67% of Australians say they know very little about how their beef gets from paddock to plate and most have no idea about the difference between grass feed and grain fed.
We found out here
Grass Fed Beef:
Fresh Spring pastures
For an animal to be classified as grass fed it means that they have spent their entire life grazing pastures. This doesn’t always mean that they have not been supplementary fed though. Due to seasonal conditions many farmers supplementary feed their cattle on a range of feedstocks like hay or silage and in some cases even grain. The fact that these cattle have not been fed in an accredited feedlot and instead been fed in a range/paddock situation means that they are still classed as grass fed. Within the cattle industry they would be considered as Supplementary Fed, however until recently there are no beef labelling requirements for this type of system as it would be near impossible to govern.
Grass fed beef when finished on fresh spring pastures has the amazing blend of texture and flavour.
Typically grass fed steak has a tougher texture than grain fed although it also has more taste. The different taste you will find when eating a grass fed steak is due to the flavour of the grass coming through in the beef. This puts truth to the saying “you are what you eat” for cattle production. The flavour you taste comes from the type of grasses the cattle have grazed and because of this different pastures can also give the beef different flavours, which along with seasonal conditions brings consistency into question. When something is given a flavour it will instantly give the consumer the choice as to whether they like it or dislike it. If it doesn’t have a taste you don’t rule anyone out and there is the opportunity to put selected flavours with it. Take a McDonalds hamburger for instance. The actual beef patty by itself has no flavour at all but it creates the base for the other ingredients to be put with it which appeal to the targeted consumer.
The process of the life of an animal finished on grass is: animal is born in a grass fed system > animal is weaned from its mother and put back into a grass fed system > animal is finished in a grass fed system.
Grain Fed Beef:
An example of a grain based ration
For an animal to be classed as grain fed it must have been finished in an accredited feedlot for a required number of days. There are a number of different categories starting at a minimum of 60 days (predominately domestic) ranging right through to 300+ days (Wagyu type export markets). It is surprising how often that the number of days is misconceived by the average consumer as being the age of the animal. These animals actually spend the majority of their life in a grass fed system before being finished in a feedlot on a grain based ration.
The strength of grain fed beef is that it is consistent all year round due to the weather elements being taken out of the situation. Although much of Australia’s grain fed beef is exported to countries like Japan and Korea there is a growing demand for it domestically. This is due to the fact that many consumers are looking for consistency and grain fed beef can deliver this. Due to the finishing process on grain the eating quality and tenderness is improved. Other meat characteristics like marbling (intramuscular fat) are also increased all leading to more tender cuts. Grain fed beef doesn’t have as much flavour as its counterpart grass fed beef. If you ever tried eating a wheat bix (made from wheat) without any milk or sugar you would agree they are pretty bland and have very little flavour. Well once again the “you are what you eat” rule applies and the flavour of grain fed beef is not as pronounced as grass fed and this is why it has become a favourite within the restaurant industry. The beef is guaranteed to have good eating qualities and chefs can then put their own flavours with it to create exactly what they want.
The process of the life of an animal finished on grain is: animal is born in a grass fed system > animal is weaned from it’s mother and put back into a grass fed system > animal is finished in an accredited feedlot on a grain based diet (most animals spend approximately 3/4 of their life in a grass fed system).