New Lower Standards for Grass-Fed Beef Will Destroy the Meaning

Grass-fed beef is a much healthier choice than typical grain-fed cattle, which are raised largely in factory farms. It's already difficult to determine whether beef truly is grass-fed, as all beef cattle graze on grass at the beginning of their lives, but conventional cattle are fattened with grains in feedlots for the last three or four months of their lives.

Now the Agriculture Department has proposed a standard for grass-fed meat that may make it even harder to find high-quality, truly grass-fed beef. The new grass-fed standard doesn't say animals need pasture and gives a broader definition of grass. Under the new proposal:

  • Only 99 percent, rather than 100 percent, of a cow's diet come from grass forage
  • Forage is defined more broadly, to include things like leftover corn stalks from harvest and silage (fermented grasses and legumes)

If you're interested in finding real grass-fed beef, and increasing numbers of Americans are, your best option is to get it from a local farmer who raised the animal. Not only does this allow you to bypass shipping costs, but you can talk to the farmer to ensure the cattle are truly grass-fed.

SFGate.com September 3, 2006

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