We have a local Angus beef cattle farm down the road from us. Initially, I was really excited about this, especially as they advertise that their beef is grass-fed. Now, I've seen their cattle out in the pasture munching away on grass, but I wanted to know if they fed their cows corn at any point in their life. So, I drove over there and asked.
Why did I want to know this? Because cows are ruminating animals, are only meant to eat grass, and I find it really sad that most cows are fed a diet of corn because it's cheaper (Seen a corn field lately? There's a lot of them around here.), and they fatten up faster on corn. Do the cattle-raisers care about the health of the cows and what corn does to their digestive track? How about the nutritional value of their beef? NOPE.
Anyway, I went and asked the local farm if they fed their cows corn at all, and I found out something very interesting. I was told that while the cattle are raised on grass, they are finished on a combination of corn, grain, hay, and minerals. So, while they live a grass-fed life, they are not true grass fed cows because they're fattened up or "finished" on corn and grain.
Currently, there are no USDA regulations on the definition of "grass-fed beef", so beef producers can get away with a lot and mislead consumers on whether or not they're really getting true grass-fed beef. Considering that grass-fed beef is significantly more expensive that corn-fed beef, it's no wonder! And what do you think of when you think of a grass-fed cow? A happy cow in a beautiful green pasture? Well, technically a farmer could confine his cow and feed it grass its whole life and still call it a grass-fed cow. I know government food regulations get a bad wrap a lot of the time, but there are times when its necessary, so that consumers know exactly what they're getting when they buy a food.
If you have thought about switching to grass-fed beef or currently buy it and aren't sure if it's up to scratch, then this article will prove very helpful!
Eat Wild is also a fantastic resource for finding locally raised foods. They have a strict criteria for farms in order to be listed on their site.
In the meantime, my search is on for grass-fed, grass-finished beef!