Grass-Fed Beef

Cooking How-To, How-To
on June 29, 2006
Mark Boughton

Today there are about as many varieties of beef in the meat case as there are cereals in the cereal aisle. So how do you choose which is best for you? According to Mel Coleman Jr., a fifth-generation rancher who’s leading the charge for better beef, “natural” is best. He is chairman of Coleman Natural Meats, the company that brought “natural” beef to the American dinner table more than 25 years ago. His company’s meats are labeled “no antibiotics, no added hormones, no animal byproducts in feed and grass fed.” Why do these things matter?

  • Antibiotics. According to the Food and Drug Administration and the American Medical Association, antibiotic use in animal feed is of great concernbecause it may be creating human antibiotic resistance?meaning the drugs we need may not work when we need them.
  • Feed with animal byproducts. According to the science known today, vegetarian feed minimizes the risk of BSE (mad cow disease). BSE is caused by mixing animal byproducts back into the livestock feed.
  • Growth hormones. “They may make good economic sense,” says Coleman, “but they don’t make good common sense.” The European Union has banned all beef imports treated with growth hormones, saying they “raise a potential risk for consumers’ health.”

Just as Coleman and others like him are protecting humna health, they are also concerned with environmental issues. Most producers who raise natural cattle also follow sustainable agriculture practices–that is, they take care of the land as well as the animals. Laura’s Lean Beef says they manage their farms and ranches “so that the natural biological cycles of all resources (plants, trees, livestock, wildlife, water and soil)  are in sync with one another to the benefit of all.” A clean and natural feed supply keeps the environment and production sustainable.

If Mel Coleman and others like him have their druthers, the natural beef market will continue to grow. He believes that by raising cattle in a more natural, sustainable way he honors “the unwritten responsibility to our children and their children and all future generations”–and he may be helping us improve our health in the process.

Beef Basics

  • Organic: This type of meat comes from animals whose feed is certified organic, meaning there are no antibiotics, growth hormones, chemical pesticides or animal byproducts in their feed. These animals have at least seasonal access to pastures but are by no means required to be fed only grass.
  • Grass-fed: These animals are raised solely on their mother’s milk, grasses they graze on and hay. According to the American Grassfed Association (AGA), grass-fed cattle are lower in saturated fats and higher in essential nutrients. To be certified by the AGA, animals may not be given any antibiotics or hormones.
  • Conventional or Commercially Raised: This term refers to cattle raised in large-scale production on formulated feed, which is usually based on corn. This is most of the beef you buy at the grocery store. It tends to be more marbled with fat than grass-fed.
  • To find natural meat in your area, go to and
  • To download a handy wallet card listing the 29 leanest cuts of beef, go to

By Marge Perry, a writer in Tenafly, N.J.