Living Beyond Organic Mom

If You Care About What's In Your Food!

Isn’t All Grass Fed Beef the Same?

on April 17, 2012

This is the very sad contrast of 100% GreenFed & Finished Beef and conventional Grain Fed Beef! Conventional beef is  Full of toxins, diseases, injected with all kinds of Hormones, Antibiotics and abused

Differences in Beef Production and What It Means to You

Not all beef is created equal

Adapted from notes by Marke McConnell
from a discussion by Jordan Rubin

To most people, beef is beef. You may like it or hate it, but you think it’s pretty much all the same. However, how that beef if produced makes a world of difference in how your body handles it and the benefits it offers you.

When dealing with the question of cattle raised for beef, there are three distinctions that must be made; distinctions that are intrinsic to the discussion: the three primary methods of raising cattle for food.

  1. There is conventional, industrial feedlot beef production, which accounts for 90% of all beef produced.
  2. There is organic industrial beef production, which bears many similarities to conventional production, but with a few beneficial upgrades.
  3. Then there is Green-FedGreen-Finished beef production, as practiced by Beyond Organic , which sets out to be the anti-feedlot method, in every way possible.

Let’s look at several topics pertinent to the discussion.

I thought red meat was supposed to be bad for me?  contends that beef cattle, whenproperly raised and nourished, provide a very healthy source of many important macro-nutrients, micro-nutrients, fats and minerals. I’ve heard Jordan Rubin say that he feels, if there is one food a person can upgrade in his or her diet, one that will provide the most benefit and pack the biggest nutritional punch, it would be changing the quality of meat he or she consumes. He says this because, when it comes to animal-based foods, it’s not just what you eat; it’s what they ate.

This is an important distinction, not typically considered.

Ultra-high-quality, Green-Fed, Green-Finished beef contains beneficial amounts of many substances:

  • Vitamins like B12 and B6;
  • Minerals like zinc;
  • Amino acids like carnitine (for the heart), creatine (for the muscles), glutamine (for the digestion) and carnosine (for the brain);
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA, helpful for weight control and known to fight cancer); and
  • Healthy fats (fats really are our friends, despite what is conventionally believed).

Conversely, in a poorly-raised animal, the fat becomes a storage mechanism for many toxins, which anyone would naturally want to avoid.

What is the history of beef production in the U.S. and how has it changed over the years?

All cattle are born and begin their lives in pastures (though not all pastures are created equal). This is where calves consume milk from their mothers and learn to graze and eat grass. (Cows are herbivores. They’redesigned to eat a diet of greens, such as grasses, herbs, forbs [weeds], legumes and the like.)

So, all cows start out basically the same.

But, iIt’s not where a cow starts out that makes the difference between conventional, organic and Green-Fed; it’s where they end up that makes the difference.

In 1935, only 5% of cattle were “finished,” or produced, in industrial feedlots. By 1966, 40% of cattle were raised in feedlots and 66% were fed an unnatural diet of grains. By 2011, 90% of cattle are raised in an automated industrial feedlot/packing house system.

What a difference! But what drove that change?

    1. As Americans became more affluent, in much the same way as they abandoned whole grain breads for white bread, there was an increased demand by consumers for “marbled” steak. These are cuts of beef that have layered deposits of fat throughout the muscle tissue, and are prized for their taste and their texture.

However, to achieve this fatty marbling, the animal is “engineered” through an unnatural diet of grains, in order to fatten it up more quickly — and to a greater degree — than if the cow had consumed its natural diet of greens. While this produces beef that is very tasty, it seriously compromises the health of the animal, as well as the nutritional value of the meat.

  1. Inexpensive grain costs made it easier to both maximize profit and intersperse other unnatural dietary additives.
  2. The development of antibiotics and penicillin allowed cattle to be herded into much tighter, much more polluted, much less natural confines, while averting the otherwise unavoidable epidemic outbreaks that would certainly stem from those conditions.

What is a conventional industrial feedlot?

Feedlots go by the official moniker CAFO: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. CAFOs are defined as “a production process that concentrates large numbers of animals in relatively small and confined spaces, substituting structures and equipment (for feeding, temperature controls and manure management) for land and labor.”

The value of a cow sold for food is based on that cow’s weight. Therefore, the purpose of aCAFO is to fatten the cow and add overall weight/sellable pounds prior to processing. What this means, in practical terms, is that the goal of a feedlot is to fatten up a cow, during the last 3-4 months of his life (this is referred to as “finishing”), at a rate of 4 to 4.5 lbs per day.

Let’s paint a clearer picture of what this looks like, in real life.

  • Feedlots are tightly-packed outdoor storage pins, full of cattle, devoid of grass, piled deep with mud, muck and manure.
  • The water the cows drink is unhealthy and full of germs.
  • The cows line up, in dense numbers, against the edge of the fences, to eat grain pellets from a trough (“bunk”). They are allowed to eat as frequently and as much as they want.
  • The grain is typically genetically modified (usually corn or soy). GMOs cause a great many health problems and really should be avoided at all costs.
  • The grain can contain the leftover swill, which is a byproduct of alcohol production.
  • The grain can contain the ground up remains of other animals, including other cows, which many feel is the cause of Mad Cow Disease.
  • The grain can contain manure.
  • The grain is loaded with low level antibiotics, to keep the cows from dying. (What does that tell you about the healthfulness of this process?)
  • The grain is loaded with growth hormones, to make the cows larger than they would naturally be. The problem is: It also makes us larger than we should be.
  • The grain contains plastic-like synthetic roughage, meant to substitute for the natural fiber their diets lack.
  • Waste management is usually poor, which means the cattle are wallowing in their own feces.
  • Kind care of the cattle is not even a consideration; they are a product, a factor in an industrial equation.

In other words, the life of a cow in this environment is short, controlled, unnatural and anything but the idyllic picture one finds on the label and in the marketing materials draw up by the beef companies. The bottom line is that feedlots benefit corporations by increasing their profits. That much is certain.

But, what impact do they have on animal welfare, human health and the environmental?

What is Industrial Organic beef production?

In many cases (including all the larger, top brands you find at the grocery store), Industrial Organic beef production uses very similar methods as Conventional beef production. It differs only in a few superior upgrades.

It must be stressed that this does not apply to every organic beef producer in the country. Some of thesmallerlocal farms are quite diligent in operating by higher, cleaner, safer standards. But, a system very similar to conventional beef production is allowed under “organic” standards, provided a few extra criteria are met.

Marke’s interjection:

In other words, as I understand this explanation, it would be perfectly acceptable, under Organic standards, for a cow

  • to eat grain, hay or feed 100% of the time during two thirds of the year,
  • to eat grain, hay or feed 70% of the time the other third of the year, and
  • to eat grain, hay or feed 100% of the time during the final months of its life.

… and still be legally labeled as “Organic” and as “Grass Fed.” Unbelievable!

The mandated standards an Organic beef producer must follow are:

    • The cattle must be allowed to graze in the pasture at least 120 days of the year.
    • During grazing season, cows must consume 30% of their diet from the pasture (which means that, for the other 70% of their diet, hay, supplements or grain is allowed).
    • During the “finishing” period (the last 3-4 months before processing), cattle are exempt from the 30% rule. Producers are only required to give them “access” to pasture. However, “access” is not clearly defined (how much pasture? for how long? etc); only that the cow must have a “doorway” through which it could, theoretically, go to pasture, if it chooses to.

Understandably, this point would be difficult to enforce and, thus, leaves big loopholes open for producers to cut corners, if they so choose.

Obviously, requiring some pasture grazing is better than none; but it’s probably not what most of us are picturing when we think of “grass-fed beef.”

So, that’s the bad news. The good news is:

  • Any grain consumed must be organic.
  • No animal parts, animal by-products, plastics, chemicals, genetically modified organisms or junk filler are allowed in the feed.
  • No antibiotics or growth hormones are allowed.
  • There is a greater degree of transparency and traceability required. (You can read these standards, in legalese, on the USDA website.

What is still lacking in organic beef production?

In short, raising cattle under organic standards is better than not. However, it could be better. Here are a few concerns:

  • The majority of the cow’s life is still spent confined in a feedlot, rather than in open pasture.
  • The high grain diet, still permitted under these standards, alters the cow’s nutrient profile and also contributes to acidosis, gut microbe growth and excess gas and bloating in cows.
  • The high grain diet leads to an Omega6 to Omega3 fatty aid ratio that is not ideal! (20-32x more omega-6 than omega-3, which has dietary health professionals concerned, because of the effect it is producing in the American diet).
  • The high grain diet leads to very low levels of CLA, which is being researched heavily in universities today for their benefits to human health.

What is Green-Fed, Green-Finished beef production?

The following are characteristics of the Green-Fed beef production system used in the Beyond Organicoperation.

  • Green-Fed / Green-Finished cows have not only been started on grass, they have lived on grass and they have been finished on grass. The cows consume no grains. (Even most organic cattle are not finished on grass.) It’s better for the cow; it’s better for your health; it’s better for the planet.
  • Cows intensely graze on grasses, greens, herbs, forbs (weeds) and legumes, as nature intended.
  • There are between 2,500 and 3,000 cows feeding on 8,500+ acres of organic, open pasture; you will find no overcrowded, tight confines here.
  • Pastures are never sprayed with chemical pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, and are free of synthetic chemical fertilizers. The farm practices sustainable land and soil management, for optimal soil fertility and forage nutrient content.
  • The cattle are only supplemented with certified organic greens and grasses when necessary (such as in the coldest parts of winter).
  • Cows have a peaceful, happy existence on open pastures. The farm adheres to animal kindness standards in raising, finishing, and processing.
  • The beef is minimally processed; no artificial ingredients or preservatives. The farm uses Biblically-based processing methods (kosher slaughter, blood drained completely, only best cuts of meat, no organ fat). 
  • Beyond Organic’s operation is the anti-feedlot system. It’s a sustainable alternative to the conventional feedlot, and yields beef that is naturally high in omega-3’s and CLA. The beef is initially available as ultra-gourmet, best cuts of meat, in the form of ground beef and beef hotdogs.

5 responses to “Isn’t All Grass Fed Beef the Same?

  1. Dashiell Bark-Huss says:

    What type of legumes are fed to the cows?

  2. Pam says:

    What breed of cows does Jordan Rubin believe are best/biblical for beef? & dairy?

    • Celina says:

      He uses the A-2 cows, because they do not have the genetic mutation the A-1 cows have, that cause so many people to be intolerant of dairy products. I hope I answered your question. If not please feel free to either leave another comment here or e-mail me at 🙂

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