There is a big controversy between grass-FED and grass-FINISHED beef like we shared on our latest Scavenge-ology episode. It seems that many shoppers and consumers don't truly understand the difference.
If you've ever walked through the meat department of your local grocery store, you're probably familiar with the term 'grass-fed beef'. All this means is that the cows were fed grass at some point in their lives. Conventionally raised cows are typically raised on a grain-based diet aka they are fed lots of corn. This does not necessarily mean the labels used to market their beef can't say 'grass-fed'.
The simple way to explain it is that all cattle consume grass and forage during some point during their lives. However, most cows are also fed corn or grain towards the end of their lives to fatten them up in feed lots. Consumers searching for 100% grass-fed cows should always look for “100% grass-fed” labels to ensure the cattle qualifying for that particular brand have never received any grain.
Want to take this a step further? Most beef labeled as 'grass-finished' means that cattle received a full grass or forage diet their entire lives. By searching for this label on your beef, you can ensure you are getting what you expect. Grass-fed and grass-finished are not interchangeable terms.
Every consumer must make a decision unique to their meal needs, preferences, diet, health requirements and price point. Many consumers choose 100% grass fed or grass finished for environmental and sustainability reasons, while many consumers choose organic beef for health benefits.
Since humans began commercially raising cows, they have learned that feeding cattle an artificial diet of grain and corn makes their beef much more tasty. A grass-only or forage-filled diet, especially filled with easy to grow grasses, leads to less fatty cattle. However, fat equals flavor. While less fatty cows make healthier beef, it often doesn’t carry quite the same flavor.
Prosper Meats is a cattle farm that did an entire study on the taste differences of grain fed cows vs. truly grass-fed and grass-finished cows. They focused on a driving question: Is it possible to make healthy, grass fed beef taste as good as grain fed? The answer, it turns out, was yes.
They wanted to take a scientific approach to finding out how to pack flavor into healthier grass-fed beef. They knew that they weren’t going to get flavor from fat if they were only feeding cattle grass, but maybe there was a way to change the flavor of beef by changing the type of grass the cattle eat. When analyzing the diet of grass fed beef, they discovered that the grasses used in grass-fed pastures are typically easy growing grasses that are lacking in certain proteins. When delving into this discovery, they realized that the metabolization of these proteins has a direct effect on the beef’s flavor.
They also realized that the missing proteins are found in heartier grasses that cows often eat in their natural habitats. These hearty grasses are not as efficient at covering pastures, so cattle farmers have been focusing on the species that are easy to grow instead. With this knowledge, they decided to start testing mixtures of conventional grass and heartier grass on their cattle to see if that changed the taste of the beef.
It is so important to know what you're eating, but also to know where it is coming from. Choosing a sustainable farm and a sustainable source of your food could be life changing for you and your family. Check out our interview with Hunter Cattle where they go in more depth of what grass-fed means.
Simply put, grass-finished beef comes from cattle that ate nothing but grass and forage for their entire lives. Grass-fed, on the other hand, may be used to label meat from cattle that were started on a grass diet but have received supplemental grain feed or are finished on a fully grain-based diet.
Be a part of the movement to reinvent the supply chain, and support local farmers doing their part to raise grass-fed and grass-finished cows. Shop our line of grass-fed beef products here at PrimalRock.