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.