The Truth about Grass vs. Grain Fed Beef

First a disclaimer: A lot of people say grass or grain fed beef, but that does not mean that the cow was fed grain its entire life. Most cattle live off grass for the majority of their life and then switch to grain once in the feed lot. We’ll get to the specifics of how that happens later.

As consumers, we are all worried about what we eat and the health benefits/risks associated with that. One of these worries is surrounding grass-fed vs grain-fed cattle, whether it be health concerns or animal welfare concerns.

The Grain-Finished Life Cycle

All cattle start out living similar lives; they are born, drink milk from their mothers and then eat grass after being weaned. This continues for about 6-12 months, after that, grain-finished cattle are moved to feedlots.

Feedlot penFeedlots are depicted as horrible, disgusting and cramped places (but that’s a topic for another blog post).
There is actually more room in feedlot pens than most people think. At feedlots the cattle are rapidly fattened up with grain, usually made with corn or soy. When the cattle are first brought to the feed lot they are given feed with high forage/silage content and low grain content to help their bodies adjust to the new diet. The grain portion of the diet steadily increases until the cattle are primarily eating grain. This process occurs over a 3-6 month period. If you are curious about finding out more about feedlots before my next post visit this site.

The Grass-Finished Lifecycle

Just like grain-finished cattle grass-finished cattle spend the first ~12 months of their lives in the same way. The only difference is that instead of being sent off to a feedlot they are “finished” or “grown out” in a grass pasture. This means that they eat grass for the remainder of their life, until slaughter. This entire process can take upwards of a year and a lot of land.

Nutritional Differences

Texas A&M University did a study on the nutritional differences on ground beef grass-fed grain-fed beef cattlegrass-fed grain-fed beef cattlefrom grass-fed and grain-fed cattle. As you can see from the table, grain-fed cattle have a higher omega-3 fatty acid concentration and a higher total saturated and trans-fat content, while grass-fed cattle have a higher oleic acid concentration and lower saturated and trans-fat content. The study continued on to say that the effect of the ground beef on cholesterol was minimal, and Grass vs Grain Finished Beefneither type increased risk for CVD or type II diabetes. “So, at this point, there is no scientific evidence to support the claims that ground beef from grass-fed cattle is a healthier alternative to ground beef from conventional raised, grain-fed cattle” said Stephen Smith, Regents Professor at the TAMU Department of Animal Science.

So as of the research we have right now, there is no health benefits to choosing grass-fed beef. It is solely a choice of preference. If you prefer the taste of grass-fed beef, then by all means eat it. But do not feel like you have to because of health benefits or animal welfare.

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The Truth about the Humane Society of the United States

If you are friends on social media with any farmers, ranchers, hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, or anything of that nature. You may have seen a frenzy of angry and upset posts about a recent occurrence. The Original Muck Boot Company shared a photo on Facebook about a fundraiser they were doing for the Humane Society of the United States. This caused an uproar in the agriculture and hunting communities, and resulted in #WhatTheMuck.

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Muck has since posted a response to this issue, so for some this issue is resolved for others it isn’t, but that is not the reason for this blog post. 

Some people may wonder, why would people freak out about a company donating money to help save puppies and kittens, they must be heartless. But the truth is trying to save puppies and kittens isn’t all that HSUS does, actually it is a very small part of it. Between 2009-2011 the “non-profit” collected more than $509 million, and gave away $27 million to grants and organizations in the United States, which is about 5%. Watch this video for more info. This would be all well and good, if HSUS didn’t present themselves as helping animals via commercialsRescued Stray Cats Wait To Be Adopted

People assume that because of the name, that their $19 a month goes directly to help animals, just like their local shelter does, but really where the money goes is lobbying against “animal cruelty”, in a backhanded way. 

Rapid City Journal did some research and found that HSUS credits itself with passing 470 state laws between 2004-2010, and 121 new laws in 2009 alone. Alright, so not only does HSUS not really help the pitiful animals in their commercials, they pass laws. So what? 

Well the way some/most of those laws are phrased directly affect/limit agriculture, while trying to hide behind the guise of helping animals. One law they proposed in Alabama in 2008, was a law to end cockfighting. This sounded like a wonderful thing to support, until further investigation, where it was discovered that by the wording of the bill any farmer with two or more roosters that could fight would be accused of cockfighting, fined and shut down. Therefore the poultry industry, a large sector of the Alabama economy, would be limited. Farmers got together and formed the Coalition for Farm Animal Care and Well-Being and prevented this law from being passed. 

UnknownAnother law HSUS lobbied for was Proposition 2 in California; which states that egg laying chickens must be free ranging for a certain amount of time, which is going to drive up the cost of egg production and possibly drive the egg industry out of California.

That is the reason so many agriculturalists exploded about HSUS receiving money, because giving money to HSUS could be synonymous with losing our farms and everything we love, live, and dedicate our life to, the agriculture industry. 

If you want to actually help animals donate money, food, or time to your local humane society where it is guaranteed that your money will help animals. 

I hope now that you know the truth about The Humane Society of the United States you either don’t feel guilty about not donating money to HSUS, or you choose to stop donating to HSUS if you have been.