Members of the Sweet Grass Cooperative are committed to the raising and marketing of grass-finished beef. Click on the questions below to understand the benefits of this approach to our food supply.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is grass-finished beef better for you than corn-fed beef? >
To many people the term "corn-fed" or "grain-fed" connotes a healthy food substance on which cattle are fed. However, grain is a more concentrated form of energy than grass and provides more starch and calories. This results in fattier animals. Grass-finished beef has
less fat than grain-fed beef and is comparable in fat content to a skinless chicken breast (with less cholesterol than chicken per ounce);
fewer calories per ounce of meat;
more Omega-3 fatty acids (which originate in green plants and have been shown to have numerous health benefits);
a healthy balance of essential fatty acids (ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids);
higher amounts of the good fat: CLA; and
higher amounts of vitamin E, folic acid and beta-carotene.
What do you mean by grass-finished? >
In conventional beef ranching, a new-born calf grazes on grass in the pasture with its mother until the calf is weaned. Once weaned, the calf is often shipped to a feed lot where it is only fed a diet of corn and animal by- products along with growth hormones and antibiotics. This is done to fatten the calf in a hurry. Our calves are not shipped to feed lots. They remain in the pastures on a grass diet. This is a slower, natural way for the calf to grow.
Are these free-range cattle eating whatever is available? >
No. The cattle graze in lush, grass-land pastures under a management-intensive grazing system that has been perfected by many of our ranchers. This means the pasture lands are managed to ensure high-quality grasses and the cattle are rotated between pasturelands to ensure a high-quality grass diet at all times.
What types of grasses do the cattle graze on? >
The cattle graze in pastures where lush, cool-season perennial grasses are grown including orchardgrass, timothy grass, and bromegrass intermixed with red and white clovers.
But if the beef has less fat, isn’t it tougher meat? >
No. Fat in meat only accounts for about 10% of the variability in meat tenderness. Other factors include genetics, age and sex of the animal, the stress level of the animal prior to slaughter, and the length of time the animal is aged after being butchered. Our cattle are managed in ways to reduce stress. .
What is dry-aging? >
Dry-aging is the process of holding the whole carcass, after the animal is butchered, at a temperature just above freezing for one week or more. This practice intensifies the flavor of the meat and makes it more tender.
I have heard that beef I buy at the supermarket is "wet-aged". What does that mean? >
"Wet-aged" means the beef has been aged for 2-3 days in plastic after being butchered. This is not the best method for producing tender, tasty beef. Dry-aging has been shown to be far superior.
Because the grass-finished meat has less fat, do I have to cook it in any special way…with more meat tenderizer or at lower temperatures? >
With less fat, heat is conducted more quickly through the meat and can toughen the protein. It is recommended that grass-fed beef be cooked more slowly at lower temperatures. Roasts cook very well in a crock-pot or at lower oven temperatures.