F&F Definitions: Grass-Fed

Grass-fed, grass-finished, grass-grazed, why on earth do we care so much about grass on the Farms & Fields menu? We are a dining venue. What does this have to do with ground cover?

Different animals eat different things based on how their stomachs are built. In this post, I’ll be focusing specifically on cows because cows are typically what you’ll see “grass-feeding” tied to, especially at Farms & Fields (perhaps in a later post I’ll delve into pigs because they are quite different). The terms in this post can also be applied to other ruminants, an important thing to note.

On to cows. Did you know that a cow has four stomachs (or stomach compartments)? The expressions we make after we have a big dinner are starting to make more historical sense. When a cow eats, it doesn’t chew much before swallowing (like some of us do, unfortunately). Unlike us, though, the cow regurgitates a little “cud” later on and chews that, just to swallow it again.  It’s a complicated system fine tuned by high class cow body technology. Their stomachs are well-equipped to eat grass and things like it with lots of cellulose. Humans are not: we actually can’t digest it (the cellulose is not something that our “one” stomach knows how to deal with).

Grass-fed

Like “organic,” this can mean different things in different contexts. This term, “grass-fed” may be accompanied by a label like the American Grassfed Association provides with certification. This label means that the animal dined on grassy ground cover fare 100% of its life, ate that grass while roaming around outside as cows used to do, and wasn’t given any kind of a growth hormone or antibiotic. This label isn’t very common, so it’s more likely that for your uses, you’ll hear the term or see it without the certification. Without the label, the term can be tricky. It can mean that the cow was fed grass at some point in its life. Or, it can mean the cow was fed grass and pastured (raised and roamed on pasture) all of its life.

Grass-finished

This is a more specific term that many farmers use to break away from the flexibility that comes with the last term. This one leaves no question: farmers describing their beef (or other ruminant meat) not only pastured and fed their animals grass or natural ground cover, but they finished them there (not at a feed lot for the “last 100 days”). This is just another way of saying “100% of life on pasture.”

At Farms & Fields, much of our beef comes from cows in Independence, VA that can be called grass-fed or grass-finished because they ate grass and roamed 100% of life from the Grayson Natural Farms Cooperative. If you want to know more about any of our meats, just ask. At Farms & Fields, transparency is paramount. I hope this was enlightening!

Photo courtesy.

Diagram courtesy.

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