Philly CowShare believes farmers are the original entrepreneurial, small business owners. They manage a complex system to produce good, nutritious food to nourish us, sustain the land, and care for the animals.
Yummy tasting grass-fed beef starts with the sun, water, dirt, grass and someone to work the land. For our grass-fed cattle farmers, the cattle work the land. The farmer provides oversight to be sure the land is healthy. The cattle slowly graze across the pasture, eating breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner, pooping out fertilizer and turning the earth as they walk. The farmer’s job is to guide the cattle through the pasture, monitor the health of the soil, ensure the cattle are getting the most energy from the grass. This winning combination produces healthy topsoil that can sustain generations of energy-rich grasses for the cattle to eat year after year.
As with most things in life, the simplest solution is often the most effective one. Our cattle farmers have gone back to the basics of raising cattle, on a healthy pasture, one day at a time, one mouthful of grass at a time. Cattle are grazing animals. Their bodies are designed to walk and eat. When raised according to their nature and biological needs, there is no need for preventative medicines such as antibiotics. And if you’re patient and breed for improving genetics, there’s no need to speed up the growth process with antibiotics or growth stimulants. Our farmers have gone back to the basics because it produces a better tasting and healthier beef, and equally important, the cattle have a great life.
Nature is so smart. It turns out if you raise cattle according to their nature, they produce great-tasting beef. And if that wasn’t enough, recent studies have shown beef is also healthier for you. A good diet for the cattle keeps the balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in check, typically the ratio is 1:3 for grass-fed beef. Grass-fed beef also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). According to recent research, CLA "may influence the onset and severity of several chronic diseases, including various cancers, atherosclerosis, obesity, bone density loss, and diabetes." (Citation). The healthy beef delivered to your door has been dry-aged for a 2 week period which intensifies the flavor and tenderizes the beef. Yum!
Grass-fed beef typically has less fat content than grain-fed or conventional cattle. Early testing indicates an average fat composition of 10% for our ground beef. We continue to test our beef and will post more information here as we get it. Until then, below is a link to the USDA's nutritional information for conventional beef.
A Meat Terminology Primer
Courtesy of the American Grassfed Association
- - The animal was fed grain at some point, probably in the last few months of life. This could be in a large CAFO or on a small family farm. If an animal has EVER consumed corn, soy, brewers grain, or other grain-based feeds, the meat can't be labeled grassfed.
- - A USDA term that means the ruminant animal (beef, sheep, bison, or goat) has been fed nothing but grass from weaning to harvest. The term doesn't guarantee, however, that the animal wasn't given antibiotics or hormones at some point, and it also doesn't necessarily mean the animal was raised without some confinement. Meat labeled grassfed may be imported from other countries. This term has legal standing, and to use it as a marketing claim or on a label, the producer has to be sure the animals were raised in accordance with the rule.
One note: Poultry and pork are omnivores and typically require more than grass feeding to be healthy. At this point, there isn't any accepted uniform terminology for poultry and pork raised on pasture. However, Animal Welfare Approved offers certification to small family farms who meet their standards for humane production practices, including pasture.
- AGA-Certified Grassfed
- - A term that takes the USDA standards to a higher level. AGA certification is a third party audit system with strict standards to insure the animal has eaten nothing but grass from weaning to harvest, has not been confined, and has never been given antibiotics or hormones. AGA-certified grassfed also means that the meat is produced in the United States from beef cattle and other ruminants born and raised in this country.
- Grass Finished
- - This term has no legal meaning and is a self-made marketing claim. If an animal is grassfed, it is, by definition, grass finished, so there's no need to claim "grassfed and grass finished." The term by itself on a label can mean anything, so it's up to the consumer to ask questions of the producer or seller.
- - This USDA term applies to the finished product and means that it contains no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed"). The term has nothing to to with how the animal was raised or fed.
- - This is another USDA term with legal standing. It means that the animal has never been fed animal by-products, growth hormones, or antibiotics. The feed could be grain or grass, and the animal could be confined to a feedlot for a portion of its life.
- - The USDA certifies organic production standards, which require that the livestock was raised without antibiotics or synthetic hormones; on feed that was vegetarian, pesticide- and herbicide-free, and contained no GMOs. Organic does not equal grassfed. A ranch with organic certification may feed its herd entirely on grass, but many also feed organic grains and grain by-products during periods of confinement. Conversely, many grassfed producers choose not to pursue organic certification, even though they follow organic standards in the production of their meats. With this label, the best thing to do is ask the farmer or research more about the brand.
- Pasture Raised
- - You may encounter this term in articles that use it as a general term for any animal that never sees confinement; however, when you see it on a label, it's another self-made claim with no legal definition or independent verification of production standards. This is another case in which you should ask plenty of questions.