Grassfed - what's in it for you?
By Rosewood Farm, May 25 2016 01:41PM
Grassfed has become a real buzzword in the food world over the past few years; with the rise of the paleo/primal diets coming over from the US, grassfed has risen from a tiny niche in the UK to big business in a short period of time. The question is, what exactly does grassfed mean and why is it important?
There is currently no legal definition of grassfed meaning that any animal that has been fed some grass can be labelled as ‘grassfed’ without it being a lie - this may even include animals such as pigs or chickens which may eat a little grass but require a mainly grain diet to supply their nutritional needs. Here at Rosewood, when we say grassfed, we mean a 100% grass fed diet, but that begs the question, what is grass? Strictly speaking wheat is a grass, and so is maize, and rice; all belonging to the Poaceae (grass) family of plants. The difference between the grasses we know as cereals and those classed as forage is a matter of breeding.
Cereal grains have been selectively bred by humans for 10,000 years to produce the bulk of their nutritive value in the seed. This contrasts to forages, which in addition to grass also include many herbs and legumes, which provide the bulk of their food value in the leaf. The ‘big deal’ over this comes from the very basic fact that grazing animals have evolved for millennia to gain their nutrition from the leaf and although the newer seed nutrition we invented provides a great shortcut to faster growth for the animals, it has all kinds of subtle and negative side effects for their health and ours and the environment.
Fresh food and exercise are essential for a healthy lifestyle
There are two systems of breeding beef cattle; from dedicated, solely beef-producing ‘suckler’ herds or the spare offspring of dairy cattle. These calves are then reared in one of three main systems, either grain fed for the majority of their lives, grassfed followed by a shorter period of grain feeding for ‘finishing’ or 100% grassfed and finished.
A growing body of scientific evidence from around the world shows us that the most beneficial system for our health is 100% grassfed, including this study of Austrailian beef, which compared the results of each of the three feeding systems in terms of the properties of the meat produced. Only the grassfed system yielded sufficient quantities to be considered a source of omega-3 fatty acids, containing significantly more than either form of grain fed. Likewise levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a beneficial fatty acid with cancer-suppressing properties, naturally only occurs in significant amounts in meat and dairy, but the quantities are much higher in exclusively grassfed meat. The study also shows, as many others do, that even the partially grainfed system had a significant negative effect on the CLA and omegas of the meat, which is why we are so stringent on not allowing any grain at all into the diet of our animals, throughout their lives.
Of course, as important as our health is, we also want to enjoy the food we eat. We ran a poll of our customers to find out their reasons for buying from us and seeing where we can improve. We were delighted to find that the top reason for buying Rosewood meat is the taste! Often the feedback we receive is that our beef tastes ‘like it used to’, with a real depth of flavour. Partly this is down to the traditional breeds, Dexter & Kerry Hill, that we keep, which have retained the slower-growing genetics suited to pasture grazing. But it is possibly also due to the variety a grazing life affords. Our animals range over a variety of local pastures and as we place such a keen emphasis on biodiversity and our grazing encourages this, they have a wide palette of wild plants to pick from alongside their native grasses - a far cry from a uniform, standardised unvarying pelleted feed.
So there you have it - grassfeeding is not just for wildlife, it affords livestock a varied and stimulating diet and the same can be said for the humans at the end of the chain too!