Here at the farm, we have officially finished harvest. The soybeans are cut, corn picked and milo in the grain bin. For some, this may allow for time to sit back and catch a breath. For others, we will be spending our extra hours giving a little TLC to the cattle.
Calving usually begins in February, and by May, baby cows are sent to pasture with the respective momma cows. All cattle begin on grass, which is a common misunderstanding. The difference then becomes grass vs grain-finished, not grass vs grain-fed. Read more on this, below.
About this time of the year, cow-calf pairs are brought back to the farm and mommas are separated from the calf. To help soothe the calves during this transition, a bright light and music is on 24-hours a day (surprise, country is their favorite!). Two goats make for pretty great company as well 🙂 These calves will be hand-fed twice per day for the first month to help them build trust and become more comfortable with us.
Momma cows are sent to a pasture of wheat stubble or corn stalks that is close to the farm. They enjoy lounging and grazing on most days. Only a couple more months before calving begins again, another baby is on the way!
Back at the farm, our calves are becoming more and more relaxed. Twice per day, they are fed, and after one month, we begin introducing the feed wagon. Using the feed wagon not only saves us time, but also, better meets the nutrition needs of both calves and cattle through weighing and mixing. The feed wagon is full of the favorites—distillers, cracked corn and hay!
Both male and female caves will continue to be fed a mixture of grains until next May. Males are fed to weight and typically sold, while females will be artificially inseminated (AI’ed) and either sent to pasture for the summer or sold as a pregnant heifer. Just a little background into the day-to-day happenings here at the farm!
Now, for a few facts on grass vs. grain-finished beef.
Studies show grass-finished beef is lower in total fat than grain-finished. Understandably so, since grass-finished beef have access to a larger area of land, contributing to more exercise and greater muscle tone. Things become a bit more complicated, however, when we consider that about 2/3 of the cuts available from EITHER grass or grain-finished cattle are considered “lean” beef (1).
A couple words I look for to find a lean cut of beef for my family is “loin” or “round”.
Now, for the breakdown on types of fat, as we know that not all fats are equal. Grain-finished beef is higher in monounsaturated fat, while grass-finished is higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Both being considered heart healthy fats.
Big picture now—ought we really be relying on beef as a significant source of our heart healthy fats? Probably not. Better sources of monounsaturated fats include nuts and seeds, avocados, olives, olive and canola oil. Better sources of omega 3 fatty acids are fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseed. Here are a few comparisons by the National Institute of Health:
There are plenty of essential vitamins and minerals more unique to beef (that’ll have to be for another post) without overthinking the types of fat beef contains.
For now, grass vs grain-finished beef is really a personal preference. Both are nutritious and can be included as part of a healthy eating pattern. My only recommendation: choose a lean cut and heart-healthy cooking method (on most days!) for meat or poultry or fish, consume a variety and ENJOY!
1. Lean Beef. (n.d.). Retrieved December 03, 2017, from https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/nutrition/lean-beef