The Importance of Grass-Fed Beef

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There are many reasons why grass-fed and grass-finished beef is important to modern agriculture, climate security, and nutritional health. 

Cattle are ruminants, which means they are one of the relatively few animals who can naturally and efficiently digest grass as their main food source.  By maintaining a grass-based management system, we can mimic natural grazing patterns, resulting in improved soil health, sequestered atmospheric carbon, and happy, healthy animals.  Our steers spend their entire growth period raised in our own pastures, ranging freely, and eating only our own hay and grasses.

Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Beef:
There are significant health reasons to eat grass-fed beef.  It has substantially less fat than conventional corn-fed beef, and the mix of fats is much healthier.  Grass-fed beef has more omega-6 acids, and also contains CLA and betacarotine, which are both considered “good fats”.  By contrast, corn-fed beef is generally high in “bad cholesterol”, and low in “good cholesterol”.

Grass:  Nature’s Super-Plant
Grass has an amazing ability to thrive under disturbance, which is why it recovers so quickly when it is munched on by cattle and harvested by our haying machinery.  Grass plants spend their lives sucking Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere and use it to grow new leaves and roots.  Each time a well-managed pasture is grazed or a hay field is mowed, the contentedly recovering plants shed a great deal of their root mass to conserve energy while they re-grow.  Over decades of management with minimal tillage, our meadows can pull greenhouse gasses (carbon dioxide) out of the atmosphere and store it long-term in the soil, all the while increasing biodiversity and producing nutritious grass-based food products for us humans to enjoy.  (This is also why methane emissions from grass-fed cattle aren’t a problem – it comes from the carbon dioxide that the grass pulled out of the atmosphere in the first place!)

Our “Beef” with Conventional Feedlots:
In comparison with grass-fed, today almost all beef sold in restaurants and supermarkets is from corn-fed cattle raised in large feedlots.  These cattle spend the last third to half of their lives in a crowded pen eating a
 mixture of corn, alfalfa, liquefied fat, synthetic estrogen, liquid vitamins, proteins (mostly molasses and urea) and rumensin and tylosin (both antibiotics).  The heavy concentration of corn makes the feedlot diet highly acidic, which destroys a steer’s stomach and liver, hence the growth supplements needed to speed the steer to maturity and the antibiotics to keep it alive in the meantime.  By 14 months, the steer will weigh more than 1,200 pounds and be ready for slaughter, having consumed feed (mostly grain) that is extremely energy intensive to produce, transport, and process, in vast cropping systems that routinely degrade soil health through an abundance of tillage and chemical spraying.

Unfortunately, a shorter growth period and government corn subsidies make corn-fed beef remarkably cheap and available year round.  Grass-fed beef is generally more expensive to market since it takes about 6 months longer to mature.  However, its distinctive favor and full-bodied taste distinguish it from the corn-fed beef found in most restaurants and supermarkets, and is a vital tool for regenerating our farming landscape and climate.

For more information on any of our products or practices, email us at: farmjam@msn.com