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Grass-Fed vs Grass-Finished

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

The modern marketplace is saturated with product labels employed by every major brand to attract consumers. However, keeping up with the meaning of all these labels can become overwhelming at times. Confusion often surrounds questions of what labels like “naturally raised”, “organic”, or “grass-fed” actually guarantee. So, in an attempt at more complete transparency we’d like to offer some insight into what a couple of these common labels actually mean.

We raise and market “grass-finished” beef, but what does this mean and how does it differ from “grass-fed” beef? To provide a complete answer, we must first explain a little about the beef cattle industry. The modern cattle production model is composed of three distinct phases.

The first, “cow-calf”, phase of production takes place almost exclusively on pasture. The cow-calf pair are raised together until the calf is weaned. At this point the calf enters the intermediate “backgrounding” phase. These cattle, termed stockers, are raised either on pasture or a feedlot until they reach a heavy enough weight to proceed to the third and final, finishing phase. The finishing phase most commonly takes place on a feedlot and is most impactful on the kind of beef product that ends up on your plate. This is also where the grass-finishing model significantly diverges from the conventional production model.

The grass-finished label specifies that an animal has been raised on a diet solely consisting of grass and forages throughout the finishing phase. Contrastingly, there is no clear understanding or regulatory oversight as to what actually qualifies as "grass-fed". This has led to instances of not all grass-fed products necessarily being grass-finished. Despite having been "grass-fed" on a diet of grass and forage through earlier phases of production, animals may have consumed corn grain or silage products to facilitate a faster finish. Ultimately, these final several months of production are the most influential in determining what kind of product ends up on your plate.

For the conscious consumer, grass-finished beef contains more Conjugated Linoleic Acids (CLAs), Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamins A and E, and Phytochemicals (e.g. polyphenols, tocopherols, carotenoids). Additionally, it contains less triglycerides, homocysteine, and glycation byproducts than grain-finished beef. Simply put, this is all indicative of an objectively healthier animal that has lived its entire life as its natural history intended. To the consumer this equates to a more nutrient-dense beef that mitigates risk of chronic ailments such as inflammation, heart disease, and diabetes. Alongside the positive ecological impacts, these health benefits are a big part of why we’re proud to provide grass-finished beef straight from our pastures to your family’s plate.

This is all part of why it's important for consumers to understand what kind of food they're actually purchasing. One of the best ways to do so is by buying directly from a farmer who can explain exactly how that food was produced. Let us know If you'd like to know more about how our beef is raised, or check out our beef product page if you're interested in trying out some grass-finished beef.

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