Confused about labeling?
You’re not alone. Labeling should be a way to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions based on a particular product’s production methods, nutritional value, and health benefits, etc.
Due to greenwashing, loopholes, and misinformation, product labels don’t always tell the whole story.
It may surprise you to know that you can purchase two separate products with the same labeling that were produced in very different ways. Grass fed, even 100% grass fed can be misleading to the average consumer.
Your best bet is to know the farm and exactly where your food comes from. Without purchasing direct this would require knowing each and every stockyard, “feedlot”, or farm that your beef passed through during the multiple stages of the production process.
USDA Grass Fed Beef Standards
Food Safety and Inspection Services, “FSIS Labels, “Grass Fed” or “100% Grass Fed” claims may only be applied to meat and meat product labels derived from cattle that were only (100%) fed grass (forage) after being weaned from their mother’s milk. The diet must be derived solely from forage, and animals cannot be fed grain or grain by-products and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season until slaughter.”
“….This means 100% grass-fed animals are never confined to a feedlot. Forage consists of grass (annual and perennial), forbs (e.g., legumes, Brassica), browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state. Hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources may also be included as acceptable feed sources….”
Let’s break this down
FSIS…“This means 100% grass-fed animals are never confined to a feedlot”
Conventional Grass-Fed Beef
Feed lot or not? You decide.
In order to increase productivity and to meet the contract demands of large retailers, it’s common practice for animals to be kept in over grazed pastures (meaning zero or minimal grass growing to eat) and they are fed stored and harvested forage such as silage daily. This allows for more animals to be finished in the same area and more quickly.
Running T Farms
Our animals are not finished on harvested feed. They consume live growing forage Our animals are always being moved to fresh clean paddocks. We do supplement some grass hay in the winter, but the animals are still moving from paddock to paddock in a natural process.
Running T Farms Winter Feeding Practice
FSIS… “Forage consists of grass (annual and perennial), forbs (e.g., legumes, Brassica), browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state…”
Note, that FSIS does not mention how the forage is produced.
Conventional Grass-Fed Beef
To keep animals on a high plain of nutrition without feeding stored feed and silage, animals are fed and finished on cover crops and cereal grains (still in the grass state). Most cover crop “pastures” in our region are active conventionally farmed cropland. This is cropland that is sprayed with chemicals (herbicides such as glyphosate and other herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, etc.) multiple times per year and most of the time, the land was prepared for planting the cover crop using glyphosate prior to planting. Perennial pastures are often subject to herbicides for weed control.
It’s also a common practice in conventional grass fed production to transport animals to different regions throughout the year to feed and finish on cover crops. The transportation process stresses the animals and with each trip on a trailer especially when traveling for hours, animals experience increased stress which can lead to sickness and increased mortality.
Running T Farms
Us (Running T Farms)
Our animals only eat live growing forage during the growing season. Our animals are always being moved from paddock to paddock consisting of live growing forage or sufficient stockpiled forage to meet their nutritional needs. As we convert cropland into perennial pasture, we also graze on some cover crops. We prepare for planting by allowing the cows to eat the vegetation pre-planting, move them to fresh paddocks, and plant right behind. No chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, etc.) are used in the planting of our cover crops or on any of our pastures.
Our animals are born, raised and grazed on our farm, there is no need for transportation from farm to farm.
How we are different?
We choose not to sacrifice quality for quantity.
This includes land, animal welfare and the product you receive. We produce what our land can support naturally and when we are out, we are out, until the next harvest.
True, Natural, Regenerative grazing practices allow the animals to live and eat in a way that helps improve soil life, naturally increasing the nutritive quality of the forage. This helps boost the health and welfare of the animals, and provides a clean, nutrient dense beef for you.
Labels can be misleading. Know your labels, ask the right questions and most importantly, know your farmer.