I get this question a lot. “Are your cattle fed grass or grain?”
The question that usually accompanies this is, “Isn’t grass-fed beef healthier?”
One common misperception with meat-buying is that organic, natural or grass-fed beef are healthier for me. No matter what type of beef food-eaters choose, they can be confident all types of beef can be included in a healthy diet. All beef has eight times more vitamin B-12, six times more zinc and three times more iron than a skinless chicken breast. There are 29 cuts of beef (including 15 of the 20 most popular cuts) that meet government guidelines for lean. This is true whether the beef is produced conventionally or as part of an organic, natural or grass-fed program.
But isn’t grass-finished beef higher in omega-3’s? Some studies have shown that grass-finished beef contains slightly more omega-3 fatty acids (less than one-tenth of a gram more per 3.5 ounces), but no specific type of beef is considered a primary source for omega-3s. If you’re looking to get more omega-3 fats in your diet, you should look at flaxseed oil, walnut oil, marine plankton and fatty fish. Look to beef to add ZIP to your diet – zinc, iron and protein!
So what do we do on our ranch? We do both. The calves are born on grass and raised eating grass (and grass hay in the winter) from the time they are born. We keep a watchful eye on the protein content and value of the grass they are eating and sometimes it is important to supplement the cows – especially pregnant cows. We want to make sure they are staying healthy, along with carrying a healthy calf.
Supplementing means we are giving them extra minerals in the form of a mineral tub or salt/mineral block – or even just hay that has a higher value. And we also supplement with grain if and when needed. All the while, the cows and calves are on grass – grazing as much as their little hearts’ desire. We don’t want our animals to lack anything in the healthy department, so we do all we can to give them the vitamins and minerals they need to thrive.
When the beef calves are ready to leave the ranch (meaning calves that aren’t going to be held back to be kept for breeding), they will go to a backgrounding facility where they will have more grain and continue to be on grass or hay. At 12 to 18 months of age, the cattle are moved to a feedlot and are usually separated into groups of 100 animals. Cattle usually spend four to six months in a feedlot, during which they are fed a scientifically-formulated ration of corn and/or silage, hay and distillers grains.
The most important thing to remember in whatever beef you decide to eat, is that consumer’s have a choice.
We have a choice as beef producers and we choose to raise conventional (corn-fed) beef. Conventional beef assures a consistent, year-round supply of high-quality beef with the tenderness and flavor most consumers prefer. When it comes to beef, most consumers tell us that taste is their highest priority. And, corn-fed beef cattle spend most of their lives on range or pasture eating grass. Our ranch is well-suited for grass production, so we utilize our cattle to harvest the grass to convert it into protein.
How we produce that protein has evolved over time to meet the needs of consumers’ lifestyles and budgets changes over time. While each kind of beef offers something different to the consumer, all beef shares one common denominator that continues to spark demand: a safe, wholesome and nutritious meal.
Check out my “corn-fed & grass-finished beef” section on my blog for more information and resources.