Some are: Painted Hills, Brandt, Four Story Hill Farm, Wolfe's Neck or Pinelands, and Meyer/Coleman. Then there are smaller farms perhaps local to you who offer grain fed beef. A friend of mine raised cattle and left little troughs of corn feed our in the meadows where the animals grazed. Vtnewbie is right: you can bet they weren't feeding on the grass.

      1. re: almansa

        Totally disagree that grain feeding produces "better beef." The best steaks I've ever had in 50 years are grass fed. But you have to be selective om cjoosing a producer.

        1. re: mpalmer6c

          The "producer" is ME. Grain-fed home-grown is better. If you beg maybe you can get a farmer to part with some of his and learn something.

          1. re: vtnewbie

            What do you mean by "better?" Better for you or better tasting? If you mean better tasting, doesn't it come down to people's personal tastes?

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Yes, you're right. It's only my opinion that beef which is tenderer and less gamy is "better".

              1. re: vtnewbie

                Is your home-raised grain-fed beef "grain-fed" in the sense that feedlot beef is, though? Or is is more "grain-finished"/"grain supplemented"?

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  "grain finished" beef is feedlot beef. Grassfeeding can result in delicious beef, depending on the breed, but to pasture in general and expect a product that competes with grain fed beef, whether finished, supplemented or otherwise (though breed is also important), is a losing equation. I recently had a ribeye from a purebred belted galloway that was 100% pastured. I experienced a sensation similar to when I have my teeth and gums scraped at the dentist. The flavor of iron was overwhelming.

                  Admittedly I don't raise cattle, but I have friends that do - both ways. And I have consulted for several states' Depts of Agriculture concerning sustainable cattle farming and beef marketing, so I guess I'm not just an everyday consumer.

                  1. re: almansa

                    Well, home-raised grain-fed beef is by definition not "feedlot." There are vast differences in how long various beef cattle are fed grain: some are fed grain virtually their whole lives and never see a pasture; some are fed primarily grass and then fed grain only the last few months; some are fed "grass" in feedlots; some are pasture-raised for their whole lives. I'm just trying to figure out what kind of feeding regimen people who are raising "home-raised grain-fed" beef are using.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      For us it means buying a feeder calf and fattening it on corn and hay, until it reaches butchering size.

                      Cattle are farily inefficient in their digestion of grain. It's much cheaper to raise them on grass, but I don't like the results.

                2. re: vtnewbie

                  Ah well, tenderer I can get behind, though "less gamy" is a personal preference, I'm thinking. I like stronger tasting meats and gamy meats. :) So if the beef is gamier when it's grass fed, then that's for me! ;)

                  I've never done a real carefully planned out taste test using the same cuts and the same preparation at the same time. Maybe I'll give that a try when I buy my side of beef from a local grass-fed beef producer! Though finding a grain-fed cut... hmmm not sure where I'd find that.

                  1. re: vtnewbie

                    Yeah, I'm one of those strange people who prefer beef a little bit leaner. My favorite cut of beef growing up was eye or round (which is super lean). With the exception of steak, I prefer grass-fed. For some reason, I'm not a fan of grass-fed meat for steaks. But I'm also not a fan of kobe style beef. It may be very tender, but I don't find it very flavorful.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      Yes, odd isn't it that some people actually like pastured cattle (without the corn-based infusion of calories at the end to fatten it up as quickly as possible). It actually tastes like beef. Those Argentineans must not know anything. The statement following is just so wrong in so many ways. Did "everyone" really prefer pork? Some of our ancestors didn't even eat pork at all.

                      Grass-fed beef is what was available back in the 1800s, when everybody preferred pork, because the beef wasn't any good.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. I would suggest reading "_THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA_" by Michael Pollan. Then decide.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Quine

              Ever since vtnewbie asked me where I heard about the grain causing digestive problems for cattle, I have been trying to remember where I read it. Your post made me recall that I think it was "The Omnivore's Dilemma". Do you recall reading what I posted in that book?

              I have found all these posts enormously helpful. I intend to try grass-fed side-by-side with grain-fed asap. I will report what I observe personally.

              1. re: ponocat

                For goodness sake don't use feedlot beef as the grain-fed! You gotta splurge for the good stuff, or raise your own!

                Oh, by the way, my whole assumption during this debate has been that we're talking about the tender steaks and roasts - cuts you'd serve cooked no more than medium. If we're tossing in briskets, chuck roasts, and other long-cookers, then I'll agree that grass-fed is just fine for that.

                I hope you get some good eats in your experiment.

            2. The original comment has been removed