Yes, I know that we should have grass-fed, not grain-fed, beef.
But lets assume that we can't reasonable get any access to grass-fed beef. For example, here (in Argentina), 80% of the beef is grain-fed AND there is no labeling nor differentiation between grain-fed and grass-fed. So you never know if you're eating grain or grass-fed beef, but it's probably grain-fed. We use some shorthands and proxies to try to guess (how yellow is the fat; how expensive is it; etc) but they are not especially accurate and fundamentally, in Argentina, you really never know if it's grass or grain fed. So I would guess that the vast majority of meat I eat is, unfortunately, grain-fed, no matter how much I try.
So I'm wondering: how bad is this?
In other words, lets assume that all the beef available is grain-fed. With that assumption: is it worse to eat a lot of grain-fed beef -- or no beef at all? Should I then only eat limited quantities of (this grain-fed) beef and just have lots of other paleo-ish foods instead? Or...?
How do I survive as paleo in a world of only grain-fed beef! Please help! :)
CLARIFICATION: since many of you expressed surprise at my stats above, I want to clarify: I know the grass-fed rancher community here quite well, and this issue is publicized here all the time. Basically, 15 years ago, it was 90+% grass-fed; today it is about 20% grass-fed. The information in wikipedia is just outdated (I remember about 6 years ago, everyone was talking about how it is 50% grass-fed) -- over the last decade, Argentina has adopted many of the modern American methods, unfortunately. Note that the 20% who are resistant to it are quite strong and building up a "traditional argentine" beef culture, the good restaurants only serve grass-fed, and I'm helping start-up an initiative to label the grass-fed beef, etc...
I was under the impression that most Argentinian beef was grass-fed so I am very surprised to hear the exact opposite from a local. (I just checked Wikipedia and it states clearly that most beef is grass-fed? (Interesting disconnect? I believe what you are experiencing Morgan but I'm wondering what's going on? Are you isolated in a small town perhaps?)
I would try to connect to the "whole foods" movement locally and try to buy directly from the farmer or as directly as possible. I think avoiding CAFO meat is a must (assuming they have CAFO there). After that I would just keep trying to get as close to the farmer as you can so you can actually know what the farm practices are and don't need to rely on a label.
For myself I would eat grain fed beef if I was assured it was not factory farmed but I would cut back on my intake some probably in favor of more fatty fish.
It really depends on how rigidly you want to enforce "paleo" in your life ...
Whole9, Perfect Health Diet (and I assume several of the other variations) understand that not everyone can get hold of or afford high quality grass fed beef. Whole9's fallback follows one of Michael Pollan's food rules: "Pay more, eat less." Find the highest quality pastured meat you can afford, if you can't get any pastured meat, get the highest quality meat you can afford and remember to get your coconut oil and enough Omega 3 fats to offset the higher level of Omega 6 fats -- in other words, eat more fish (which, again, is dependent on availability).
Whole9 lays out their shopping guidelines for people trying to make their dollar stretch:
Edit: and Whole9 also has a conscientious seafood buying guide:
My understanding, here in the US, all cows are initially raised on grass, then finished for a few months on grain, which is when the fatty acid balance gets deranged. But beef tends to retain quite a bit of omega-3 from when they were young and eating grass... at least compared to poultry & pork.
What I would do is to eat some beef and some fatty wild fish for the higher omega-3 content. Not exactly limited quantities of beef, but I wouldn't be cooking with grain-fed lard or choosing super fatty cuts or anything. And I would limit industrially produced poultry and pork, since both of those are going to have a worse balance than beef or fish.
And to be fair, a lot of people have trouble sourcing or affording exclusively grass-fed... in our house we're maybe 50-50 on beef, we get mostly pastured poultry & eggs and I haven't found a good source for pork yet, so we eat industrial raised pork and just try to limit it. In a dream world it wouldn't be so hard to source clean meats, but you can make smart(er) choices with what you have available.
I thought any good fish oil supplements were good enough. Or a can of sardines every day. A serving of mackerel. It doesn't take much.
I'm on a grain-fed meat diet, supplemented like that. It's a problem with my county, not my country. I see grass-fed beef on the store shelves, but it's triple the price, I never buy it.
I ain't dead yet.
It's not a grass-fed/grain-fed dichotomy. It's a grass-fed to CAFO spectrum. Certainly there are grain-fed cattle out there that aren't CAFO beef, these grain-fed cattle are arguably healthier than some grass-fed counterparts. The problem isn't grain per se, it's a diet that is made up of a majority of grain.
I'm sure you can find ethically, humanly and naturally raised beef, even if it is fed some healthy amount of grain.