Does pasture-fed beef live up to its marketing hype?
From both an ethical and a dietary perspective, yes. Pasture raising has displayed significant advantages in farming.
Pasture-based farming is widely considered a step up from conventional farming methods by animal welfare activists who believe battery farming to be cruel and unethical due to the appalling conditions animals are forced to live in.
Image source: humaneitarian.org
Factory farms are cramped and unsanitary and do not allow animals to behave as they would naturally. Such situation leads to breeders utilizing hormones and excessive antibiotics. In contrast, pastures are comparatively cleaner, thus making the spread of communicable diseases less likely, and allows animals to live out their lives. Antibiotic use is significantly reduced and often limited to when an animal needs veterinary attention.
Moreover, pastures have less of an issue disposing of the animals’ wastes. The wastes in the pasture are allowed to decompose to maintain its fertility.
The diet and behavior of the animals also result in a significant difference in the nutritional content of the meat, milk, and eggs derived from the animals. The meat from pasture-raised cattle, for instance, has less overall fat but has a higher percentage of omega-3 and other beneficial fatty acids, with pasture-fed meat having a more balanced ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s.
Image source: eatwild.com
Due to regional and breed variations, the meat of grass-fed animals would taste slightly different but often comes with herbaceous, mineral-rich flavor frequently absent from factory-farm raised animals.