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Lexicon of Sustainability

Watchword: Grass Fed

Watchword: Grass Fed
To draw attention to the best and brightest ideas in sustainability, the Lexicon of Sustainability's Food List project defines the words that are integral to a healthy, transparent, and accountable food system. Each week, we explore a new word through artwork, films, recipes, and written works. See all Food List words here. 

Grass Fed: Cattle are grazing range dwellers. They eat grass. Cattle feed that's primarily based on corn is a relatively new phenomenon, and ultimately unnatural. While it makes cattle grow bigger quicker, it also makes them sick—and corn-fed meat is higher in saturated fats and lower in nutrients like omega-3s and vitamin E.

Farmers across the world have started to shun the industrial model, choosing instead to raise grass-fed cows, just like your grandparents did.

Title: Grass Fed Vs. Corn Fed
Featuring: George and Eiko Vojkovich
Location: Skagit River Ranch, Sedro Woolley, Washington

Rangelands cover nearly 40 percent of the United States, and are the single largest ecotype on earth. The amount of available forage on these lands depends on a variety of factors, including climate and geography, but proper rotation grazing practices actually help these rangelands regrow by triggering photosynthesis, which pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and captures carbon in the soil.

For George and Eiko (pictured above), when profit is the only motive, food is mass-produced without concern for food nutritional values, animal welfare or the environment. To them, a sustainable farm is one that produces quality livestock or crops year after year without chemical fertilizer or pesticide inputs of any kind. Such a process financially sustains both a farm’s operations and the family whose lives depend upon it. 

The heritage breed seen here dates back to the '50s, a time when animals were much more efficient at grass conversion (before their genetics were re-engineered for feed lot production).

Short film: "Grass Fed" by The Lexicon of Sustainability

Cows that are grass fed consume grass and forage as the feed source for the lifetime of the animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. Cows are ruminant animals—animals that eat and digest grass. What happens if cows eat food they are not intended to consume?

Recipe: Arugula with Steak, Lemon & Parmesean by Chef Ann Cooper

Grass-fed meat not only tastes better, it's also full of all the nutrients that are missing when cattle are raised on a corn-based diet. Tangy arugula, balsamic vinegar, and freshly shaved parmesean cheese get just as much stage time in this dish from Chef Ann Cooper. 

If you eat meat, how do you strive to do so more sustainably? Tell us in the comments below, and follow us for more on grass fed throughout the week.

For the past three years, the Lexicon of Sustainability has sought out the foremost practitioners of sustainability in food and farming to gain their insights and experiences on this important subject. What began as a photography project to spread their knowledge has grown to include short films, study guides, traveling shows, a book, and a website where people can add their own terms to this ever-evolving lexicon. See more at

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