Grass-fed Beef: A Whole Other Animal

Cows grazing at Forstbauer Family Natural Food Farm

Cows grazing at Forstbauer Family Natural Food Farm


Marbling, juiciness and tenderness are typically regarded as markers of a great steak, but lately that seems to be changing. The rich, fatty and often incredibly large servings of beef are being pushed off many people’s plates and replaced with much leaner protein from the same species – grass-fed beef.


As people begin to understand how an animal’s diet affects the overall nutrition of its meat, the demand for quality, ethically, naturally raised meat continues to rise.


Mary Forstbauer, owner/operator of Forstbauer Family Natural Food Farm, a biodynamic organic farm that raises 100% grass-fed cattle, can attest to this. She says that many people are beginning to make the switch from the “conventionally” raised grain-fed beef lining supermarket shelves to grass-fed beef from local B.C. farms.


“More and more people want grass-fed beef because…it is healthier for them,” Forstbauer said. Not only is grass-fed beef a lot better for the consumer, it is a lot healthier for the cattle as grass is their traditional diet before the onslaught of grain-focused feedlots. “The animals are usually happier,” Forstbauer said. “They graze. It’s a natural life for them rather than when they are put in barns and locked up.” Forstbauer explained that consuming grain is extremely harsh on cows’ stomachs (they have four) because of its protein content, and can result in high levels of E. coli in the gut and ultimately, the meat.


Although it is popping up in butcher shops, restaurants and farmers’ markets, the increase in demand doesn’t seem to be resulting in a decrease in cost. Grass-fed beef is generally sold for twice the price of grain-fed beef. While farmers of grass-fed beef save money by not purchasing expensive grain feed, they require a larger land base so the cows can graze. The yield of sellable meat is also less, as the meat contains about a third of the fat of regular beef. Another reason for the high price tag is that grass-fed cattle take longer to raise as they aren’t receiving fattening grains that quickly add heft to the animals. “They are raising meat, they’re not raising cattle,” Forstbauer said of feedlots whose focus is to bulk up cattle for slaughter in as little time as possible.


While it may be pricey, many consumers of grass-fed beef argue that because the meat is far more nutrient dense and flavourful than grain-fed beef, a lot less is needed to satiate the average palate. “You can eat 4 ounces and it is a filling meal whereas when you eat a (grain-fed) 10 ounce steak you still feel like you haven’t had enough,” Forstbauer said. Flavour wise, grass-fed beef is a whole other animal. It has a complex, gamey flavour similar to venison and distinctive grassy scent. The meat is much leaner than grain-fed beef and the fat is a rich, golden hue. Because of its unique characteristics, grass-fed beef should be cooked a little differently than fattier grain-fed beef.


“One of the problems people have with grass-fed beef is that it is dry but that is because they are cooking it too high and too fast”, Forstbauer said. Lower heat and longer cooking times should be used so as not to dry out or toughen the meat.


When purchasing grass-fed beef, be sure it is 100% grass-fed. Since there is no labelling standard, beef is often marketed as grass-fed even if it has been grain finished.


Where to buy 100% grass-fed beef in Vancouver:

Vancouver Summer Farmers Market -100% grass-fed beef from Forstbauer farms can be purchased frozen at several Vancouver Farmers Markets. For more information visit

Pasture-to-Plate – 1420 Commercial Drive;

The Butcher – 4529 West 10th Avenue;

Home on the Range Organics – by order; visit for pick-up points



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