Grass-Fed Cattle Feeding

There are a variety of ways to categorize different methods of raising cattle, only one of which is the feeding method used; cattle can also be categorized by where they are raised (free range) and what other non-dietary supplements they are given (growth hormones, antibiotics).  Cattle feeding is only one of these factors, which can lead to confusion about what a specific classification for a product actually means.

organic grass fed pasture raised Verde Farms cowsThe terms ‘grass-fed meat’ and ‘grass-fed dairy’ are two terms often underappreciated, because consumers fail to fully recognize the difference between grass-fed cattle and free range cattle.  Grass-fed cattle, as one might expect, are fed a diet which consists mainly (but not always entirely) of grass and forage.  However, the term grass-fed only defines the diet of the cattle; though this brings to mind a field of grass, the term does not say anything about how the cattle are actually raised or how the feed is provided.  Free range cattle are allowed to roam freely, as one might expect, but the misunderstanding arises because many consumers do not realize that free range cattle are not necessarily able to graze freely.  Classifying cattle as free range only defines the amount of space provided for the cattle, not the food source made available to them.  Thus cattle can be free range but grain-fed or corn-fed instead of grass-fed, which is a fairly common practice due to the cost of providing for grass-fed cattle.  Cattle can also be grass-fed without being free range.

Although the scientific benefits of both grass-fed and free range meat and dairy products are debated, both distinctions are popular with consumers for a variety of reasons.  Free range products tend to be appealing because they are considered more humane then penning practices.  The increased space required to raise free range livestock usually leads to a slightly higher cost, which consumers are often willing to absorb for the sake of the livestock.  The benefits of grass-fed products, however, come directly to the consumer.  Grass-fed meat is said to possess higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and is almost always leaner than corn-fed meat.  Moreover, the difference in taste between grass-fed meat and other varieties is undeniable, which sets it a step above corn-fed beef in terms of quality.

Works Cited

Aubrey, Allison. “The Truth About Grass-Fed Beef.” NPR. NPR, 8 Apr. 2010. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. <>.

Daley, Cynthia A., Amber Abbott, Patrick S. Doyle, Glenn A. Nader, and Stephanie Larson. “A Review of Fatty Acid Profiles and Antioxidant Content in Grass-fed and Grain-fed Beef.” Nutrition Journal Nutr J 9.1 (2010): 10. Web.

By Pamela Sosnowski, November 9, 2015