Grass-Fed Meat and Grass-Fed Milk
In the organic community, there is much talk about “grass-fed” meat and milk. Many people may say that grass-fed products are better, but they have no idea why they are better or what any of the benefits are of grass-fed products. As a wise consumer, you should do your homework to learn the benefits of grass-fed products. When you are making your food purchases, you will understand just why it is so important to consume grass-fed beef and grass milk products.
Three of our organic Jersey steer graze on fresh pasture in early Spring.
Current commercial practices for raising milk and beef rely heavily on grain—mostly corn and/or soybeans. Dairy cows are fed massive amounts of grains to be able to produce massive amounts of milk. They are pushed far beyond normal, healthy limits to ensure that the farmer gets the maximum profit from each cow.
Beef cattle are treated much the same. Their diets consist of an unnatural amount of grain (anywhere from 70 to 90 percent grain) so that they are fattened for slaughter in the minimum amount of time. Often, this grain is laced with medicines because cows are more likely to get sick when they are over-fed grain and crowded together in a feedlot.
History Tells Its Tale
Historically and in other less-developed countries, cows are raised more naturally. They are fed the way that nature intended them to be raised on grasses and forages. Cows are ruminants, meaning that they need diets high in fiber so that their stomachs can operate properly. While cows love grain, they are not intended to be fed very much grain at all. Grain for a cow is kind of like feeding them candy bars. A little grain once in awhile is a nice treat. For example, to lure them into the milking station. We use a handful of organic corn for this purpose. However, too much grain leads to health problems for the cow and unnatural production.
After World War II, when chemical fertilizers became much more prominent in agriculture, farmers had a glut of grains due to the increased production of their land. Agricultural officials found that they could feed this excess grain to cattle and improve production. Cows fed massive, unnatural piles of grain can reach slaughter weight in just 18 months.
This high production comes at a high cost to the cow. Grain-fed cows are much more likely to develop acidosis, a form of indigestion. Additionally, feeding grain to cows changes the pH of their guts. This pH change makes the intestines much more likely to house deadly forms of E. coli bacteria. Additionally, on conventional dairy farms the cows basically just sit around and eat in a barn. There’s no grazing, no moving around. On beef feedlots, the cattle are held in fairly small pens. They simply eat, drink, poop and lie around in it.
Grass-Fed Is Good For Cows
Of course, cows that are grass-fed live much more natural lives. They spend their time nibbling at grass and munching on hay. When they are not eating, they lie around in the pasture with the herd, chewing their cuds. They explore their environments and develop an intricate social order. They aren’t pushed beyond their own natural biological limits, but they are permitted to live the way a cow loves to live—in the fields, in fresh air, in a herd, walking, sleeping, and eating.
Grass-Fed Is Good For the Earth
Besides being good for cows, grass-fed meat and milk are also good for the planet. While the cows are out eating in the pasture, they are replenishing the earth with their manure, fertilizing the farmer’s fields. Farmers who properly manage their fields and herds never need chemical fertilizers since the manure and urine returns to the earth to provide natural minerals and organic nourishment for soil-borne microbes.
Grass-Fed Is Good For People
Grass-fed beef is healthier than grain-fed beef. According to Bill Kiernan a researcher at Global Ag Investing: “Feeding cattle on corn fundamentally changes the meat they produce, greatly increasing levels of unhealthy Omega-6 fatty acids and decreasing levels of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. This change greatly impacts the healthiness of meat for human consumption. When cattle are grass-fed or raised on pasture, the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 is exactly where it should be for a healthy animal and therefore a healthy human eating that animal. Since cattle cannot properly process grains, when they are corn-fed, the ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 is completely opposite of what is natural. Corn-fed cattle have 15%-50% less Omega-3 fatty acidsin their meat than grass-fed cattle creating meat that is much less healthy [for] us to consume.”
Our steer are raised on organic raw milk, organic pasture and organic hay…never grain.
The same facts hold true for grass-fed milk products. Grass-fed milk has more beta-carotene, more healthy Omega fats, and more of Vitamins A and E. Grass-fed milk has a healthier balance of Omega 3 acids and Omega 6 acids. Studies show that in milk from grain-fed cows, the Omega fat distribution is skewed. This skewing of the Omega fats leads to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and a whole host of other maladies. Additionally, grass-fed milk contains five times more of a substance called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than grain-fed milk. This substance is thought to be one of Nature’s most potent cancer-fighting fats.
Nature always knows best, and by raising cows on natural, forage-based diets, their products will be superior in taste, health, and nutrition. Our farm goal is to raise the healthiest Jersey family milk cows that we can.