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Grass Fed Beef

August 2, 2011

What’s the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef? Why all the hoohaa about it? I think a lot has to do with the conditions of grain fed cattle. Many are kept in super-lots (small pens with lots of cattle crowded in) where their only source of nutrition is from the grains that they’re fed. There’s no wandering over a grassy meadow making eyes at dandelions in the distance. Instead they’ve got a very compact existence, which leads to rampant spreading of diseases (too many bodies, too small an area = perfect conditions for diseases to flourish). Would they also dosed to the eyeballs with antibiotics and other goodies to keep any diseases at bay? In some countries yes, in Australia? I don’t know so much, will have to look into that.

We have a farm at the school I work at, and the cattle are grass fed, and those that are in the pens most of the day are lucerne/hay fed. We very rarely use grains. Yes grains fatten up cattle but they also lead to intestinal problems that can harm the cattle and lead to poor sales.

We’re going to have a chat with our local butcher to find out just what type of beef we’ve been getting. So far he’s doing a roaring trade from us with all our gluten free sausages/patties. I think he’s already sharing grass-fed cattle (most of the cattle around these parts are from large stations, not the super compact feed lots that you see in other countries) but it always helps to ask.

Having seen Food, Inc. again today with my students I’m still appalled at the conditions cattle go through on these intensive farming systems. It can’t be good for them or for the people who buy the meat. Yes I know it sounds slightly hypocritical – what does it matter if the cow is happy it’s going to die anyway? But really if the cow/cattle have been exposed to conditions that could cause illness then I’d rather not eat it.

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2011 8:40 pm

    My dad has a beef cattle farm. He only has about 100 head at a time and they roam around happily but there is often droughts and the cattle have to be fed grain and molasses or else they would be on the brink of starvation. They try and keep one paddock green and cow-free and the cattle are put in there to fatten just before sale. When they are sold for killing they are taken and put into (probably crowded) pens for at least a week and fed on grain entirely. I am told it makes the fat white (rather than yellow) which most people would rather. I am not sure how other farms are run. Grain feeding isn’t cheap. I think if farmers had the choice it would be cheaper to grass feed as it is essentially free. I have no idea on how they raise cattle overseas. I do know the pigs are often raised in crowded pens. I thought it might be different for cattle. Let’s hope.

  2. Natalie Hatch permalink*
    August 3, 2011 5:56 am

    During drought conditions grain’s probably the best way to go. But my worry is the change in dietary requirements before slaughter. Why do we as a society demand white fat instead of the normal yellow fat? Grains certainly do fatten up cattle, and they do the same for humans. Have a look at the documentary Food, Inc. Really opened my eyes up to what’s happening to our food/agricultural industry.

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