Whether you follow an anti-inflammatory, autoimmune protocol, or Paleolithic style of eating, grass fed meat is a high quality protein staple of these diets. Beef contains every amino acid to build cells, repair tissue, form antibodies to fight off infection and disease, and so much more, making this food one to work in regularly. Nutrition is the most low cost and low risk intervention we can utilize right from the get-go when working on healing our bodies naturally. (Source)
However, when transitioning to a whole foods diet, you may find yourself a bit shocked at the price of grass fed meat in comparison to conventional proteins. In this article, we’ll be looking into how you can regularly eat — and enjoy the health benefits of — grass fed meat, without breaking the bank.
Grass Fed Versus Conventional Meat
The term grass fed refers to how cattle are fed and cared for through their lifetime. Grass fed cattle, once weaned from their mother, roam on grass pastures year round, consuming only approved vegetative matter until they are slaughtered. Their diet may include grass; flowering plants known as forbs; tender stems, twigs, and leaves known as browse; and cereal grain plants before they begin producing seeds. According to USDA regulations, grass fed cattle may not be fed any grains or grain by-products. (Source)
In contrast, conventionally raised cattle are given feed that is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may be medicated to treat, control, or prevent illness in the animals, as well as to increase growth and productivity. Drugs mixed into cattle feed must be approved and kept at specific levels to be considered safe for the animal and consumer. Keep in mind that whatever your food source has consumed, you consume also. (Source, Source)
Benefits of Grass Fed Meat
Knowing where your food comes from is important in your healing journey as you work to decrease inflammation and improve your health. Studies have shown that grass fed meat is lower in saturated fats and higher in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in regulating immune health by reducing inflammation and treating inflammatory disorders.
Grass fed meat has been shown to have higher amounts of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA, DPA, and DHA. While omega-6 fats are also beneficial to health, the American diet tends to be out of balance, containing outsized proportions of omega-6 and coming up short on omega-3 fats. Consuming grass fed meat can help boost your omega-3 intake and provide a healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. (Source, Source, Source)
Grass Fed Meat and Your Budget
When utilizing food as medicine, it’s important to consume high quality foods that support your body’s healing process — but you shouldn’t have to get a second job to pay for them. Grass fed meat has a bad rap for being too expensive, but thankfully this isn’t completely factual. When budgeting grass fed meat into your weekly grocery trip, it’s all about knowing what cuts of meat to look for and where to find them.
Ground beef has always been a great go-to when you’re not sure what to make for dinner, because not only are the options endless but it’s also quite easy to prepare. Not only can this cut of meat be made into countless meals for small and large groups, but it also is pretty easy on the wallet.
Ground beef was “invented” when butchers realized there was leftover meat scraps to use up after cutting the animal into steaks and roasts. These meat scraps consisted of lean and fatty pieces that were combined to be turned into what we know as ground beef. Ground beef today is more than just combined meat scraps, instead it is a blend of higher quality cuts of meat such as sirloin, brisket, chuck, and round. So enjoy those paleo tacos, stir fries, juicy bunless burgers, and meatballs with grass fed beef from your local grocer or, even better, your local farmer, and save some money while you’re at it! (Source)
Is your mind blown yet? Yes, steak can fit into your budget, too! Three cuts in particular — skirt steak, flat iron steak, and cube steak — are all delicious, all nutritious, and can all be grass fed. What do these steaks have in common? They are all thin and flavorful cuts of meat. These thinner cuts of meat, specifically skirt and cube steak, may be made more tender by marinating for a short period of time, whereas flat iron steak has more marbling and is therefore more tender naturally.
Due to their thinness all can be cooked rather quickly, so they are great proteins to utilize for a quick meal. Even though you won’t be enjoying a thick and juicy steak on the regular, you can still enjoy a skinnier version of sirloin, round, and shank cuts if you choose to enjoy these three cuts of affordably-priced meat. These steaks may be thinner but the meal options are many, making these grass fed meats a cut above the rest.
Sourcing Grass Fed Meat
When choosing to ethically and sustainably consume grass fed meat for better health, you have so many options you may not know where to start. There are options for you even if you don’t happen to live in a location that offers local grass fed meat, and even If you’re too busy to search your grocery stores. Sourcing grass fed meat is attainable no matter where you live, what kind of time you have, or what your budget is.
Local Meat Sourcing
If you’re unsure of where you can find grass fed meat locally, check out The American Grassfed Association and EatWild. Whether it’s from a local farm or a farmer’s market you can access weekly, you should have a few cuts of meat to choose from. When buying locally it’s never a bad idea to dive in deeper and get to know your farmers. This way you can be sure the meat is high quality, 100% grass fed, and ethically and sustainably sourced — so start those conversations and get to know where your food comes from!
Consider Meat Shares
Local meat shares may also be a good option for you to source budget-friendly grass fed meats in bulk. Meat shares are similar to community-supported agriculture (CSA), in which farmers provide produce on a regular basis to people who pay a set fee. EatWild, mentioned above, can help you locate meat shares in your area.
The main benefits of a meat share are buying in bulk, supporting local farmers, and knowing where your meat comes from and how it was raised. You can order a specific amount of an animal — anywhere from a quarter to a whole — and customize your cuts of meat so you only order what you will use. Cuts can range from steaks and roasts to ground beef, and possibly organ meats as well.
Meat shares are usually budget friendly because you’re buying in bulk, but it’s a good idea to plan out where you’ll store your grass fed eats. If you have room for a second freezer you’ll be golden to store all that extra meat. If you don’t have that option a meat share may not be the best choice for you, which leads us to our next option: a meat delivery service.
Meat Delivery Services
The next best thing to sourcing grass fed meat locally is finding a dependable delivery service that will deliver the goods right to your doorstep. When searching for a meat delivery service, you want to make sure they are ethically, sustainably, and affordably providing you the highest quality grass fed meat they have to offer. Butcher Box, Misfits Market, and US Wellness Meats are meat delivery service options you can trust to provide an array of cuts to fit your budget.
Butcher Box is a monthly subscription box that provides a variety of meat cuts to choose from when customizing your order. They are a nose-to-tail operation, meaning every part of the animal is used, and their meat is 100% grass fed. Customizing your box each month with different cuts of meat can provide lots of variety in your meals as well. The AIP and paleo diets prioritize protein, so mixing up your meals often with different cuts of meat is important for sustainably following these diets.
Misfits Market not only provides high quality cuts of grass fed meat, but also promises to cut your grocery bill almost in half. You can customize your weekly order through Misfits by simply choosing whatever cuts of meat they have available that particular week. Though you may not find the same cuts week after week, you will always find quality meats (and lots of other fresh, organic foods!) that are delivered like clockwork to your door every 7 days. If you live in a location that doesn’t have a lot of meat and fresh food choices, Misfits Market might be the right fit for you.
US Wellness Meats
US Wellness Meats provides high quality grass fed meats right to your door, and has a whole variety of organ meats to choose from as well. If you know anything about organ meats, you know they are a great addition to your diet! Organ meats are usually cheaper and extremely nutrient dense, so you don’t have to eat a lot to get everything you need. When you’re eating a diet heavy in meat, mixing in organ meats regularly will not only help your budget, but your overall health as well.
Benefits of Organ Meats
Organ meats may include liver, kidney, heart, brain, and tongue, and have shown to be quite nutrient dense. These meats are high in:
- vitamins A, D, E, and K
- B-complex vitamins
- essential minerals, including zinc, selenium, and magnesium
- alpha-lipoic acid
It’s important to keep in mind that organ meats are also high in cholesterol and saturated fat, and should be eaten in moderation. (Source)
The Bottom Line On Sourcing and Affording Grass Fed Meat
Grass fed meat is a protein staple of the AIP diet, and for good reason. This type of meat is nutrient dense and contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which support your immune system by decreasing inflammation. Grass fed meat has a reputation for being expensive but savvy sourcing can make it more affordable. Consider what local resources you may have, then weigh your options to outsource if necessary. Either way, there are many options for fitting this nutritious food into your diet and budget. Learn how WellTheory can support you in using food as medicine and get guidance and support from a WellTheory Nutritional Therapy Practitioner to manage your inflammation and autoimmune symptoms.