If you’ve tried or wanted to try grassfed beef, but don’t understand how it’s better for you, this is the post for you.
First, let’s define “grassfed.” Technically, all cattle are fed grass for part of their life. Cattle were designed to eat and digest grass, but many farms use grain feed to help the animals gain weight and get ready for slaughter faster. As cattle expert Temple Grandin put it, “feeding cattle grain is sorta like a diet of cake and cookies.” But a diet of cake and cookies is no better for cattle than it is for humans.
On conventional farms, animals move to grain early. Even though grassfed cattle eat grass longer than conventionally produced cattle, they may be fed grain in the last few months of their life. 100% grassfed cattle (including Foxhollow cattle) eat grass their entire lives and get the full benefit of eating their naturally-designed diet.
Both conventional and grassfed farms can use the term “grassfed.” When you buy your beef, make sure you look for “100% grassfed beef” or “grassfed and finished beef” on the label. More importantly, meet your farmers (over the phone, email or in person at a farmers’ market) and ask them yourself.
Grassfed beef not only tastes better, it’s better for you as well. There are three main reasons 100% grassfed beef is better for the animals, for you, and for the planet.
100% Grassfed is Humane
Not only is grass the best diet for their bodies, feeding cattle grass is the most humane way to treat cattle. By keeping grains out of their diet, the animals are healthier. Just like us, when they eat better, they feel better.
Foxhollow cattle are also raised using biodynamic methods, which dictate humane standards of living: animals eat food grown on the farm where they live, animals move freely, and cows keep their horns. Healthy animals in open spaces have a much lower risk of illness and infection, so they don’t need the steady diet of antibiotics that cattle in conventional farms get.
Finally, the fresh grass they eat is clean and never treated with pesticides (because..ew, who wants to eat that?) The biodynamic way equals better health for them and for you; they stay healthier and you avoid secondhand consumption of pesticides and unnecessary antibiotics.
100% Grassfed is Environmentally-friendly
You may have heard that beef production increases methane gas, which ultimately contributes to global warming. However, it is not cattle that cause environmental damage. It is the method in which the cattle are raised that creates issues.
Rotational grazing (the method Foxhollow uses) means cattle graze on pastures for a very short period of time and then move to a new pasture. This method helps the environment because cattle chew the grass and stimulate grass growth, but move before the grass gets so low that it can’t recover. Growing grass and strong roots keep soil in place, and the green grass absorbs carbon emission (also called “carbon sequestration”).
A recent study from Michigan State found that rotational cattle grazing resulted in a negative carbon effect in the short term, and a net carbon effect in the long term. Though the science is new, the idea is not. Allan Savory has been writing about these ideas for decades. His TED talk is a fantastic summary of the benefits of holistic management (and how it can save the planet). Our head herdsman has built the foundation of Foxhollow’s rotational grazing methods on Savory’s work.
100% Grassfed is Good for You
Your health teacher probably told you that you should eat protein, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. I bet they never told you about conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), but it is one of the many important nutrients you can get from grassfed beef.
There are other benefits too; by eating 100% grassfed, you have a lower risk of contracting e.coli as well as salmonella, and other bacterial diseases that can be found too often in meat from confined animals. Not to mention, American Grass-Fed Certified beef must be hormone and antibiotic free.
Above All, Know Your Farmer
We’ll say this ‘till the cows come home. The most important thing you can do to ensure your meat is good for the environment, good for you, and good for the cattle, is to know your farmer.
Learn about their practices from their website, or ask them about their farming methods and practices at the farmers’ market. Use the tips above to compare the farm’s practices and find the one that aligns with your ideals. After all, it’s YOUR dinner!