What Does “Grass Fed” or “Grass Finished” Mean?
October 2, 2023
What does Grass Fed or Grass-Finished Beef Mean?
In a nutshell:
Grass Fed: Can mean that the animal has been raised on mother’s milk and grass its entire life. It can also mean that the animal was born and fed for the first part of its life (usually 6 to 8 months) on grass, then switched to a grain diet to make it grow more quickly and get fatter. So the animal was grass fed but it wasn’t ‘finished’ on grass.
Grass Finished: Takes the guesswork out of the subject. It states unequivocally that the animal was raised on grass and then finished on grass. ‘Finishing’ in this case is the final part of the animal’s life. The animal is no longer getting mother’s milk but is living as an adult usually with a group of its peers. This is the part of the animal’s life where they do the most growing.
Side-by-Side Comparison: Grass Fed vs. Grass-Finished
Grass Fed and Grass Finished can be misunderstood.
Generally speaking, an animal that is grass fed and grass finished is one that is started on mother’s milk and grass and then finished on grass.
An animal that is grass fed but not grass finished is started on grass while it is with its mother and then switched to grain once it is weaned.
You can see a comparison of the two styles of feeding here:
Feed: Grass from day 1 until ready for finishing. Then the animal CAN go onto grain to get ‘finished’.
Nutrients of feed: High lignin content to start the animal’s life, then can be switched to high carbohydrate content feeds (grains) for the finishing portion of their life.
Nutrients of product: Lower content of Omega 3 fatty acids if the animal is fed grain for the latter parts of its life. Also less vitamins and minerals if the animal is fed grains.
Feed: Grass from day 1 until end of life. No grains.
Nutrients of feed: High lignin content, high vitamin and mineral content. Less Omega 6 fat producing feeds.
Nutrients of product: Higher Omega 3 fatty acid content. Higher content of vitamins and minerals since the animal eats feeds that are higher in those nutrients.
So is grass fed meat better than grass-finished beef?
Grass Fed and Grass Finished CAN BE the same thing. You should ask the producer of any grass fed beef that you are planning to purchase whether the animal was also grass finished. If the animal was grass fed and grass finished — also called ‘100% grass fed’ — the animal will have higher quality meat. There will be less Omega 6 fats and the meat will be higher in vitamins and minerals than the Grass Fed and Grain finished meats.
There is no substitute for being in communication with your farmer and finding out specifically how he raises his animals. The farmer should have no problem answering any questions you might have.