the myths

grain-fed vs. grass-fed

Grain-fed beef has gotten an increasingly bad reputation due to various misconceptions, particularly surrounding its effect on the world.

 

While there is no doubt that meat production has negative effects, the question is if grass-fed really is the better option. Issues around the sustainability, cruelty and health effects of grain-fed beef have been raised and while we believe there may be valid points to many of the misconceptions, there needs to be some clarification from the other side of the spectrum.

Myth 01

Feeding cattle grain takes away from human food sources

A common misconception is that grain-fed beef takes away from human food sources and thus means that more grain needs to be produced, making it costlier than just allowing them to forage on grass. The reality is that Beefcor grain-fed beef is actually fed a mixture of grains and by-products that aren’t consumed by humans. For example, brewers grain, which is the solid residue that remains once malt and barley have been processed for beer; or bagasse, which is fibrous matter that is left over from sugarcane processing.

 

So, not only does grain-fed beef not take away from the human supply, it helps eliminate waste and keeps beef nutritious and affordable.

Myth 02

Grass-fed beef is a more sustainable process and therefore, more environmentally-friendly

One of the greatest arguments against grain-fed beef is that it is more harmful to the environment. Unfortunately, all meat production has negative environmental effects, no matter what it is fed. The fact is that grain-fed cattle require less food and water and produce less greenhouse gas emissions due to the fact that grass-fed cattle inhabit land for much longer. The carbon footprint per volume of beef is actually higher when producing grass-fed beef. Pasture-raised cattle do a lot more damage to land as well because of the high grass trampling rate, meaning more land needs to be maintained to sustain its lifespan.

 

At Beefcor, we are always conscious of the effect our farming practices and processes have on our planet. That’s why we ensure that we maintain sustainable backgrounding practices while giving back to the Earth. We are proudly part of South Africa's first biogas initiative at the Bronkhortspruit Biogas Plant, owned by Bio2Watt. All manure produced on our feedlot is used for co-digestion to produce methane, which in turn is used to generate electricity. See more about our sustainability initiatives here.

Myth 03

Cattle are grain-fed because it is cheaper for the producer but the process is both unhealthy and cruel towards the animals.

While it is definitely not a misconception that grain feeding cattle is cheaper than grass-feeding them, it is not inherently cruel or unhealthy. The fact of the matter is that it is neither environmentally or economically sustainable for producers to feed cattle on a wholly grass-based diet. Unfortunately, there are beef producers in the industry that abuse the feedlot system which creates a perception of overcrowded feedlots, animal abuse and pollution.

 

What most people don't know is that unpleasant living conditions, stress and a bad diet all lead to inferior quality meat - beef that is tough, less nutritious and just doesn't taste very good. At Beefcor, we aim to produce premium quality meat so we take extra special care of our animals to ensure that.

Myth 04

Grass-fed means free-range, organic, antibiotic-free and no added hormones.

While there are certain regulations in place that specify what constitutes grass-fed cattle, the label is subject to a number of loopholes and often is perceived as something that it's not. A common misconception surrounding grass-fed beef is that the cattle have completely continuous access to pasture and they are only fed lush green grass and absolutely nothing else. Unfortunately, because the label is not highly regulated (especially in South Africa), many 'grass-fed' cows are still kept in pens and fed hay and even remnants of starch-based products. Farmers are also allowed to bend these rules in case of drought or danger to the animals.

 

Grass-fed cattle, like grain-fed cattle, may also be given antibiotics to help them stay healthy and hormones to help them grow faster.