BY CHRISTINA MANOCCHIO

Now that summer has arrived, barbecue season is in full force. There are many choices for meat options to grill on the barbeque. There’s chicken, pork, beef, and even imitation meats.

But nothing beats a juicy, all-beef hamburger.

Grocery stores now give consumers a variety of beef options. There are titles such as grass-fed, organic, free-range and grain-fed. Even though these labels seem excessive at times, and so does the price, there are benefits to organic, grass-fed beef.

Grass-fed cattle diet consists of only grass, with limited-to-no grains. Because of their diet, these cattle take six to 12 months longer to grow to full size compared to grain-fed cattle. With the extra care and expense, that explains the price difference between grain-fed and grass-fed.

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According to the Canadian Organic Standards (COS), for an animal to be considered organic, its feed needs to be 40 per cent grain and 60 per cent forage (e.g. grass, hay). The feed cannot contain any hormones and prophylactic antibiotics.

Why buy grass-fed over grain? There are some health and nutrition benefits to spending the extra dough on the beef.

According to a report by Canada Beef, grass-fed beef is leaner in fat and calories compared to grain-fed beef (leaner by two to four grams per 100 grams of trimmed meat). Omega-3s are higher in grass-fed cattle than in grain-fed, but Omega-3s are still significantly higher in fish.

With higher alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in Omega-3s, consumers’ health is improved by lowering the risk of depression, heart disease, diabetes. According to the Globe and Mail, three ounces of grain-fed beef has about 20 milligrams of ALA. Grass-fed beef contains anywhere from 50 to 100 milligrams.

Beef production produces high amounts of greenhouse gasses, which isn’t great for the environment. But organic farming uses fewer fertilizers, pesticides and antibiotics, which is better for the grass and surrounding area.

There is an ethical benefit to eating grass-fed beef. Depending on the diet, grain diets can be tough on the cows’ digestive system. Their system is not made for grains, which can lead to painful stomach aches.

With all of these differences between the types of beef, what is the price difference? There are a lot of variants when it comes to beef pricing. Stock, demand, location can affect the price of beef. According to Consumer Reports, conventional beef costs an average of US$4.95 (CDN$6.80) per pound while organic costs US$5.62 (CDN$7.75) per pound, grass-fed is US$7.38 (CDN$10.17) per pound and grass-fed organic is US$7.83 (CDN $10.79) per pound.

When grocery shopping, there is a lot to consider. Do you spend a little extra on organic? Are the labels worth the extra cost?

Then there is the taste test, and it’s no contest – organic, grass-fed beef is well worth the extra cost. Light up your barbeque this summer-like and enjoy a patty.

LOOKING FOR THE BEST BURGER TAKEOUT JOINTS IN TORONTO? DIET BE DAMNED:

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(These are not traditional burger joints, but special mention goes to Stockyards Smokehouse, Bymark ($40 for the 8 oz. but it’s delicious), and Cherry Street Bar-B-Que.

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