Kelsey Blackwell's Blog

Where are all the grass-fed cattle?

A few years ago, if you asked someone the difference between grass and corn-fed cattle you’d likely get a shrug. Today, as the public plugs in to where their food comes from and how it’s raised, grass-fed cattle has become the option for ensuring a more sustainable, healthy cut of beef. The trouble is, there’s not enough of it. To meet increased consumer demand, Panorama Meats, the nation’s largest producer of U.S. Department of Agriculture certified beef and 100-percent grass-fed and finished beef issued a release this week trying to enlist new ranchers to its program. Does anyone else find this strange?

Why, if grass-fed is better for the environment, produces healthier meat and yields higher profits, aren’t more ranchers getting on board? The answer is logistics. In order to avoid cross-contamination with corn-fed animals, producers must find slaughterhouses that will accept and process just a few animals at a time—already we have a slaughterhouse shortage. If cattle don’t have access to feed year-round (which is hard when grass is seasonal) ranchers must sell all the beef from their cattle in one season. Additionally, ranchers must adopt sustainable, humane practices and work in concert with nature—which let’s face it, is a completely different mindset then shoving animals into CAFOs and injecting them with hormones.

So what are we to do? Should retailers encourage the production of more grass-fed beef by offering such options preferred store placement--maybe even making the move to only carrying grass-fed? Will this only exacerbate the shortage? Should we as consumers severely limit our beef intake only indulging infrequently on high-quality options? Will this further hurt ranchers? Maybe cattle shares are the best option? I suspect a multi-pronged approach is needed, and soon. What do you think?

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