“Grass-fed” doesn’t mean what you think!

It can be confusing to keep up with all the different labels out there. How many times have you seen labels all over a product’s packaging touting that it is Gluten-free, non-GMO, Organic, Grass-fed, Product of the USA, Wild Caught, etc.?

How in the world are we supposed to keep track of what these labels mean!?!

Photo by  Jed Owen

Photo by Jed Owen

While I understand what the beef companies are doing, I want to be very clear with my customers as to how we raise our animals and what they eat. The main reason being what the animals eat will ultimately be in the final product, whether it’s our beef or eggs.

 I’ve started writing ‘100% Grass Finished Beef’ on my board at the farmer’s market, which has caused several to ask, what’s the difference?  Isn’t grass-fed what it sounds like – beef that has been fed grass?  The answer is maybe.

 In 2016, the USDA dropped its official definition of “grass-fed” and claimed they did not have the authority to define whether grass-fed claims were “truthful and not misleading.”

 If the animal has eaten one blade of grass, beef companies can add ‘grass-fed’ to the label and still be correct, even if the animal was fed corn or grain the last three months of its life. How crazy is that?!?

 Why would a beef producer want to feed grain, corn, or other products? The main answer is money. Feeding grain causes animals to gain weight quickly, which allows the producers to process the animal sooner. It can take up to an additional year for a true grass-fed animal to gain the same amount of weight as a grain-fed animal.

 Now, there are several certification programs with strict requirements to ensure their producers are 100% Grass-fed, but this does not cover all beef producers, and the certification process is expensive and takes several years.

Knowing your farmer and understanding how they raise their animals is what will give you peace of mind about what you’re eating and feeding your family. We have an open farm policy. If you ever want to see the cows and what they’re eating, please ask!

Why do I say ‘Grass-Finished’ beef?

Because that’s how we raise beef here at Gina’s Acres! We ‘finish’ the beef on grass. All of our cows, bulls, and steers eat grass their entire life. During the spring, summer, and fall they rotate through several different pastures eating fresh grass every day. In the winter, they still forage for grass and are fed hay (dried grass) to help supplement their diet. We control what is added to the grass/hay, as it comes from our field.

I hope this helps explain why we call our beef ‘grass-finished.’ We want our customers to be sure that the Gina’s Acres beef they buy is 100% grass-fed with no grain, corn, or skittles. (look it up – it’s a thing!!!)

Photo by Gina Walker

Photo by Gina Walker