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How to Find the Best Grass Fed Beef

Buying Grass Fed Beef seems like a simple thing, you go to a store that carries it or you join a CSA, perhaps you buy at the local Farmers Market or order it online from a Farmer. The act of purchasing Grass Fed Beef is an easy one; you swipe the credit card and voila, you go home with yummy meat.  But how do you know which Grass Fed Beef to buy? How do you know if its Pasture Raised Grass Fed Beef, as opposed to an industrial ranch? How do you know you’re getting real grass fed beef for your buck?

Here are the questions you should ask your Store, CSA, or Farmer. They should be easily answered by your Grass Fed Beef provider to insure you’re getting what you pay for.

Ask About the Land
Every farmer knows about the land and can easily tell you about it. If you can’t get the answers to these simple questions, find the right person to ask them to (and if no one can answer these questions, run). Knowing about the land your Grass Fed Beef is raised on will give you a wealth of insight into the kind of animal you are purchasing.

●    How many acres is the ranch?
●    How many cattle are on the ranch?
●    Where is it located?
●    Do you use antibiotics or hormones on the cattle?
●    Do the animals get any grain feed?
●    Is the land sprayed or treated?
●    Do you till the soil?

For example, if you asked us these questions at True Pasture Beef, we’d tell you that we have two ranches that cover over 5,000 acres of lands in central and southern California. Our herd is a closed herd of 150 head of mama cattle.  We do not use antibiotics or hormones on them. We do not feed them anything other than what they graze themselves. Our land is not sprayed, treated or tilled; it is a natural pasture, like nature intended.

Ask What they Feed their Cattle
Leave this as an open ended question. If you ask them “do you feed your cattle grass” the answer will be yes. It’s the base definition of Grass Fed Beef, however the label “USDA Grass Fed Beef” can still contain up to 20% of other foodstuff and retain this title. Industrial farms feed their cattle grass, but they aren’t Pasture Raised Grass Fed Beef. But by asking the open ended question and waiting for a response, you get them to tell you the whole story. If you hear they feed their herd any portion of Spent Grain, Barley Mash or Brewers Mash, we would caution against buying it. These kinds of grains are “trash” and often contain gmos and other waste products.

The answer we give, and the one we think you should hear is: “We don’t feed them, they graze on the pasture and feed themselves.”

Ask if your Farmer Buys from Other Farmers
Is not unusual for farmers to buy from one another. At some point, it's how herds begin or grow. Are they buying calves to raise and the sell or are they buying calves to raise and breed? There’s a difference, so when you ask this question, listen for the story and decide for yourself if the answer is satisfactory.  If they do buy from other farmers, some follow up questions to ask are:

●    Where do they get their calves?
●    Are they treated with antibiotics or hormones before you purchased them?
●    What did they eat before you purchased them?
●    What percentage of the herd is bought, versus what is raised?

Here at True Pasture Beef, have 3 generations of Pasture Raised Heritage Black Angus in a closed herd, meaning all our cattle are born and raised on the land and we no longer purchase from other Farmers. From farm to table, it takes at least 20 months for Pasture Raised Cattle to mature into the best meat (we like to raise them between 24 - 30 months). We find a closed herd is the best way to guarantee the meat is pure Pasture Raised.

Where is your Animal Processed?
Once you find out where the animal is from and how it eats, what is equally important is how it is processed. Since most ranches take their animals to be processed and packaged, its important to know that in that process, the animals remain pure and not crossed contaminated with other animals at the same center.

●    How many Head are processed in a day?
●    How large is the plant?
●    Where is it located?

At True Pasture Beef, we prefer a quality process over a quantity processing plant, so we take our herd to a processor that does 7 head a day, here in California. Sound like a lot? It’s not. Most plants who process under 200 a day are considered “small.”  There are a variety of reasons smaller, local processing plants aren’t as common as they once were, but that’s a whole other blog post.  We prefer to take our herd to this smaller butcher so we know our animals are treated humanely and are not just part of a large operation where cross contamination might occur.

So get out there and Meat Your Herd!  To find a local Farmer, try your nearby Farmers Market or visit www.eatwild.com (they are a non-subscription besed resource guide, meaning you can’t buy your way into thier listings.) Of course, if you’re in Southern California, we also suggest a visit our site www.truepasturebeef.com. 

 by: Kristi Lee Graham, founder of True Pasture Beef, a sustainable California CSA that raises home grown, free range, 100% Pasture Raised Grass Fed Beef, serving Southern California. Connect with her on Social Media: facebook.com/truepasturebeef on Instagram @truepasturebeef, via email info@truepasturebeef.com  or visit www.truepasturebeef.com to ‘meat the herd.’