Grass-fed beef is said to have a better composition of omega-3/omega-9, CLAs. It is said to be better for the environment, better for animal welfare and even to sequester enough carbon to mitigate its impact on climate change. On the other hand, grass-fed beef takes much longer to finish, thus ‘wasting’ precious resources and emitting more greenhouse gasses per pound of meat produced.
Since grass is their staple, we do all we can to make the grass grow better: think of timely stand renewal, managed intensive paddock rotations and environmentally sound manure management.
After a pregnancy of 9 months, all our cows calve when the deer fawn in the spring. In the fall our beeves are weaned. They weigh anywhere from 600-800 lbs.
The cows return to the field and eat hay, while the calves spend the winter in a three-sided barn, protected from the elements, eating grass silage (fermented grass) and recycled vegetable cuttings. We try to keep them growing at 2.5 lbs/day, about half the rate of growth of conventional feedlot cattle.
Come spring, these beeves now weigh about 1200 lbs. We need another season of pasturing (with added vegetables) for the beeves to be ‘finished’ and yield an 800 lbs carcass. Those that stay for part of the winter will reach around 900 lbs carcasse weight and they will get better as we go. As the grow, the growth rate goes down, but microscopic fat, marbling and fat cap increases. Finishing beeves is the most important part in terms of eating quality. Read more about this here.
Our grass-fed-and-finished beef takes about 18-24 months to finish, compared to 12 months industry standard for conventional feedlot beef with hormones. No wonder that it is a little more expensive.
Since the environment and climate are among the most important reasons for choosing grass-fed beef, it is within our mandate to improve the efficiency of our grass-fed program. The addition of vegetable cuttings and our quest for top-notch genetics are integral parts of our commitment to sustainable agriculture: improved efficiency means less waste and less GGEs.