When we think of grassfed beef, we picture a bucolic scene of cows grazing on lush green fields. However, not all grassfed beef is grown the same.
Grassfed is a very subjective term. There are many different scenarios where beef could be labeled grassfed. Unfortunately, labels can be misleading sometimes. Not all beef labeled “Grassfed” is grown naturally (including some products with the government’s “Organic” stamp.)
Here are a few different types of Grassfed Beef for you to consider:
- Grassfed from weaning until finished
- Grassfed up until the last couple of months, and then fed grain (commonly labeled “Grain-finished”)
- Grassfed from weaning with supplemental grain for it’s entire life (could also be labeled “Grainfed”)
The thing about feeding grain to cows is that their bodies weren’t designed to digest it. It’s like feeding candy to them. If you give too much candy to a kid, they’re not going to eat the nutritious food they need and will likely get sick. The same goes for cows. They were created with multiple chambers in their stomachs to breakdown forage (grass, weeds, etc.). When fed grain, the cow’s body becomes more conducive to acidosis, which can lead to illness or death. In contrast, cattle fed an all-grass diet have much higher levels of conjugated lineolic acid (CLA). Studies show that higher levels of CLA provide a host of health benefits.
In addition to the grain-fed question, there are some additional fundamental questions that should be asked when seeking the best quality grassfed beef:
- Do the cows spend any time on a feedlot or are they raised on grass from birth?
- What is the quality of the grass that is being grazed?…Meaning, what kind of grass is the cow eating? Is it sprayed with chemical fertilizers and/or herbicides or is the grass grown organically?
- How often are the cows rotated to new paddocks?
- Do the cows live a low-stress, happy life?
This is a lot for the average consumer to research and sometimes this information is not easily attained, especially when buying from a big box store. This is why it’s imperative to KNOW YOUR FARMER. When you have a good relationship with your farmer, it’s easy to find out how your food is grown.
To make sure we’re clear on things, here’s the skinny on Grassfed Beef from Chicory Hill Farm:
- Our cows are raised on pasture for their entire lives and eat nothing but what they can find in the pasture. They get a good mixture of fescue with many natural grasses and weeds. We do not feed grain to our cows!
- We rotate them to new a new paddock every day during the growing season (April-October/November)
- We never use commercial fertilizer or herbicides on our grass.
- Our cows live happy lives and it shows in the quality of the beef we produce.
I am always happy to answer questions. Feel free to reach out any time!