What's the difference in grass fed & finished vs grain fed beef?
The way we label meat products in Australia can be very confusing. As farmers and consumers we are frustrated by how hard it is to get to the truth on how our food is produced so we can make informed choices at the checkout. There’s a big difference between grass fed and grass finished beef and grain fed beef and just to confuse things, grass fed beef too.
Grass fed and finished beef refers to cattle that have have eaten grass their entire lives—a 100% grass diet. This is what we produce and sell at the Ethical Farmers.
Grass fed beef can mean grass fed and finished (the same as above) or that the cattle started on grass but may have received supplemental grain and/or were finished on grain from feedlots to help them put on weight quickly. Producers are not required to feed their cattle a 100% grass diet in order to label their meat 'grass fed' which can be confusing when all you want to do it purchase some good quality grass fed and finished meat!
In Australia, grain fed cattle have a diet that consists of grass plus grain. The cattle have eaten grass but have also been fed grain. To be labelled 'grain fed' they have eaten grain for a specified number of days. Cattle in grain fed systems have been fed a high energy diet to help them put on weight quickly. The meat has a predictable flavour, texture and fat content which supermarkets and some restaurant kitchens prefer. The downside to this is less complex and flavoursome meat and poorer nutritional composition of the meat. We believe the welfare of the animals in these systems is not to the standard of grass fed and grass finished beef. 'On Eating Meat' by Matthew Evans gives an honest and subjective account of what these farms look like in Australia if you would like to learn more.
At the Ethical Farmers, we support sustainable farming practices and only grow and sell grass fed and grass finished beef because:
- It is best for the animal's health and the animal's quality of life
- Responsibly and non-intensively farmed pastured animals give us the opportunity to help regenerate the land by putting nutrients back in the soil and not destroying and degrading the land
- It is a sustainable way to grow food for people in our community
- The nutrient composition of the meat is superior to other farm systems, in particular, omega 3, vitamin E and carotenoid content, far exceeds that of animals that have been fed grain; and
- The meat quality is better and the flavour more complex.
You're now armed with the right information to make an informed choice when you are next buying lamb or beef.
You can shop grass fed and finished beef from our happy and healthy cows here.