The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines grass fed beef as follows:
“Grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. The diet shall be derived solely from forage consisting of grass (annual and perennial), forbs (e.g., legumes, Brassica), browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state. Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. Hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources may also be included as acceptable feed sources. Routine mineral and vitamin supplementation may also be included in the feeding regimen. If incidental supplementation occurs due to inadvertent exposure to non-forage feedstuffs or to ensure the animal’s well being at all times during adverse environmental or physical conditions, the producer must fully document (e.g., receipts, ingredients, and tear tags) the supplementation that occurs including the amount, the frequency, and the supplements provided.”
While this standard sounds great, the fine print really says it all. You can read the details here. The short version of this defines that in most cases there is no 3rd party verification that the animals have been fed grass or forage for 100% of their life. They may have been fed grass for the first 6 months of their life and confined in a feedlot eating silage, antibiotics, and other chemicals for the rest of their life. At Mesquite Field Farm we decided long ago that we were never going to follow the agri-business model for cattle production. We believe the agri-business model to be inhumane to the animals, horrible for the environment, dangerous to the food chain, and to those that consume it.
Why Grass Fed Beef?
There are many different reasons why grass fed beef is the choice for so many people. One of the primary reasons offered is the potential health benefits of grass fed beef versus grain fed beef usually associated with CAFO’s or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. For those of you that understand all of the acronyms and medical jargon, the Nutrition Journal performed research spanning three decades and published the following, “Research spanning three decades supports the argument that grass-fed beef (on a g/g fat basis), has a more desirable SFA lipid profile (more C18:0 cholesterol neutral SFA and less C14:0 & C16:0 cholesterol elevating SFAs) as compared to grain-fed beef. Grass-finished beef is also higher in total CLA (C18:2) isomers, TVA (C18:1 t11) and n-3 FAs on a g/g fat basis. This results in a better n-6:n-3 ratio that is preferred by the nutritional community. Grass-fed beef is also higher in precursors for Vitamin A and E and cancer fighting antioxidants such as GT and SOD activity as compared to grain-fed contemporaries.”¹
This is not the only report available that discusses the health benefits. The information is available every where. We will not attempt to sway the opinions of others related to research however, we will offer that when you find compelling information pro or con…follow the money…who paid for the research. It is quite interesting
Our reasons are simple. We know where our animals come from. We know how they were handled. We know what they eat. We know how they were processed. Most important…they taste Amazing!
1 Daley et al.: A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutrition Journal 2010 9:10. Found at: http://www.nutritionj.com/content/pdf/1475-2891-9-10.pdf