What does "grass-fed" mean and what does it have to do with our food? (guest post) - Our Daily Green

Saturday, January 4, 2014

What does "grass-fed" mean and what does it have to do with our food? (guest post)

Today's post is written by Our Daily Green's good friend, Michael, who owns Walnut Hill Farm. He recently posted this valuable piece of information on his Facebook page, and we thought it was so relevant we asked his permission to share with our readers. If you're in Western PA or Eastern Ohio, we strongly recommend their grass-fed and finished beef. We are Walnut Hill customers for several years now. Thanks, Michael for sharing your thoughts with our readers. We encourage you to continue to learn more about the food you eat. 
Grass fed is the term that we use to describe our small (but growing!) beef & lamb feeding operation here at Walnut Hill Farm. At least in the context of our operation, it means that our ruminants eat GRASS ONLY, for the ENTIRETY of their life. (Some add the term "grass-finished" to describe what we do. I'm thinking that addition may be worth considering in light of what I'm about to talk about).

It seems that over the past few years, the term "grass fed" (as well as many other terms suggestive of a more sustainable approach to raising food --- or just plain healthier food; "All natural" is another great example) has been widely hijacked by folks who graze calves on pasture, then "finish" them on grain. Technically, they are not lying. At some point, EVERY cow eats grass. Thus, by that logic, EVERY BEEF COW could be considered "grass fed". Much like every tree could likely be considered "seed fed" and every mammal "milk fed".

This has always been the case (ie: beef could have been called "grass fed" even when "grain fed" was the term that brought a higher price at market). Truly grass fed (and "finished") beef take between 24 & 36 months to get to "finished" weight (that's why grass fed beef costs more). Grain fed (whether in a pasture or a feedlot) gets there in 18-22 months. There are many operators out there who think nothing of charging you the premium earned by the extra work and time involved in raising a grass fed animal, even though they did not earn it. This is theft by deception, in my book.

The term that's been coined to describe this (and similar) unscrupulously deceptive marketing technique(s) is "GREENWASHING". (In this case, the greenwashing is meant to take advantage of the fact that Americans are finally waking to the health & taste advantages of grass fed beef). This, coupled with the USDA's refusal to allow the term "Grass Finished" on labeling can lead to a LOT of confusion among a nation struggling to reconnect with our food...

Buyer beware! If you're looking for "grass fed" or "free range" (don't even get me started on that one!), PLEASE make sure you're getting what you're paying for!

Best bet:
KNOW YOUR FARMER!
#WHFGrassfed

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