(NPN) - These days eating healthier is actually hip and if meat is part of your diet you've probably heard the term "grass-fed beef."
But what does that mean exactly? What are the benefits? And does it cost more?
When Helen Driscoll shops for beef, she looks for the grass-fed label on the package or requests it from the butcher.
"Grass-fed means 100 percent grass fed from the time it was born to the time that it meets a humane death," Jonny Bowden, who is a board certified nutrition specialist, said.
The thing is, the USDA tells us there's "no official regulatory definition or federal standard for grass-fed." But the agency does regulate the labeling of the term.
For a company to claim, "grass-fed or 100 percent grass-fed" the animals could not have been fed grain or grain byproducts and must have had continuous access to pasture during the growing season.
"Consumers should care very much about whether or not their beef is grass fed or not because grass-fed beef is, if you'll excuse the pun, an entirely different animal from factory farmed beef," Bowden said.
Some studies say grass-fed beef is healthier than grain fed, but keep in mind "grass -ed" is a different claim than "raised without antibiotics or steroids." And grass-fed does not mean organic.
There are some private certifications you can look for on beef, like the "American Grassfed Association," which experts tell us has stricter standards. Grass-fed meat may cost you a bit more.
"Grass-fed meat is more expensive than factory farming. That's just a fact of life. It takes a lot longer to raise an animal," Bowden said.
Driscoll says if she can't find "grass-fed" beef in a store or restaurant, she skips meat all together. "For that meal, I'm a vegan. It's going to be all vegetables," she said.
If you see a label that says "grass finished" that means the cow must be raised on grain and then finish out its growing period eating grass.