Why Grass-fed Overview
Cows, sheep and other grazing animals have the ability to convert grasses, which those of us with only one stomach cannot digest, into food that we can digest. Traditionally, all beef was grass-fed, but in the United States today what beef is commercially available is almost all fattened and finished on corn in feedlots. The reason? It's faster, and therefore more profitable. Seventy-five years ago, steers were 4 or 5 years old at slaughter. Today, they are 14 or 16 months. You can't take a calf from a birth weight of 80 pounds to 1,200 pounds in a little more than a year on grass. It takes enormous quantities of corn, protein supplements, antibiotics and other drugs, including growth hormones.
Switching a cow from grass to grain is so disturbing to the animal's digestive system that it can kill the animal if not done gradually and if the animal is not continually fed antibiotics. These animals are designed to forage, but we make them eat grain, primarily corn, in order to fatten them as fast as possible. All this is not only unnatural and dangerous for the cows, but it also has profound consequences for us. Feedlot beef as we know it today would be impossible if it weren't for the routine and continual feeding of antibiotics to these animals. This leads directly and inexorably to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These are the new "superbugs" that are increasingly rendering our miracle drugs ineffective.
Furthermore, it is the commercial meat industry's practice of keeping cattle in feedlots and feeding them grain that is responsible for the heightened prevalence of E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria. When cattle are grainfed, their intestinal tracts become far more acidic, which favors the growth of pathogenic E. coli bacteria, which, in turn, sickens or can kill people who eat undercooked hamburger.
All the ranches that are a part of the Yellowstone Grassfed Beef cooperative raise their cattle on grass because they believe in the ethical treatment of animals and a natural approach to ranching. Grass fed beef is better for the cows, better for the environment, better for you—and let’s not forget that it tastes better too.
Excerpted from The Food Revolution by John Robbins. http://www.foodrevolution.org/grassfedbeef.htm