Is there really a difference?
YES! I would like to talk about the benefits of pasture raised beef, and why a pasture raised cow is more important and much healthier than just a “grass-fed” cow.
Let’s look at the difference. A pasture raised cow is a cow that well…lives on the pasture. They have plenty of room to move around and graze. A grass-fed cow is a cow that is fed grass instead of your common feed-lot type food of corn and soy. A grass-fed cow is a lot better than your average supermarket beef that was raised in a feedlot. However a pasture raise cow is even superior to that of a “grass-fed” cow.
A cow’s natural diet is to graze on the land and most of the grazing is on some type of natural grass. So you could say that all pasture raised cows are grass-fed but you can’t say that all grass-fed cows live on a pasture. That is the main difference!
Why this matter? A conventionally raised cow’s life generally consists of the cow being born, living on the pasture for about 7 to 9 months then being sent to a feed lot for 3 to 5 months to be fatten-up on an unnatural diet of corn and soy, and given growth hormones.
Conventionally raised cows are sent to feed lots because this unnatural diet of grain and soy along with growth hormones fattens a cow very quickly. What used to take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to get a cow up to “slaughter” weight can now be done in just one year, thanks to this conventional process. This means more money for ranchers.
However this unnatural “growing” of cattle has a dark side. Remember a cow is designed to eat grass, not corn and definitely not soy. Eating these unnatural foods makes cows sick. Once you factor in the overcrowding of feed lots, this leads to stress and unsanitary conditions.
Feed lots are also very crowded; this leads to the cows becoming much stressed. (Think about when you are in an overly crowed room, your stress levels go through the roof). Stress can be just as damaging if not more damaging on overall health as bad diet and no exercise.
Also feed lots are very dirty! There are thousands of cows in a confined space basically pissing and crapping on each other, the cows walk around and lay in this sewage! (Have you ever driven by a feed lot and thought it smelled good? They stink! However, when you see cows on the pasture there is no smell).
Because of many of these known negative health effects of conventionally raised beef, “grass-fed” beef is becoming a new market for ranchers. Ranchers can charge much more for the grass-fed cows. Because of this, “grass-fed” operations are becoming more commercialized.
You have cows while, being fed grass, may live in overcrowded “feed lot” type environments. The term “grass fed” does not guarantee that the cow is free to roam. Most people are more familiar with how labeling has be exploited with eggs- free range with eggs only means the chicken has access outside. Many times the chickens are so conditioned; they will not even go outside!
The same thing is happening to the organic food market and more information can be found in the highly recommended book The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Also these commercially raised “grass-fed” cows may be slaughtered in massive processing facilities.
I haven’t even touched on the environmental impact of these feed lots, or the lack of humane treatment to the cows! Those two topics deserve a whole blog to themselves.
IT MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER TO KNOW WHERE YOUR FOOD COMES FROM!
The solution? Locally, pasture raise cows slaughtered in small processing establishments. This is the only way to ensure you are eating the healthiest beef possible!
Here are some more info the topic