Support USA grass fed beef and reduce our dependency on international supplies


What we eat and how it is produced is one of the biggest influencers of climate change, whether it is grown locally or abroad, whether it is meat or vegetable, down to the type of meat and what it’s been fed. Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eater’s Guide helps break down some of these choices, using miles driven in a car as a meter stick, and beef is among the most heavy duty offenders (right behind lamb, to our surprise.) Currently, the majority of USA-produced beef is corn fed, a method that contributes even more greatly to climate change, pound for pound, than grass fed beef.

Ironically, a recent NPR article on The Salt (a fantastic food column), explained something peculiar about the origin of much of our grass-fed beef supply: it is shipped from halfway across the world—Australia to be exact, accruing emissions that challenge its reputation as a more environmentally sound choice.

Though the demand for grass fed beef is growing in America, keeping it local has proven to be a challenge, because importing grass fed from Australia is so much cheaper. Australia doesn’t have a freezing season, and because there is so much grassy land available year round, most beef in Australia is grass fed by default, making it a far more economical choice for grocery store stockists here in the states.

Sourcing locally raised, grass-fed beef from our ample supply of land in America is better for the environment, and reduces our dependency on international supplies. A grass fed lifestyle also allows cows to graze, as is natural and comfortable for them (cows are ruminants, and have the magical ability to turn plain old grass into energy with their multitude of stomachs). Additionally, pasture-raising doesn’t pack as many animals into a small space, which creates a concentrated source of methane, and waste products of nitrogen and phosphorous, which can poison the local environment. Though cows that eat corn gain weight more quickly than cows that eat grass, helping meatpackers meet our ever increasing demand for cheap, readily available and marbled meat, in practical terms, it doesn’t quite work out. Cows can’t digest corn without developing lots of infections and disease, requiring the administration of antibiotics, which are then digested by us, and contaminate our soil and local watershed. But as Michael Pollan says “in capitalism, time is money.”

Corn is used in everything from our plastic to our gas tanks, to a staggering amount of food products (mostly junk food) in America, and it is its subsidization that allows it to occupy such large swaths of land, and keeps the price of grain-fed meat down, and grass fed up.

We think that demand plays a crucial role in the changing of this industry, whether its between corn or grass fed, local or imported; whatever matters most to you, if you petition and shop and write, real change will happen, slowly but surely, because at the end of the day, big business is a business too, and they want to make us happy (as long as we keep doing our part to be inquisitive.) If you’re curious for a more personal take on grass feeding, and the challenges these farmers face at the federal and state level to effect change, read about the time we visited Randy and Lynn Anderson at Anderson Farms in Wisconsin, a farm dedicated to pasture raised cows. There we learned empirically and more deeply about the health and environmental benefits of grass feeding.

On that note, here are some sources for American pasture-raised beef:

Rain Crow Ranch: This Missouri based farm raises grass fed cattle, heritage pork and poultry. And they will ship to your door.

Local Harvest: This group provides a list of resources to obtain grass fed meat, organic produce and heirloom/rarer varietals from nearby areas. Just type in your city and see what’s available!

Eat Wild: Wonderful resource for finding pasture based dairy and meat on a local basis.