Sunday, November 9, 2008

Grass-Fed Beef & Droughts Don't Mix

A lot of people have asked me why grass-fed (what I like to call grass-only) beef is more expensive, given that the ranchers / graziers don't have to give the cattle growth hormones or preventative antibiotics to improve their, er, ability to get big fast.

Well, that's one of the points, grass-only beef takes longer to get to the delicious stage - typically 24 months vs. 12 to 14 months for commodity beef. For a farmer, it's kind of like working really hard but not getting paid until 8 months later.

Here is one more reason: grass is not only seasonal, it's really fickle.

And a long drought can be devastating.

If you raise beef cattle and there's no green grass during your growing season (which varies around the country), you either need to 1) rely on dried grasses or fermented dried grasses (aka silage), 2) sell your calves and/or 3) unbenownst to me until I saw an article by Terence Chea via AP , sell your cows to a feedyard or slaughterhouse.

A few years drought = no dried grasses.

Guys, it takes a very long time nurture a female calf into a calf-producing cow. (As I understand it, minimum 2 years and that's after a 9 months gestation period.)

And cattle finished on dried grass or silage will taste different.

My best wishes for a good, balanced rainy season to the good people raising and processing and aging natural and organic beef in California and environs.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

really great article. thanks for the post. i only eat Grass Fed Beef. Specifically from La Cense Farms in Montana http://www.lacensebeef.com They have the best tasting meat in my opinion, and I love them because they are actively educating the public about why grass fed beef is better for your health, and why sustainable agriculture is important to our community. You should definitely check them out. Great article.

Carrie Oliver said...

Dear Anonymous,

LaCense is a great company, I agree, and I've sent folks their way many times. We even included their dry-aged Angus beef in our first Artisan Beef Institute taste test, when we were developing our tasting guide.

No doubt they won't be everyone's favorite but that's the beauty of genuine artisan beef - since you know what's on your plate, who raised it and how, you can actually find a favorite and have a reasonable chance of being happy every time.

Saying that, seasonal changes in grass mean seasonal changes in the flavors (and texture) of grass-only beef. Important that people know that. Frankly, I think that's one more reason to celebrate artisan beef.