By Cassidy Wiseman
What is about grass feed beef that makes it so appealing? Many people say that grass fed beef is the best kind of beef to eat. Their basis behind this idea is that cattle that are only pasture fed are most natural and provide the most natural (best) taste. Are these claims really true though? Is there a significant taste difference between pasture and feedlot finished beef?
To understand these questions you have to understand the modern beef production process to day. Beef production, as we know it today is geared for maximum production and efficiency. Cattle are bred for their efficiency of feed and the ability to covert feed to meat. Feed rations are based off highly nutritional grain and supplements that allow cattle consume more calories and efficiently gain weight quickly. Cattles dependence on forages is still there, but the introductions of these feeds have lessened the need for high amounts of forages. This has allowed cattle producers to produce more head of cattle in smaller areas of land, which has subsequently made beef affordable to consumers.
So lets go back to the questions from the beginning of the blog. What is it about grass fed beef that makes it so appealing? There is a growing group of Americans that believe that there is not a reason that cattle should be fed a majority grain diet. This is because they believe that it is because of these diets cattle having more intestinal complications and development issues. The reality is that there is no evidence to fully support these claims. When fed correctly there has been many studies to show that majority grain fed diets do not have any substantial negative affect on cattle. As with many things in the world that are going well such as grain fed diets there has to be one or two people that ruin the idea for the rest though.
The other half of the backing for grass fed beef is that the taste of grass fed beef is better than that of grain fed beef. This is idea that what an animal eats will have an effect on the taste of the meat is not really been proven as fact or false. If there is a taste difference it is not enough to be accurately proven. This is because everyone taste things differently so these test can only pull averages. In my own opinion the idea there is nothing to say one taste better over the other, it all comes down to a matter of perspective. if you like more natural holistic foods the idea of grass fed beef will automatically make you think it taste better.
Now just like any idea there is a list of negatives that follow it. Is grass fed beef really worth it for the producer? Does the time it takes to finish cattle on pasture vs. grain finishing really pay off? The first negative is that when it comes to producing more pounds of meat per acre of land grass fed beef can not foot that bill. These arguments stem from producers that feed grain based on a feed ration along with forages. Here in Missouri the acreage requirements for cattle is about an 1.5 acres of pasture. This means that if you have 120 acres (average Missouri family farm) and only raise cattle that is 80 head of cattle.
The second negative is the marketability of grass fed beef and if the market is big enough to support expanding the grass fed industry. the reality though is that currently the market is mainly fed off of small groups of enthusiast. There is a silver lining though many large market superstores and grocery stores are beginning to supply grass fed beef to suppliers. These expansions unfortunately localized to urban centers. This is where the majority of grass fed beef consumers are located. It is up to the future to tell what will happen to grass fed beef and if the market will grow large enough to support an expansion in production.