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Does Grass Fed Beef Smell Different? Here’s The Truth

by Jackson White

In today’s world of health conscious consumers looking for healthy alternatives to their favorite foods, one food stands above all others as offering an excellent solution – grass fed beef! But does grass fed beef taste any better than grain fed beef? When you buy grass fed beef from your local grocery store or supermarket do they sell cattle on feedlots where corn is grown instead of grazing native pastures? If so what happens when those cows eat corn or soy based diets? Is this why grass fed beef smells different than grain fed beef? It may surprise you just how often these questions come up in my conversations with people interested in learning about eating healthier, organic, free range meats. So let me start by clearing the air right away…there really isn’t much difference between grass fed and grain fed beef aside from the way each type was raised. This doesn’t mean that either option is unhealthy or unsafe, but rather it means that some other factors contribute to differences in flavor.

So if we’re going to talk about whether grass fed beef has a distinctive odor, then yes it definitely does, however most people who have never tried them don’t notice the difference. There are several reasons for this including 1) our noses aren’t trained enough to pick out subtle scent nuances like humans are capable of doing, 2) the scents themselves are quite similar (grass vs hay), 3) even grass fed animals will sometimes eat grains such as corn which could potentially affect the overall aroma, 4) the meat itself might not actually emit a distinct odor due to its leanness. However, if you’ve ever had a chance to try both types of beef side-by-side then you’ll probably find that they differ somewhat. Most people describe the smell of grass fed beef being earthy while grain fed beef tends to have a lighter, fresher character. One thing you should keep in mind though is that not everyone perceives things exactly the same way, especially when dealing with complex aromas. For example, my husband described grass fed beef as smelling “like fresh cut grass” whereas another person said it smelled like “hay”. While I agree that both options have unique odors, it’s also true that neither is necessarily bad or good depending upon personal preferences. Just remember that no matter what someone else tells you, only YOU can determine what tastes best to you. That’s truly the beauty of having choices available at your fingertips!

– Grass Fed Beef Smells Different Than Grain Fed Beef – Here’s Why
There are numerous theories as to why grass fed animals produce a stronger, earthier flavored beef product compared to grain fed animals. Some say that during the growing season grasses release volatile oils into the environment that influence the flavor of the finished product. Others think that since grass fed animals consume mostly plants, minerals and water, their bodies contain fewer bacteria and parasites than grain fed animals therefore resulting in less putrefaction and decay. Since grass fed animals are allowed to roam freely in large fields, they typically graze longer periods of time per day and spend more time outdoors than their grain fed counterparts. Many farmers believe that allowing a cow to graze longer leads to higher levels of CLA – a fatty acid believed to help prevent cancer. Finally, studies show that grass fed cows tend to produce milk containing omega-3 fats and vitamin E while grain fed cows produce lower amounts of these nutrients. Now that we understand why grass fed beef produces a stronger, fuller flavoring, here’s the next big question…is it safe to purchase grass fed products over grain fed ones? Absolutely! There hasn’t been a single case reported anywhere around the globe showing negative consequences to consuming grain fed beef products. On the contrary, research shows that people who regularly ate grain fed beef were found to be suffering from heart disease and obesity more frequently than those who chose to eat grass fed beef. Studies conducted by Dr. Colin Campbell showed that Americans who consumed high quantities of grain fed beef experienced significantly increased rates of colon cancer and breast cancers. As a result, he recommends limiting consumption of red meat, particularly processed red meat, to once or twice weekly. He believes that the benefits of red meat outweigh any potential risks associated with certain strains of harmful microbes present in some animal proteins.

Now that you know that buying grass fed beef is generally safer than buying grain fed beef, you still need to make sure you select USDA certified organic products whenever possible because non-organic grass fed beef is often treated with antibiotics and pesticides. Also, make sure the pasture land used to raise the cows contains nothing toxic or dangerous, otherwise the cows’ immune systems won’t function properly causing reduced quality of life throughout their lives. Additionally, always look for the words “free-range” or “pasture-raised” on labels to ensure that the cows were indeed able to enjoy green pastures year round.

– The Surprising Truth About Grass Fed Beef Smell
One last point before moving onto the next topic. Although I mentioned earlier that most experts don’t perceive a major difference between grass fed and grain fed beef aside from the fact that grass fed animals tended to live healthier lifestyles, there is one additional reason why grass fed beef seems to smell slightly richer. Actually, scientists discovered that the secret lies within the cells of grassfed cows. They found that the fat content of grassfed beef produced compounds called conjugated linoleic acids (CLA). These chemicals assist in fighting off diseases and infections which makes sense given that grass fed cows naturally ingest plenty of roughage and fiber. Another interesting finding was that although both grass fed and grain fed beef contained CLA, the amount found in grass fed beef was far greater. So if you prefer a strong, full bodied beef flavor, then choose grass fed over grain fed simply because of the presence of CLA.

Do You Notice A Difference In The Smell Of Grass Fed And Grain Fed Beef?
If you haven’t already done so, please take 30 seconds now to rate how accurately you perceived the statement “Grass fed beef smells differently from grain fed beef.” Chances are you answered incorrectly unless you happen to have a highly sensitive nose. Unless you’re extremely fortunate, chances are you didn’t correctly identify both statements because grass fed beef can vary considerably across farms. So it would be wise to seek out reviews online to learn more about specific producers and see whether anyone has noticed a noticeable scent variation. Even if you decide that grass fed beef doesn’t appeal to you, consider trying grain fed beef sometime anyway. Once you become accustomed to it, you might begin to appreciate its own uniqueness. After all, every choice comes down to preference, right?

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