Every couple of weeks at the farmers market, someone will ask, “What is the difference between grass-fed and Grass-finished beef?” My short answer is they can be exactly the same or they can be vastly different. And then my story telling begins…
In the last couple of years, the labeling regulations have changed quite a bit in the beef industry. But of course, very few customers know that. Industry is trying to capitalize on the “healthy” attraction by using the words grass-fed. All beef cattle start out on mom’s milk and grass, so they can truthfully say they were grass-fed, but they don’t tell you “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say.
Nowadays, manufacturers are able to sell grass-fed beef that has been “grain-finished” as grass-fed beef.
The problem with the new regulation is: some farmers will feed their cattle grass for most of their lifespan, but “finish” them with grains in the last months before sending them to the slaughterhouse.
Because the last 90 to 160 days of diet determine how much nutrition your big, juicy steak will contain, this process removes most of the benefits the initial grass diet might have had.
The bottom line: your beef needs to be both grass-fed and grass-finished to contain all the nutrition it’s supposed to.
But because those claims are still not regulated by the USDA, your best insurance is to develop a relationship with a farmer that raises beef the right way, or find a local farmer’s market where you deal directly with the farmers.
This will give you confidence that you’re investing your hard earned money on the right kind.