Updated: Oct 23, 2018
Part III – What does “Grass Fed” really mean when I see it in the store?
Here’s where things are going to get tricky. I explained on a previous blog post “Why we chose not to go “Organic” that the organic labeling system is not operating in a way that it was originally intended. And I said that this problem is systemic – and reaches every level of labeling in the grocery store.
Everybody has expectations when they see certain words. Like when I said people see the term “organic chicken” and think that they must have been raised outside on pasture like we raise our chicken at Gober Grass Fed Farms (more on this in the chicken series) – the same goes for “grass-fed” beef.
When I read the term “Grass-Fed” I think that those cows must have been raised out in a lush green field, where happy cows nap in the mid-day sun and enjoy chewing their cud in the shade of a mighty oak tree.
Here’s what the Grass Fed label really means…
In order to qualify your beef as “Grass Fed” here is the standard you have to abide by – this is per the USDA website:
IT DOESN’T HAVE ONE!!!!
That’s right, y’all… I had all of this worked out to have a wonderful, long blog post explaining what standards producers have to abide by in order to call their beef “grass-fed”, and as it turns out, I have nothing to share with you today…
The USDA’s website for small producers does have the following statement:
Animals certified under this program cannot be fed grain or grain by-products and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.
But what it doesn’t tell you is that this standard was dropped in January 2016, and our government in all its infinite efficiency, just hasn’t updated their website yet…
There is currently NO federal definition that gives us any solid guidance on what ‘Grass-Fed’ really means. And that means that is that a cow can be raised on a cramped feed-lot and fed a bunch of hay. Or it may have been fed a bunch of other stuff along with the grass.
Or it may have had a wonderful life… The point is that you don’t know… And that you’ll never know… Unless you get to know your farmer, and where your food comes from.
Maybe it was fed a bunch of hay on a feed lot, maybe it wasn’t. But you’re going to pay a premium for the product, because you think that the label actually means something, and the reality is that you have no idea where that cow was raised, how it was raised, or what it was fed.
There are some other issues with the standard that did exist in the first place, but that’s a mostly political debate that I’m not going to touch on those here. I’m more concerned about what we can do about this today and going forward…