Grassfed vs. Grain-fed Cattle:
One of the biggest problems in the industry is the confusion over labeling. Just what is grassfed, grass-finished, grain-fed, grain-finished, pastured, natural, organic, and so-forth? The simple answer is: if the cow has been fed grain at ANY time in its life, the cow is “grain-fed”. The American Grassfed Association came up with terminology found here: A Meat Terminology Primer for Consumers
Most cows do graze on pasture for the first six months to a year of their lives, but most finish at crowded feedlots. Critics decry feedlot practices as inhumane. Feedlot cattle are fed a diet of dry grain, a concentrated mix of corn, soy, grains, and other supplements, which causes numerous gastrointestinal and other diseases. For these reasons, feedlot cattle are given antibiotics and pharmaceuticals to cut down on illnesses. The humans who ingest their meat, eggs, or milk are also subject to these illnesses. Grain feeding alters the animals’ intestinal flora and the PH of the lower intestine, increasing opportunities for the growth of pathogens such as E. coli.
In order to speed the growth process, feedlot cattle are given hormones. A feedlot cow can grow to slaughter weight up to a year faster than a cow fed only forage, grass, and hay. This growth-spurt formula is the backbone of a hugely productive U.S. beef industry. “That’s one year that you don’t have to feed the cows in the feedlot,” notes Jo Robinson, author of “Why Grassfed is Best!” and founder of Eatwild.com, who spent the past decade examining scientific research comparing grassfed and grain-fed animals. “Conventional factory meat is so cheap because they’ve done everything to speed growth and lower the cost of feed.”
“I have followed for many years the sickening effect of soy on ruminants. Cows that formerly could easily reach the age of 15 years and have 12 calves have on average now less than three calves and reach hardly the age of six. One main reason is the high percentage of soy in the rations. It works into the buildup of ammonia in the rumen. This affects negatively the liver and then shows up in mastitis and sterility. Off they go to the butcher. Only there can a vet identify the defective livers. The soybean, bringing about high milk yields in the first two lactations, is the curse of our cattle herds. And the milk achieved through it is not health promoting either. . . If awake consumers, environmentalists, nutritionists and farmers do not work concretely together in the future there will not be any healthy farms nor healthy foods.” ~ Trauger Groh, Soy Meal For Cows Biodynamic Farmer, Author and Lecturer.
“Mimicking natural patterns on a commercial domestic scale insures moral and ethical boundaries to human cleverness. Cows are herbivores, not omnivores; that is why we’ve never fed them dead cows like the United States Department of Agriculture encouraged (the alleged cause of mad cows).” ~ Joel Salatan, Polyface Farms, author of “Everything I Want to do is Illegal” and “Folks, This Ain’t Normal”
Grassfed cattle are also environmentally beneficial as their excrement creates chemical free manure fertilizer that is recycled back into the pastures. Grassfed cattle are also better for the planet as less energy goes into growing grass than grain.
In a 2009 study, which was a joint effort between the USDA and researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina, compared grassfed beef with grain-fed beef, and showed Grassfed beef was: Lower in total fat; Higher in beta-carotene; Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol); Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin; Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium; Higher in total omega-3s; A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84); Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11) (Conjugated Linoleic Acid, which reduces cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and body fat); Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA); Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease (S.K. Duckett et al, Journal of Animal Science, (published online) June 2009). For further information and great comparisons to grain-fed beef check out: The Health Benefits of Grassfed Natural Beef
Due to the fact that grassfed beef is leaner than grain-fed products, they also have fewer calories. The average American that eats 67 pounds of beef a year would save 16,642 calories a year. All things being equal, you will lose 5-6 pounds a year by switching to grassfed beef and changing nothing else in your diet or activity level: CNN HEALTH Grass vs Grain Beef Cooking Light
Cooking grassfed beef should revert back to the days before Teflon and plastic. For great cooking tips, check out American Grassfed Beef’s article: American Grassfed Beef – Tips for cooking grassfed
For the top 10 reasons to eat grassfed meet according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, check out: NRDC Top 10 Reasons to Eat Grassfed Meat
“Another way we ruin milk is by feeding cows high protein feed made from soybeans and other inappropriate foodstuffs. Rarely is anyone truly allergic to grassfed cow’s milk. Fresh raw milk, from cows eating well-manured green grass is a living unprocessed whole food. Compare this to the supposedly “healthy” soy milk which has been washed in acids and alkalis, ultrapasteurized, then allowed to sit in a box for many months. The Pottenger cat studies provide a simple but profound lesson for all Americans: Processed, dead foods don’t support life or a happy well-functioning society. We must return to eating pure, wholesome, unprocessed foods, including whole raw milk from pasture fed cows.” Raw Milk ~ Thomas Cowan, MD medical adviser to the Weston A. Price Foundation
Pasteurizing milk leads to the destruction of enzymes, lactic-acid-producing bacteria that protect against pathogens, and vitamins. The heat from pasteurization alters milk’s amino acids lysine and tyrosine. Pasteurization alters milk’s mineral components such as calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur as well as many trace minerals, making them less available. The benefits from raw milk are only present in milk from 100% grassfed cows. We encourage you to research the difference between pasteurized and raw milk at the sites listed below.
At Cotton Run Farm, our Dutch Belted cattle are 100% grass-fed and are never fed any steroids or growth hormones. The cattle are pastured on our own clover/alfalfa hay during the grazing season and then fed high quality haylage and hay, harvested from our family farm, during the winter months. They are never fed antibiotics, animal by-products, or any grain products. We believe in preserving the microbial life in the soil, therefore it is important to keep the soil nutrients balanced. No GMO seeds or feed are used on our farm, and everything is chemical and growth hormone free. All animals have access to the outdoors year round. Herd shares for grass-fed raw milk are also available locally. We also host a market on the farm that carries 100% grassfed beef, pastured eggs, and other high quality products from other local farmers.
For information on our cow-share program, visit our info page here: Cotton Run Farm Cow-Share Info
Resources for health benefits of grassfed beef and raw milk:
Center for Disease Control website: www.cdc.gov