Grass-fed Cattle

Finishing cattle on grass is an art and science. Here’s where we swap stories about how to do it right.

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By David Jessup

Time Magazine calls it the “next food frontier.”  Consumer demand for grass-fed beef is growing at a rate of 20% a year.  People are catching on that beef from grass-fed cattle is lower in saturated fat and higher in Omega-3 anti-oxidant vitamins than meat from their grain-stuffed, feedlot raised cousins. 

But there is a potential problem.  Grass-fed beef can sometimes be tough.  Some producers make this a virtue by labeling it “lean.”  But according to Alan Nation, the Johnny Appleseed of grass-fed beef, the product will never realize its potential until better quality and consistency is achieved. 

If we lived inFrance orArgentina, where people tend to slow-cook their meat, it might not be such a problem.  But here people like fast-cooked, seared meat.  Tender, juicy and well-marbled.  Is there a tradeoff between health and edibility?  Read more on The Grass-feeders Dilemma…

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By David Jessup

Our beautiful Big Valley used to suffer from cow pie pileup.  Mounds of manure, all deposited in one place.  Well, three places really, but concentrated in those spots to such a degree that the beautiful native grass couldn’t survive.  I call them kill zones.  They blighted six to eight acres in total.

One such bovine bathroom was in a little swale on top of the Big Valley East Ridge.  A beautiful spot, rimmed on the north and south with ponderosa-covered sandstone cliffs.  The great plains stretch away to the east; the snow-coveredMummyRangelooms to the west.  A picnic place, a destination.  Except for the cow pies.   The manure reached a foot deep in some places.  Instead of western wheat grass, blue grama and wildflowers, the place became infested with weeds – ragweed, pigweed, Russian thistle.  They grow as high as your armpit. 

Why did our cows chose such a place to defecate?  Our herd – 60 cows, 2 bulls, 25 steers and 15 replacement heifers, spend October through February in theBigValley.  Read more on Cow Pie Pileup – Is it Natural?…

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By David Jessup

The recent furor over “pink slime” – the unappetizing name given by critics to the filler found in most store-bought hamburger – misses an important point:  the real health danger lurks elsewhere.

Pink slime, or “finely textured beef,” as the industry prefers to call it, is made from beef trimmings from slaughterhouses spun in a centrifuge to separate out some of the fat and bathed in ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria.  It makes up over 25% of what you’ve been buying as hamburger in grocery stores and fast-food restaurants.

Ammonium hydroxide raises the Ph level of the meat product from acidic to slightly alkaline, an environment hostile to bacteria such as the E. coli variant that has caused numerous deaths and massive hamburger recalls.

The chemical appears to be harmless – the USDA has pronounced ammonium hydroxide safe, and it’s used in other processed foods.  But no one seems to ask the question, why is the meat so acidic in the first place as to foster bacterial growth?  Read more on “Pink Slime” is the Least of Our Worries…

By David Jessup

What makes grass-fed meat healthier is not the amount of Omega 3 (good fat), but the ratio between Omega 6 (bad fat) and Omega 3.  In a phone interview, Dr. Susan Duckett of Clemson University told me that according to the 1994 Lyon Diet Heart Study, lowering the Omega 6 / Omega 3 fat ratio below 2:1 resulted in a 76 percent decrease in human mortality from heart disease.  Read more on Omega 6/Omega 3 Ratio – What’s that got to do with the health of beef?…

Filed under Healthy Beef by on #

By David Jessup

While industrial grain-fed beef can increase the risk of heart disease, grass-fed beef does not.  Here are some quotes I found from “You docs” Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz in their Daily Blog:

  •  “Look for the grass-fed beef that’s making its way onto supermarket shelves. It contains up to one-third less saturated fat than grain-fed beef and has some heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, too.”  (May 28, 2009)
  • “Like grass-fed beef, wild game meat tends to have more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids (that’s the good stuff found in fatty fish)” (December 26, 2009).
  • Go for grass-fed.  It has one-third less saturated fat than regular beef and some good-for-you omega-3s.” (June 14, 2010)

David J

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   By David Jessup

(A version of this article was published in the Stockman Grass Farmer, June, 2011)

Beef cattle belch out tons of methane.  Some studies claim cows account for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.  And it turns out that grass-fed cows belch more than their grain-fed cousins, a fact that gladdens the hearts of feedlot owners seeking a patch of moral high ground on which to plant a green flag. 

 Now along comes Bill McKibben to snatch the flag back for the grass-feeders.  (“The Only Way to Have a Cow,” by Bill McKibben, Orion Magazine, March/April 2010.)    Read more on Git Along Little Microbes…

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