What's so great about Grass Fed Beef?

What's so great about Grass Fed Beef?

Grass-fed beef has a reputation for being much more flavourful than Feedlot cattle, and there are two reasons for that: diet and age. The old adage ‘you are what you eat’ is very true for cattle, and when they are fed on corn or barley only, like on the feedlots, the end result is a flat, flavour profile. As food is broken down in the cattle’s stomach, it creates different chemicals that get distributed through the animal’s tissue which effect the flavour of the meat. A complex diet will result in a high-quality, complex flavour. Pastured, grass-fed beef has access to many different types of grass and plant matter and therefore has a much higher flavour profile.
In addition, grass-fed cattle take almost twice as long to gain weight. The target weight is usually around 1200 pounds. Since grass-fed beef gain weight slower, they are older than the rapidly fattened feedlot cattle when they go to slaughter. As the cow lives longer and eats better, the meat develops a superior flavour that younger feedlot animals can’t match, as they don’t have the natural flavor complexities that come with age.

Grass fed is more than just better tasting – its safer for you too!

 In nature, cattle would never eat a grain-heavy diet like what is provided to them at finishing lots. When a cow eats grain, be it corn or barley or other seeds, it isn’t properly digested: their stomachs are naturally designed to let the seeds pass through. In order for the cattle to digest the feed at finishing lots, the grains have to be processed mechanically or chemically first.

The result is a change in the microbial make-up in the stomach from the shift in the animal’s diet from what it would naturally eat to a grain heavy diet. Some microbes aid in digestion, but the diet provided by feedlots allows for the growth of less desirable bacteria like E. Coli. It gets passed out of their stomachs into their manure, which they are often standing in, and from there on to their pelts and the pelts of the other nearby cattle. Extreme care must be taken to ensure that not a speck of that manure touches the processed meat – it’s a perfect home for the E. Coli. But feedlot cattle are often slaughtered and processed by the thousands in a single day, and if one side of beef becomes contaminated, that contamination can spread. When you hear news stories about millions of pounds of ground beef being recalled, it is often because a single contaminated carcass was ground along with thousands of others that were uncontaminated beforehand and it was spread through the whole batch.

If instead the cattle are left to pasture and roam freely, they will be less crowded and confined, which helps to protect from the hazard of contamination. Grass-fed beef also retains the natural balance of microbes in its stomachs, so it has fewer nasty bacteria in its manure in the first place.

Grass fed beef is better for the environment as well.

 A finishing lot goes through huge amounts of grain in the process of fattening up cattle. Often they are fed what are known as Monocrops – crops like corn and soybeans that are grown in the same plot year after years. Monocrop farmers have to apply huge amounts of artificial fertilizers each year, as well as using extra pesticides and herbicides.

There is an environmental impact not just from the monocropping but also from tilling the soil: it is the number one culprit for carbon release from the soil, and repeated tilling also depletes the organic material in the soil. For corn and most grain, soil needs to be tilled every year. Conversely, in a pastured system, the animals aren’t dependent on an annual crop - they eat a naturally occurring crop that rejuvenates itself every year. Since tilling isn’t necessary, carbon in the soil isn’t released. A well managed pasture will actually trap carbon just by virtue of growing.

It is a scientific fact that the carbon sequestration from responsibly managed rotational grazing offsets any the methane production from the animals. The methane production of a cow is a nonissue, provided that it is living in its natural habitat and eating its natural diet - grass. In fact, allowing cattle to graze on grasslands sequesters more carbon than merely allowing the grass to grow wild. As the cattle graze and leave their manure behind, they prompt continuous grass growth, sequestering more and more carbon. While lobbyists and the like often attack the cattle industry, it is feedlot beef specifically that produces problematic amounts of carbon.

Grass fed is better for the Cattle too!

Every concern about feedlot beef can be linked to animal welfare in one way or another. Feedlot calves go from auction to a backgrounding feedlot where the calf is fed on a diet meant to build muscle mass rapidly until they reach approximately 800 lbs. From there, the cattle go to a finishing lot. Their new diet at the finishing lot is carbohydrate and sugar intensive, so as to fatten the animals rapidly and product marbled meat. The short-cuts taken to bring feedlot cattle up to slaughter weight as fast as possible are problematic for the animals. The objective of the feedlot is to bring animals up to the required weight for slaughter as fast as possible with little regard for the way the animal would have naturally grown – it’s an industrial process, less about raising cattle and more about producing a large quantity of product quickly.

Pastured cattle are in their natural habitat and free to roam with the herd, with shelter from bad weather and their natural diet accessible. It is representative of the natural order of things with human intervention only to make the process more efficient, not to try to control nature’s path or force early results. By reflecting the path a cow’s life would naturally take, grass-fed cattle live a happier, healthier life that produces a high-quality product and doesn’t cause the environmental and health issues that feedlots experience.

Getaway Farm prides itself on providing grass-fed beef. For the sake of the animals, our environment, and our health.
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