Mother Earth News and Grass-Fed Beef

A friend sent me the link to a Mother Earth News article centered around getting livestock back on the land instead of buildings and feedlots. Pretty well done in my estimation (if I were a writer I would have said a thing or three differently).

Cattle on mineral rich grasses produce less greenhouse gas (and less methane to boot) than on poor quality feed. I totally concur with this assessment. A quote from the article that pertains, somewhat, to this idea, “There are studies to suggest grain produces less methane, but those studies, by and large, compare conventional pastures with feedlots. However, conventional pastures contain high-fiber, low-quality forage, which produces more methane. On the other hand, studies of rotational grazing have shown decreases of as much as 45 percent in methane production, when compared with conventional pastures. All studies seem to agree cows produce less methane when nutrition is best, and the very reason for rotational grazing is to improve forage quality.” Highly mineralized Grass-Finished Beef creates less methane.

And another, “A plowed field sheds rainwater almost as fast as a parking lot does; the soil can absorb, at most, about 1 1⁄2 inches of rain in an hour. A permanent pasture can suck up as many as 7 inches of rain in an hour. That’s the difference between floods and no floods. … If we convert from grain-fed to grass-fed meat, we can turn millions of acres of row crops into carbon sinks, and use permanent pasture to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and slow global warming, as well as conserve water. ”

Grass-Finished beef CAN taste better than grain-fed if it is raised correctly. Quite a few producers use feedlot genetics, on their worn out pasture and harvest the animals when the grass is gone, not when they are finished. With three “strikes” against them, quite a few people who tried this “production method” will never try grass-fed again.

Speaking of grass-fed, it can mean exactly the same thing as truly high-quality grass finished beef, or, the animals can have grass up until weaning and then go into a feedlot system, finished on grain–or any combination in between. They did start out life on grass.

The first time I was in Whole Foods (about ten years ago) the sign in the meat case said GRASS FED. I asked the meat cutter if they were fed no grain. He said “No, no, no, they were finished on grain for 60-80 days.” That was my first experience with industry trying to jump on the coat-tails of the “Grass-Fed” movement.

In a recent Dr. Mercola daily update, I read the following, “A joint effort between the USDA and Clemson University researchers determined a total of 10 key areas where grass-fed is better than grain-fed beef for human health.”

Know your farmer, and his/her practices.