BY KATHERINE KELLY
Everyone knows that grass-fed beef is better nutritionally than your factory farmed grain-fed beef, right? Every marketing slogan has told us so. But in reading the recent news about how organically grown grass-fed beef standards are going to be changed in accordance with California’s ongoing drought, it surprised me to learn that to qualify for “grass-fed” on the label a cow must be pastured for four months out of the year. The rest of the time they eat grain or perhaps hay. I thought “grass-fed” meant just that, but in this world of “standards” and marketing, sadly I was wrong.
The new change in the standards for grass-fed labeling is to accommodate the lack of green pastures thanks to our devastating drought. No longer are cows able to graze even the measly four months previously dictated, so the amount of time a cow must be pastured to qualify for the “grass-fed” label is now two months. Considering how much more “grass-fed “on the label can cost, it’s good to have this information when at the grocery store.
Organic is still organic when it comes to beef, and the cows are fed organic grains and are not pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones, which is the main reason people choose organic meat in the first place. But the idea of calling something “grass-fed” after only two months of pasturing seems a bit dishonest. As always, it’s “buyer beware” and people should know more about labeling standards before spending money on something that isn’t what they say it is. I will still buy organic beef when I can afford to buy meat at all, but no longer will I bother to look for “grass-fed” on the label.