One of the questions we are asked the most at the Saturday Market or within our social media direct messages is whether or not our product is, "grass-fed". And while our grass-fed and finished cows spend their entire life grazing, we wanted to explore what it actually means to be a grass-fed or grass-finished cow.
So what makes a beef product, "grass-fed"?
A grass-fed cow is one that likely began it's lifecycle eating grass, but this label does not indicate whether it also consumed supplemental grain feed or if was finished on a fully grain-based diet. In fact, according to the USDA the standard for a product being considered "grass-fed" only requires that 50% of it's lifespan be spent grass-fed. Conversely, a grass-finished cow may have spent a majority of it's life on a grain supplemented diet before spending several months on a grass rotation prior to slaughter.
So what gives? And how do I know that my beef product has actually spent the entirety of it's life grazing grasses? Why do these labels exist if they do not sufficiently account for the environmental practice and lifespan of the animal?
The grass-fed beef industry resides in the premise that it can meet consumer demand by offering the customer an alternative to the conventional adage of mass produced beef. This may be a generalization, but with rise of awareness of our foods' origin comes a need to market a conventionally raised product, to a population of consumers who desire to be more mindful of the food they place on their kitchen table.
The question still begs to be answered of how an individual can be sure that the product they purchase was in fact grass-fed for the entirety of it's lifespan - an important deciding factor for many who's personal belief surrounding ethics or dietary restriction demands such consistency. In short, it can be difficult to rely purely on the labels associated with the product we purchase at the store. In our opinion, finding a local resource is the best way to ensure that one's expectations of "grass-fed" or "grass-finished" are actually met.
At 1875 Beef, our cows are grass-fed their entire life with the exception of those that will be finished on grain for the desirable grain-finished product. Our goal is to first and foremost practice with transparency and educate the public on what it means to practice tradition of the West. So what gives? Knowing that your local rancher can provide ethically raised, grass-fed and finished product all while supporting community.
Shoot us a message if you are interested in learning more or would like to purchase our 100% grass-fed/lived/finished product!