Consumers today are at least 3 generations removed from farming, yet they want to know more about their food now than ever before. As ranchers, this begs us to educate the public on the truth behind our industry. If not, they will get their information from somewhere else, and it just might not be fact based. For consumers, read on!
One issue I see a lot is shoppers deciphering the difference between “grass fed” and conventionally raised beef at the grocery store- that is all other beef that is not labeled “grass fed.” For starters, I am going to call it grass finished instead of grass fed, and you will soon see why.
This is a perfect example of advertising and how consumers search for product labeling, sometimes without truly knowing what it means. Many assume that if it doesn’t say “grass fed,” then that cow did not eat any grass. This is far from the truth.
In reality, ALL cows spend the majority of their life grazing on free-range grass.
A cow’s lifecycle starts at a cow calf operation, much like ours here at Zero Cattle Ranch. At the cow calf ranch, there are mama cows who have a baby once a year, as well as bulls to use during breeding season.
Before calves are a year old, the calves are weaned off of their mother. If they are being sold as grass fed beef, they will continue eating grass their entire life. Since grass is not a high protein feed, grass finished beef is typically tougher and leaner than traditionally raised beef, and they do not have the marbling that prime beef is known for. It also takes them much longer to gain weight on grass. Some research indicates that grass finished beef is actually harder on the environment because it requires more time, resources, and land to feed these cows as compared to conventionally raised beef.
If calves are being sold as conventionally raised beef, they will continue eating free range grass for a few months or even years after weaning before they are sold to a feed yard. Here they will eat a scientifically rationed high protein formula of corn and grains for around 90 days. Feedlots are heavily regulated by the USDA, and have vets on staff to ensure proper animal welfare. Animals have 24-hour access to food, water, and plenty of space to move around. This high protein diet creates a more tender, flavorful product due to the higher fat content, and the cows love it!
Regardless of the method cattle are raised, consumers can be assured that cattlemen operate to the highest standards of animal welfare and do not tolerate animal cruelty. Whether it is grass finished or grain finished, all beef is safe, wholesome, and full of vitamins and minerals! Eat more beef!