Last week while at a CommonGround conference I posted a blog post titled “Let’s Start A Conversation“. I figured since I was in a room full of farm women if anyone had any questions that would be a good time to get them answered!
The first question that was asked was about grass-fed and corn-fed beef from my online friend Mindy. She asked, “I was just recently having a conversation with a friend who places a monthly order for grass-fed beef. Can you explain the difference between how “conventional” beef and grass-fed beef are raised? Are cattle that are sold as “grass-fed” or “pasture-raised” ever fed grain before slaughter, that you know of? Thanks!”
This is a great question, one that I hear often! The answer is that nearly all beef cattle, whether they are raised organically or conventionally, spend the majority of their life on pasture eating grass. The term “grass-fed” or “corn-fed” only accounts for a 4-6 month period before the cattle are harvested.
|Cattle on pasture|
For example, on our farm, we have run a cow/calf operation which means that we have a bunch of mommy cows who give birth to calves (usually starting around this time of the year). In the spring they are turned out on pasture where they stay all spring and summer long, eating only grass. Then in the fall when it’s time to sell the calves, we will ween the calves from their moms and either sell them or feed them out ourselves. Usually they will go to a feedlot where they spend 4-6 months. Feedlots allow farmers to raise beef more efficiently with fewer natural resources like land, feed, and water. Feedlot cattle live in fenced areas that give them plenty of food, fresh water, and room to move around. This is where they are fed a scientifically formulated ration that averages 70-90 percent grain. That is what makes “corn-fed” beef.
|Cattle being fed a ration of grain|
Now when you see “grass-fed” beef in stores or restaurants, that just means that they were kept on pasture for their whole life and didn’t go to a feed lot the last 4-6 months.
It doesn’t matter if you buy corn-fed or grass-fed beef, know that you are buying healthy, nutritious meat! But if you ask a farmer who raises corn-fed beef, they will tell you that corn-fed has more flavor! US grain-fed beef has earned a worldwide reputation for its quality, consistency, and taste. It has tenderness and a rich flavor that taste tests show are important to consumers, according to the Beef USA website.
I hope that answers your question Mindy! If anyone has any others, please let me know!