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Green Living: What is Free-Range or Grass-Fed Beef?

A new trend these days in organic and local food that is even making its way into supermarkets is the idea of eating free-range or grass-fed beef products. These meats and dairy products have come from cows that, instead of eating feed mixes, have the pleasure of eating grass, which is what they were designed to eat.

Free-Range Beef Definition

Free-range beef is defined as cows that are not fenced in at all, but are allowed to roam freely and eat whatever they find. This philosophy of feeding goes back to the days of herding cattle, when it was unheard of to confine them with means other than the cowboy. Therefore, many people see free-range beef as a much more natural kind of beef, even though the meat might not be as tasty as that of cattle raised on a specially formulated feed.

Grass-Fed Beef Definition

Most free-range beef can also be classified as grass-fed, but not all grass-fed beef is free-range. The difference is that the definition of grass-fed beef only speaks to what the cows are eating: grass. It says nothing about where they are eating the grass, which could be out in open pasture, in enclosed pasture, or in concentrated feeding areas.

Benefits of Free-Range Beef

One of the major benefits of choosing to eat free-range beef and free-range beef products is that you can be assured that these animals were not held in inhumane conditions, but rather were allowed the space to roam and to eat the food they would naturally choose. This is in stark contrast to cattle at concentrated animal feeding operations, which spend all day in tiny areas, standing in their own manure, and typically eating corn-based feeds, which is not what cows were designed to eat.

Benefits of Grass-Fed Beef

Grass-fed beef will often share many of the same benefits of free-range beef, but these benefits will depend on how the cattle are kept. It is possible for concentrated animal feeding operations to feed their cattle on grass and call them grass-fed beef, but they will have many health dangers from being so concentrated and standing in their manure.

However, some grass-fed beef is nearly the same as free-range, but cannot be categorized as such because there are fences around their area. They still eat grass from the ground, and have plenty of space to roam, but do have a fence around them due to the area in which they live.

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