REPORTER:There are many suppliers who claim grass fed status.Who are the real McCoys in your opinion?
DR. WHISNANT:Without a legal definition in place for grass fed, many operations especially those larger entities that purchase cattle from various producers and market under a “corporate” business model have grass-raised the ruminant and yet grain finish to speed the finishing process, this is often done in confinement.
In this unique time, when we are still in an atmosphere without a legally binding standard for grass fed, there is opportunity to borrow traits of factory farmed livestock production and speed the rate of finish.
Over the last 5-6 years the demand for grass fed beef has continued to increase. Since grass fed beef is marketed at a premium this offers opportunity to large corporate farms. Many are currently spending multi-millions in developing a brand name before the rules go into place.
Specifically, I mean that several of the new brand names are finishing on corn and yet can still label as grassfed.
Other corporate farms or marketing entities are adding grassfed by using imported grassfed beef from Uruguay, New Zealand or Australia. It is cheaper to buy grassfed beef from these off-shore sources than to produce it here in America. As a family farmer who is passionate about the survival of the American Family Farm I would like to see COOL implemented, but then that is another entire subject…
I can only hope that when the grass fed standard is adopted that those producers who do not currently conform to the 99% would either change their process or not be allowed to use the label. Further, I can only hope that the regulation will have enough grit to make the term Grassfed have some meaning.
In my opinion, the real McCoys are local family farms who put their care, labor and reputation into the quality of beef they raise. They believe that grass fed just makes sense to the order of how the world works. Ruminants are just made to graze forage out on pasture. The system of taking solar energy captured in the food produced by plants and harvested by a unique animal that has the machinery to digest the cellulose of that plant is brilliant in its simplicity. These farmers have a heart felt appreciation and stand amazed at how the system works when allowed to do so the way it was intended.
These real McCoys do not stand behind a corporate label but stand face to face with the consumer by marketing direct. They open their farms to invite customers to visit. Many of us call it relationship marketing but it is having pride in what you do and enjoying developing relationship with customers who have an appreciation for your labor. They represent the most direct route from farm to the table and as such both the farmer and consumer benefit.
I can only speak for American Grass Fed Beef and know that the beef we produce is 100% grassfed and finished. No beef has ever received antibiotics in feed or even therapeutic (these are excluded from the program) antibiotics, we do not implant with synthetic hormones to speed the growth, we do not feed grain or grain by-products, we feed no animal by-products, we do not confine the animals in pens, we handle our animals with the utmost care to humane treatment and low stress, and we connect directly with our customers.