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What are the differences between grass fed beef and organic beef?
There are a lot of overlapping similarities between grass fed beef and organic beef because both methods are focused on a healthier, better-for-you beef product. However, not all cattle that is raised on pasture is USDA Certified Organic, and in turn not all organic cattle are fed 100% grass all the time, or even have access to a pasture year-round.
At Pre, we believe in food transparency. We want to ensure you are armed with all the knowledge possible to make informed buying decisions. We have broken down the difference and the details that can help you understand what each label means.
OK, tell me about grass fed beef.
Grass fed beef means that the cattle are given access to pasture. On the pasture, they graze and forage for food as they would naturally. Some farms may subsidize the grasses in the winter if the climate does not support a year-round, lush pasture. The overall intent of “grass fed” is to keep the eating patterns as natural as possible.
This is the opposite of a grain-fed diet, where grains are given to animals. When you give cattle grain this results in high calories and an unnatural growth pattern. The cattle grow much faster and it's much cheaper. Keeping cattle on pasture year-round, like the farmers we source from at Pre, keeps all those key nutrients in the diet, so that each animal retains more Omega-3s and B vitamins. This means the steaks are leaner, more flavorful and tender. That is why Pre steaks are smaller in size (more of the natural size) than a conventional grain-fed steak and why Pre steaks have more of an off-white fat color. Keeping the diet of the animal natural is also a key benefit for those who live a Paleo or Keto lifestyle.
So, let’s talk about organic beef.
The main difference in the organic label vs. the grass fed label on beef is that organic is specifically referring to the ways that the cattle cannot be raised. Organic means that the cattle may not be raised in feedlots for extended periods of time, and cannot be over-crowded or kept in dirty or unsanitary conditions. So, organically produced beef can still be fed grain & confined to a feedlot for portions of their life. This is something that Pre is strictly opposed to, and when we realized that being labeled organic doesn’t mean or guarantee that the product is pasture raised year-round (USDA only requires a minimum 120 days a year) we determined that simply being “organic” wasn’t enough.
Organic beef also states that it cannot be directly or indirectly exposed to artificial pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, or any other synthetic contaminants. You can feed animals organic corn and grain, and still label the meat organic, however, the organic grain that is fed to the cattle can still be raised with chemical pesticides, as some are still approved for use. Check out the full USDA approved list of synthetic pesticides for organic practices here.
The benefits between grass fed and organic.
If beef is Certified Organic it could be raised on a corn or grain diet, but still have some access to pasture. So you can assume at least a small amount of their nutrition is coming from grass. However, you’d need to talk to the farmer or the brand to verify how much. USDA Certified Organic does guarantee that your beef will be free of contaminants and could have some higher nutrition stats too.
Grass fed beef does have some of the same benefits as organic beef, but they come as a side effect to how the cattle are raised. This being the fact that the cattle are raised on pasture, in their natural environment and have access to large areas of nutrient dense grasses. So this lifestyle provides the more humane and less stressful kind of life a herd of cattle would naturally have, and also provides a more sanitary environment than a feedlot would.
Another benefit to this is that their immune systems will not be constantly on the defense. They are less likely to get sick so they won’t need daily antibiotics. Our farmers we source from only administer antibiotics if an animal is sick. This is rare but if the animal does get sick it is removed from the herd until it is feeling better. This allows all of the antibiotics are out of its system. Since the animals are on pasture year round, they are eating the grasses and producing manure to fertilize the grass. Thus, spraying the pastures full of herbicides is not that common because the ecosystem is already working naturally. Sustaining the ecosystem of a wild, natural, and happy pasture does the work for the farmers! Our farmers in New Zealand and Australia practice rotational grazing. Additionally, most farmers will have other animals graze alongside their cattle, such as sheep. Sheep like weeds actually, so this practice helps to maintain their pasture as well! While grass fed beef that is not certified organic can possibly be exposed to chemicals, it's still much cleaner and more natural than conventional beef.
Organic certifications are quite expensive!
EEK! So, you need to keep in mind that the 3rd party labeling system is a business and is not free. And while Pre has gotten Non-GMO Project Verified, Whole30 Approved, Certified Paleo, and Keto Certified, we did have to go through a long auditing process and there were a lot of costs that we incurred for the certifications.
We are also Halal compliant. We are currently being audited and pursuing the official “certification” so that we have the official seal on our package. Consumers are looking for these labels and we want you to be confident when buying Pre beef. Consumers should be confident that Pre brands is a healthy and responsible decision for you and your family.
e partner and source from thousands of farmers in New Zealand and Australia. They have very high standards with integrity and have been running their farms organically for generations. But getting an organic label to prove it is very costly. Proving your farm is organic is very complex and time-consuming. On top of all the tedious record-keeping, you need to prove your land hasn't had any chemicals on it for three years. Additionally, all animals musy meet the standards for living a humane life. We have already vetted all of our sources thoroughly. All of the farms practice the internationally accepted 5 Freedoms for All Animals. We would also need to have a USDA official come to each farm every year to double-check everything. We cannot afford to do that for all our farmers. However, everyone that we work with has high standards like us when it comes to quality. Just because grass fed beef is not organic, does not mean it is low-quality. Whether you buy grass-fed or organic, you are taking a huge step to support quality foods, food transparency, and health & wellness.