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Is the Higher Cost of Grass-fed vs. Grain-fed Beef Worth It?

Studies show that grass-fed beef is indeed worth the extra green.

One of the major benefits of skipping takeout and cooking at home is saving money, so you're forgiven for throwing some side-eye at the price of a grass-fed rib eye.

Grass-fed beef is supposed to be better for you, but it's less wallet-friendly than whatever Sam the Butcher has on special: Grass-fed ground beef can run about $9.99 a pound to conventional beef's $2.99 and "natural" ground beef's $7.99. So, is it really worth the extra seven dollars a pound?

Should you make the splurge?

In short: Yes!

Grass-fed Beef Has Fewer Calories

Grass-fed beef is naturally leaner and has fewer calories than traditional meat. Why? Grass-fed animals graze on greens, while conventionally raised animals are fattened up with corn and grain. Yup, carb bloat is a thing for cattle too. A lean seven-ounce conventional strip steak has 386 calories and 16 grams of fat. But a seven-ounce grass-fed strip steak has only 234 calories and five grams of fat. Fewer calories to burn means you might have to spend less time at the gym. How much is your time worth?

Grass-fed Beef Has Super Nutrients

And when it comes to burning fat and building muscle, grass-fed beef gives you a boost: It's high in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a healthy fat that encourages your body to burn fat for fuel instead of muscle by turning off a fat-storage enzyme called LDL. Less muscle burnt means more muscle growth.

Still concerned about the cost? Ask yourself: How much would you pay for a burger that'll make you happy and lose your belly? Grass-fed beef's high level of CLA burns abdominal fat by dialing down cortisol, a nasty stress hormone which, at high levels, gives you that worry about buying bigger pants. To boost your mood, try grass-fed option lamb. It's packed with iron, a nutrient vital for a stable mood — the areas of the brain related to mood and memory contain the highest concentrations of iron.

Grass-fed Beef is an Excellent Source of Protein

You know that protein is essential for bulking your biceps, and grass-fed beef is one of the best sources of protein you can buy. A four-ounce strip steak has 133 calories and 26 grams of protein. Other advantages of protein: It keeps your metabolism high and maintains your brain men should aim for 56 grams a day; women, 46.

Grass-fed Beef Contains Anti-Inflammatory Fats

Grass-fed beef is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Some quality cuts are even higher in omega-3s than salmon! Men should get 1,600 mg daily, and a six-ounce steak will corral you 160 mg.

How to Buy Your Beef

Make sure your beef is 100% grass-fed. Look for the labels Animal Welfare Approved Grassfed, American Grassfed Association, Demeter Biodynamic, or Food Alliance Grassfed. Don't assume that "USDA Organic" is the same as grass-fed — organic beef could have been "finished" with grain. ("Pastured" is another sneaky term that isn't necessarily the same as grass-fed.)

And as always, be mindful of portion size. One serving is about the size of a deck of cards or the size of your fist.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael