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October’s 31 Days of Real Food-Day 6

by Olivia Furlow

Day 6: Grass-fed and Pasture-raised what’s the difference?


What is the difference between the two terms,“grass-fed” and “pasture-raised”. Grass-fed refers to an animal that has eaten nothing but their mother’s milk and fresh grass or grass-type hay. Pasture-raised refers to where it eats such as on a pasture. So if it’s important to you that a cow eats the food he was destined to eat, which is grass and has eaten little or no grain then grass-fed is for you. If it’s important to you that the cow lives outside in its natural environment, then pasture-raised is for you.

Ok, but if pasture has grass on it, why isn’t a pasture-raised cow automatically a grass-fed cow? Because a pasture-raised cow might be fed grain by a farmer. Especially in the winter if the farm is in a cold climate where snow covers the pasture. That being said, a pasture-raised cow can certainly be grass-fed, but only if its diet was grass for most of its life which in my opinion is the best of both worlds!

And why isn’t a grass-fed cow automatically a pasture-raised cow? A cow can be housed indoors all its life and be fed grass, in the form of hay. This is pretty rare, though because most cows that are marketed as grass-fed spent a significant time outside on pasture.

Why don’t we see grass-fed pork on packaging? Pigs can’t survive only on grass. They need some grain in their diet. You only see grass-fed beef, lamb, and goat, because these animals eat only grass. You do see “pasture-raised chicken” and “pasture-raised pork,” because animals on pasture can have their diet supplemented with grain.

When buying grass-fed, a product may simply state “grass-fed” on the packaging, but the cow might have been “finished” on grain. Meaning it ate grain during the last 2 or 3 months of its life. Select products that are labeled with “100% grass-fed”. That 100% is the difference between great quality meat or being healthwashed into thinking you are eating whats best.

100% pasture-raised is hard to find but if you really want to go full steam ahead ask a farmer how long their pastured animals are outside during the year and what their indoor conditions are like. We live in Lancaster County, awesome farms and farmers are right at our fingertips! Why are we still shopping for our meats and produce in supermarkets?! Sorry I get passionate on the subject of supporting farms and shopping locally but that is a whole can of worms that I will get to soon enough 🙂


I’ll be honest I’m not one of those people who thinks “pasture-raised” equals “humane”. I know that it is possible for farms to have clean conditions for pigs, chickens and cattle to be very comfortable indoors. Indoor facilities allow for easy cleanup, easy vet care, and temperature control and can be somewhat spacious if built correctly. I believe indoor facilities should be kept and reserved for winter and other unfavorable weather. Animals don’t want to be outside in bad weather anymore than we do and I understand that. But I usually buy pasture-raised meat anyway. And this is why…

I advocate pasture-raised because it is the easiest way not only to keep them clean but also the most practical way to give them a healthy diet. I am realistic with the fact that farmers supplement with corn, but I want to make sure the main staple is grass. Cattle on indoor farms are usually fed almost entirely corn. This promotes the growth of resistant e. coli that causes stomach pains in cattle and can contaminate our meat. A steer fed 60-70% grass-based foods will be cleared of this e. coli, even with corn as a supplement.



The benefits of grass-fed and pasture-raised…

* Healthy for people. Grassfed meat is lean, contains a high percentage of good fats – Omega 3s and CLA — and beneficial antioxidant vitamins and minerals.

* Healthy for animals. Cattle, goats, sheep, and bison evolved to eat grass . Feeding them a diet rich in grains creates an acidic environment in their digestive systems, leading to disease and the need for treatment with antibiotics.

* Healthy for the planet. Pasture-based farming restores natural ecosystems and wildlife habitat, reduces reliance on petrochemicals, improves the soil with organic matter, and reduces greenhouse gases.

* Healthy for communities. Small family farms provide jobs and strong economies in rural communities and create sustainable businesses for succeeding generations.

Have a great day and enjoy the beautiful weather!!!






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