Do we sell Grass Fed Beef?
By Sam Wass, Medium Well
Do we sell Grass Fed Beef, is probably one of the most common questions we get asked. No is the simple answer, but probably yes is the unofficial answer. If you want certified Grass-fed then we’re not the place for you. We’re not against Grass-fed, we just think it needs clarity and intervention which probably needs to happen at government and policy level.
Allow us to explain in a bit more detail…
Beef is not strictly seasonal, but most farmers agree that their best beef cattle of the year is produced in the Summer months when finishing on grass and natural vegetation is easy. It is much harder to 'finish/feed' a cattle indoors in winter months on grass/hay alone, which is why very few traditional farmers would finish grass-fed cattle out of summer months.
Grass-fed beef is a hot topic at the moment, and one we can't believe is an issue in the UK, but it is being spun (mainly by people outside meat and agriculture industries) and that is that. If we were based in the USA or South America then we’d only sell grass-fed beef as intensive beef farming is an issue over there. In Britain's green and pleasant lands, beef farming is (generally) done the traditional correct way, and we do not believe it is an issue that should concern the consumer.
Also the scientific studies conducted around the benefits of grass-fed are in early stage and not fully conclusive. It is also somewhat of a paradox, that the higher levels of omega-3s that are generally proclaimed as the major benefit for eating grass-fed are found in the marbled monounsaturated fat interleaved in beef, so if it’s trimmed of fat, as most lean-eating promotes, the health benefit is somewhat mitigated to an extent.
Regardless almost everyone agrees natural grass diets produce the best beef. As we’ve said, we’re not knocking grass-fed (far from it), but as things stand it is a bit of a marketing badge and it needs government intervention to clarify what it actually means in our opinion. As mentioned in parts of South America and Brazil in particular, beef cattle are fed on cereals and soya, often grown on land of recently burnt rain forest such is the demand for the product. In Britain, pretty much all beef cows graze grass in the summer and are fed hay, silage or straw in winter. In many cases they’ll remain grazing throughout winter too, but for some farmers this isn’t possible or viable. There is also the huge caveat, that most farmers and stock-men we work with would be the first to say that during winter months the cattle prefer to stay indoors in the barns as just like the rest of us they hate the cold and wet weather.
The most important thing for us as a business is to work with farmers and suppliers we know and trust, and who share our ethos. Being grass-fed is unfortunately not the guarantee of quality many people believe it to be. The swell of hype around grass-fed means that farmers (quite rightly) get higher margins for pure grass-fed produce, but there are instances where this can it can lead to the practise of sending cattle to slaughter earlier than planned or force feeding quickly to ensure the grass-fed badge is achieved, even though maturing cattle and finishing them correctly is much better for the livestock.
We work with some small-scale farmers who grow 98% of the feed their cattle eat on their own farms, yet they wouldn’t get the Organic or Grass-fed badge because they rightly believe they know what is better for their livestock than a tick-sheet exercise to get a certificate. If they decide that finishing their cattle on sugar-beet or their home-grown special recipe is the best way to finish their cattle, then we’re happy for them to prove us right in the tasting.
We recognise that consumers do want Grass-fed and we’ll be supplying a range accordingly soon, but we’d urge you to think about the reasons you’re looking to buy grass-fed and not just ‘follow the herd’ so to speak :-)
With Meat Love - GBMC