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Grass Fed vs. Regular Beef [split from Home Cooking]

mcf Aug 16, 2012 03:55 PM

(Note: this thread was split from the Home Cooking board at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/863485 In particular, it was a reply to this statement:

2) Understand that all beef is "grass fed". Beef steers all start out eating a diet of grass, hay, and sillage once they are weaned off of milk. In a quality operation a steer must be at least a "yearling" (12-18 months) before they are finished in the feed lot. Lesser operations hurry the process.

-- The Chowhound Team )

All beef is not grass fed. Grass fed if they're taken off pasture. All benefits of grass feeding are lost within short weeks of grain feeding. A grass fed label cannot be slapped on feedlot beef, even if the feedlot was only a matter of weeks.

  1. b
    Brandon Nelson Aug 16, 2012 05:00 PM

    You are missing the point. I realize that the in 2007 the FDA gave the term a definition, but i find it misleading.

    There are 3 phases of a beef steers life cycle overseen by 3 different entities;
    Cow/Calf- Animals are mike fed until weaned.
    Stocker/grower/ backrounder- Animals are pastured until finishing weight. They eat grass during the seasons that it is available, and hay/sillage until they reach their desired finishing weight.
    feeder/finisher- puts final weight on a steer. Most use grain because it results in a more marketable product.

    "Grass fed" is a marketing term that the FDA adopted and defined. It isn't really a trade term. It is misleading and it leads the end consumer to believe "grain finished" animals never eat grass, when in fact they grow to maturity eating grass.

    My previous post was vague in that regard. Most of the customers I deal are under the mistaken impression that "grain finished" cattle never feed on pasture grass, when in fact they grow up on it.

    14 Replies
    1. re: Brandon Nelson
      mcf Aug 16, 2012 05:05 PM

      Most of the grass fed consumers I know are concerned enough to learn the differences and ask at the store. I don't care if they're on grass if I get the product adulterated by feedlot grain feeding. I mean, I'm happy for them, but I make sure I know if I'm getting grass fed and finished or pastured, then grain.

      Grass fed is not a marketing term to the consumer who actually cares about the term.

      1. re: mcf
        b
        Brandon Nelson Aug 16, 2012 10:33 PM

        You would be an exceptional consumer. I never have a customer that knows the difference. The term "grass fed" has made every old school butcher I have worked with role their eyes.

        It was a marketing term the FDA decided to define. A lions share of end consumers think it means the steer was raised on either grass or grain.

        1. re: Brandon Nelson
          s
          soupkitten Aug 17, 2012 08:48 AM

          not sure where you live, but in areas where there are hundreds of small farms raising animals grass-fed, and most non-chain restaurants sure seem to serve serve grass-fed beef.... such as where i live, you can be damn sure that the average joe knows the difference between types of beef--and dairy, while we are at it.

          what you call a "marketing term" is far from meaningless-- with the rise of the cafo era of cheap byproduct-fed beef/dairy, farmers who continued to raise their own animals through the entire life cycle, naturally, on grass, without the use of hormone supplements, sought to differentiate their products from factory farmed products. when customers are informed, as they are in many areas, customers *do* care. most will pay a premium for a grass-fed product for any/all of the following valid reasons: 1) their own/family's health 2) animal welfare 3) environmentalism 4) local economics 5) superior taste.

          just a thought--a butcher who can't name his farmer-suppliers probably peddles a cheap industrial product which s/he is invested in bringing in cheap and selling dear. hence your local butchers' "eye role."

      2. re: Brandon Nelson
        v
        Vidute Aug 16, 2012 07:51 PM

        Most "grain finished" cows are not finished on just grains. Accordint to the Nebraska Beef Council, "Wastes Are Food Too". This means that the cattle in the feedlots are fed anything from corn gluten, to bakery waste (cakes, donuts, etc), to stale candy and cookies, to wet brewers grains (leftovers from brewing beer). Oftentimes, the wrappers are not even removed from the candies.

        "Grass fed", "Pastured", "Pasture Raised" has come to mean that the cattle has been fed their natural diet from birth to weaning to slaughter. No oranges, no beer, no candy.

        www.omaha.com/assets/doc/OW4783412.DOC

        http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/an241

        1. re: Vidute
          b
          Brandon Nelson Aug 16, 2012 10:57 PM

          Some "grain finished" beef is fed corn that grown in the same community where the cattle were pastured as well. Such a practice contributes to the sustainable nature of the operation.

          Spent brewers grain is actually easier for a steer to digest than other grain feed. A ruminants digestive tract thrives on foodstuffs that are already fermented. That is why sillage is such great feed.

          Presuming that "grass fed" is a sign of quality is a stretch.

          The point I am trying to make is most end consumers don't know anything about the terminology. They get hooked by marketing terms as trust them as a de facto sign of quality eating, ethical husbandry, or environmental responsibility.

          If you genuinely care about such details you need to do more research into the meat you are buying than relying on a USDA term.

          1. re: Brandon Nelson
            1POINT21GW Aug 16, 2012 11:09 PM

            "Presuming that "grass fed" is a sign of quality is a stretch.

            The point I am trying to make is most end consumers don't know anything about the terminology. They get hooked by marketing terms as trust them as a de facto sign of quality eating, ethical husbandry, or environmental responsibility.

            If you genuinely care about such details you need to do more research into the meat you are buying than relying on a USDA term."

            Very well said.

            The same goes for "organic", "free-range", and other popular marketing terms.

            1. re: 1POINT21GW
              mcf Aug 17, 2012 09:48 AM

              Absolutely.

              1. re: 1POINT21GW
                MGZ Aug 17, 2012 12:14 PM

                Another flagrant example of the shifting burden of food supply issues onto the consumer and away from the producer, I guess less regulation would be good, than we wouldn't have any information about what we purchase to eat at all. I mean who gives a sh*t about what they consume - "Let's all go to Applebee's." By the way, what's a GMO?

                1. re: MGZ
                  v
                  Vidute Aug 17, 2012 10:48 PM

                  Genetically Modified Organisms. For example, inserting a gene from an organism that repels insects into a plant that does not have that gene; thereby, creating a plant with new DNA.

                  1. re: Vidute
                    MGZ Aug 18, 2012 02:19 AM

                    It was a (clearly too subtle) joke. Considering the fact that labeling genetically modified food is about the only thing most Americans agree on ( https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net...) and yet there is no real chance of the government requiring it anytime soon.

                    1. re: MGZ
                      MGZ Aug 19, 2012 11:09 AM

                      "Oh, by the way, which one is 'Pink'"

              2. re: Brandon Nelson
                mcf Aug 17, 2012 06:18 AM

                Most consumers aren't looking for grass fed and finished beef. Those who are know all about what that means.

                1. re: mcf
                  c
                  cgarner Aug 17, 2012 10:00 AM

                  Thank you mcf...I was thinking the exact same thing
                  if you're okay with going to the grocery store and picking up a pound of "hamburger meat" and some steaks and not thinking about where it came from, how it was handled, what that animal was fed, what conditions.. etc... then 'grassfed' means about as much as a hill of beans

                  1. re: mcf
                    mcf Aug 19, 2012 04:22 PM

                    We just finished a fabulous dinner of 100% grass fed rib steak (with grilled chayote and long japanese eggplants and caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes). I was a tad nervous about this ribeye because while it had a nice fat layer around the outside, there was virtually no detectable marbling in the red meat.

                    I ended up rubbing it with a salty steak rub and kept it on a wire rack over a pan in the fridge, uncovered, for three days. Brought it to room temp, seared it briefly on each side over high medium and grilled it to about 120 over low heat, then covered with foil and let it rest til the middle read 129. I was really surprised by how buttery tender this lean steak was, and the flavor was just amazing... best I've had so far.

                    Here's a very helpful grilling guide I found online: Scroll down to the final answer by Rob: http://cooking.stackexchange.com/ques...

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