I eat beef from 100% grass fed cows from small Colorado ranches. It's the same meat we feed our dogs. I've known for some time that the health benefits of grass fed beef are superior to grain fed.
But, until recently, I was not aware of the host of environmental and carbon benefits of grass fed beef, and the dramatic injury that grain fed feedlot beef is hoisting upon our health and environment, not to mention the even more grotesque and inhumane treatment of the livestock.
And yet, more than 94% of the beef we consume in the U.S. is grain fed feedlot beef!
What's more, even China, whose pet products many of us refuse to purchase, is refusing grain fed beef imports from the U.S. because of serious animal welfare problems associated with the beef, while the U.S. regulatory agencies do nothing.
But there's a simple fix that each one of us can do to help turn this around.
First, let's take a look at grass fed versus grain fed feedlot beef. I do my best to summarize key points in this article to keep it shorter, but include a sizeable list of information sources cited in the footnotes.
What is Grass Fed Beef, Grain Fed Beef, Grasslands and Why Feedlots?
What is Grass Fed Beef?
By definition, grass fed is a diet fed to a ruminant (beef, bison, goat, lamb and sheep), consisting of grass (annual and perennial), forbs (e.g., legumes, Brassicas), browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state. Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season (1).
If beef is labeled grass fed, it does not mean it is free of hormones or antibiotics. These need to be labeled separately. Further, ‘access' doesn't mean exclusive diet, and doesn't mandate how much actual time the herd spends outdoors. It's entirely possible to raise beef indoors on hay and still have it qualify as USDA grass fed. The only way to know is if the packaging, website or other marketing material of the product provides additional information about pasture grazing. Or, if you purchase direct from ranches, you can ask them.
Grass fed does not mean that the cow was never feed genetically engineered plants.
Cows may be grass fed for most of their lives and then grain fed for a short period of time before slaughter. If so, they cannot have