The Grass-Fed Bandwagon

It seems grass-fed meat is all the rage these days and that’s not a bad thing. Yes, the labeling can be deceptive. MOST cattle start on grass and then go on to a CAFO where they are finished on grain.  Depending on the amount of time they ate grass, this meat can be labeled as “grass fed.” Similarly cattle that are given a mix of grass and grain can be called “grass fed.” On the flip side, beef marketed as “100% grass fed” may come from a feedlot operation where the cattle are confined in unsanitary conditions and fed hay. These are just a few reasons why it is important to know your farmer!

Wyebrook cattle are 100% grass fed and pastured. They graze on pastures as long as the weather allows it. Our cattle are only on hay (a.k.a. dried grass) during the coldest part of the winter when there is no grass growing for them to eat. True grazing is how you produce the highest quality, healthiest beef.

That being said, the grass-fed label belongs to herbivores – animals with a rumen. Ruminants such as cows, sheep and llamas cannot easily digest grains. Grains make them physically ill. It isn’t healthy for them. That’s why the industry differentiates between grain fed, partially grass fed and 100% grass fed. They truly are different products. But it seems lately that everyone wants in on the “grass fed” marketing scheme.

On my drive from the farm to my parents’ I pass a farm that advertises grass-fed turkey. The other day I read something somewhere about grass-fed pork. These titles are ridiculous. Yes, these animals eat grass. But they also eat bugs. And grains. And nuts and seeds. And kitchen scraps. Like humans, pigs and poultry are omnivores. Pigs can eat grain without suffering from any digestive disruptions. The same goes for poultry. In fact, both pigs and poultry NEED sources of sustenance beyond grass because grass alone cannot meet their dietary needs. Traditional Smithfield hams (the way my grandparents raised them. Not the modern hams from Smithfield Food) were so good because the pigs were finished on peanuts! Peanuts are legumes, not grass.  I am all for pastured pigs and free-range chickens, but if you ever see these products labeled as “grass fed” you should probably not buy them.

Just because it’s cool doesn’t make it correct.

What’s next? Grass-fed salmon?

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