Grass-fed is not what you think – It means NOTHING!
Yes, you heard that right. Every person that I’ve met that eats meat, always seems to think they’re eating clean because the label on the beef they buy says “grass-fed”. Well, guess what? It means NOTHING! All cows are fed grass for the first 6 – 9 months of their life. At a minimum you should look for grass-fed/grass finished beef. This implies the animal was fed grass during its entire life. But that actually is still not enough.
So What IS Important?
You should ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Where was the cow when it was fed grass?
- What’s the quality of the grass?
- What happens to the cow after the first 6 – 9 months?
If you ask the first question, you might learn the cow was fed grass in a barn or other closed structure. You want to hear that the cow is outside 24/7, 365, on pasture, eating grass that is grown on the pasture. Ideally, the cow has up to an acre to graze and the farmer is using regenerative farming techniques, which incorporates animal rotation. Cows being fed grass in a silo or a barn is in line with factory/industrial farming techniques. So, seeing a product labeled grass-fed at your favorite butcher, supermarket or restaurant, means nothing!
Not All Grass is Created Equal
The next thing you want to understand is the quality of the grass. If the animal is out on pasture and the farmer is using regenerative farming practices, then the quality of the grass is nutrient dense. This is better for the animal and ultimately healthier for the consumer. However, if the animal is in a barn, being fed grass pellets, then we should consider the following:
- Where was the grass grown?
- Was the grass sprayed with pesticides?
- What’s the process in making pellets?
- Was anything else mixed in with the grass?
Once you have a clearer picture of “the grass’” then you can decide if you want to pay a premium for the grass-fed label. The likelihood of your supermarket or butcher knowing these answers are, sadly, slim to none but that doesn’t mean the questions shouldn’t be asked. Many times, the butcher or buyer doesn’t even know to ask these types of questions themselves. Nor do they care. Universally they’ve bought in to the grass-fed phenomenon and are just parroting what they heard rather than leading by asking relevant questions.
How Was the Beef Raised?
Lastly, you need to know what happens to the cow after the first 6 -9 months of its life? In the industrial farming system, they are sent to a feedlot for the next 4 – 6 months where they are fed a variety of “items” including grains. You might say, that doesn’t sound bad. Well, cows are not designed to eat grains or “other items”. They have a digestive system that is suitable for grass ,not grain, and certainly no by-products. However, grains, such as soy and corn are enticing because they are readily available and inexpensive.
The mentality for the farmer is straight-forward, how do I get the cow fat and how can it be done cheaply, the answers are simple; house them in large feed lots and give them genetically modified (GMO) corn and soy. Then sell the cow for top dollar and still be able to use the label “grass-fed”. Deceptive? You betcha! Legal? Yep!
Now, you might be wondering about the grass-fed/grass-finished or organic labels. For grass-fed/grass-finished the questions above apply. What about beef labeled “organic”? Remember, just because beef is labeled organic doesn’t mean the animal was out on pasture or that the farmer is practicing regenerative farming practices. It just means that the grain was organic soy and/or organic corn vs. being genetically modified. Sadly, they were still in a feedlot.
For More Information
For a great resource, take a look at the American Grass-fed Association. They are an “organization that provides certification, market support, education, research, and advocacy on behalf of grassfed ruminants and dairy and pastured pork producers and supporters”.
Now, you have a choice. Will you continue to buy into the grass-fed labelling sweeping the country or will you take a deep dive and want to learn more? I have created an online self-study course called Get Food Smart, Get Real. Once you complete the course, you will NEVER be FOOLED again.
So now you can see, Grass-fed is not what you think!
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