What’s This Thing Called Grass-Fed Beef?
So. Here we are, finally. Life seems to have a way of taking good intentions, and keeping us humble…if you know what I mean. But we keep pressing on, praying to do better next time. But a lesson on humility, life, or perseverance isn’t what you are looking for in this article so I’ll get to the good stuff.
Grass-fed beef that is.
If you don’t know how good it is, or why it is. You’re in the right place! (And there’s no turning back once you know 🙂 Muahaha…just kidding. But really it’s awesome.)
Grass-fed beef: Beef (Cattle) that is raised only on pasture (eating only grasses) throughout it’s life. It does not get fed grain.
Also there is:
Grass-finished beef: beef that is finished (last 2 months or so of life) on grass to fatten up for butchering.
Unfortunately grass-fed doesn’t necessarily mean grass finished. Grass finished is more difficult, especially if the farmer doesn’t have a breed of cow that is genetically inclined to do well on just grass. So people will compensate for that (or other reasons) and feed grain to finish them. While it is better than cattle raised in confinement systems being fed grain their whole life…grass finished (and fed) is the best. So make sure, when buying beef, you know how a farm finishes their beef.
I don’t want to get into too much depth on cattle breeds suited for beef, in this post. But there are breeds that are better suited for one purpose or another. And within those breeds there are varying abilities depending on purpose, climate, and growth rate. (Among many little nuances.) All this to say, if looking for good quality beef, find a place with that as their goal. We’ve come in contact with places actually have dairy cows that they butcher for beef. Where they milk for the beginning of their life, and then when they’ve fulfilled their usefulness, are butchered for beef. That is not good quality beef. While being resourceful, it’s not high quality beef. It becomes very tough and gristly. Plus as dairy cows, they are generally fed and filled with things (such as antibiotics, hormones and GMO corn) that you don’t want to be eating.
On our farm our cattle is grass-fed AND -finished. We have about 50 acres of our land as pasture. From as soon as the grass is long enough for our cattle to feed; we have the cattle on pasture. Every year we’re pushing our time on pasture further into the winter. We ended this past year’s grazing around Thanksgiving. The longer they are on pasture, the happier and healthier they are. (And the happier we are.) Then we transition to bale grazing. And when the weather is dreadful, we feed them in the barnyard with our cone-feeder.
During the grazing season, we have temporary fencing that we use to rotationally graze our cattle. This works wonders for improving our pasture and increasing our pasture yield. Once or twice a day we move our cattle to a new fresh section of pasture. By doing this we force the cattle to eat all of the grass in that section (not just the sweet clover) and they concentrate their manure in that area and fertilize it for us. When they are done we move them forward and don’t allow them back in the pervious area to overgraze and stunt the grass’ growth. Some added benefits to this are the light exercise and fresh air we get, and the animals get used to our presence, voice, and commands. They easily adapt to a routine and usually* things go very smoothly.
We have mostly Red Devons with a few Hereford crosses. They’re a smaller cow, bred to do well on just grass. They have a wide jaw, short legs, and a medium bone structure. Their hide is very thick and oily which repels external parasites (flies) and allows them to withstand extreme temperatures. My favorite part (other than their mahogany-red curly coat), is their docile and inherently friendly disposition. Some of the more popular beef breeds are not trustworthy and dangerous to be around. They live a very long life, I’ve heard up to 15 years old! We have one that is 12 but you wouldn’t know it.
“Of the Devon carcasses evaluated in this country, 96% have met the demands of the most stringent beef retailers. Devons are recognized world wide for producing some of the finest beef off pasture alone.”
-Excerpt from Why Devon -Best on Grass off Red Devon USA
To be continued…
*with all things in life, humility comes knocking. Sometimes the cows get better ideas, and of course it’s when you’re alone and accidentally dropped the line. Those are the days you probably needed more exercise anyways.