Despite Many Challenges, Grassfed Beef Could Go Mainstream
Despite Many Challenges, Grassfed Beef Could Go Mainstream.
And the news is good: according to “Back to Grass,” despite major obstacles, there is serious potential to grow grassfed systems to a size that could compete with the grain-fed feedlot system that currently produces the vast majority of U.S. beef.
On a panel on consumer trends, Maple Hill Creamery owner Tim Joseph said research his company conducted showed that consumers often thought their organic meat came from cows grazing only on grass, and once they learned that organically raised cows can still eat a diet of corn and soy, they were often driven to buy grassfed instead.
“I think we’re at a tipping point,” said Urvashi Rangan, a sustainable food systems consultant who’s been working with leaders in the industry to develop a consensus around grassfed labeling.
Rangan compared the current status of grassfed to where organic was 20 years ago, when the market had not yet developed to begin to meet consumer demand for healthier foods.
Challenges of Meeting Growing Demand Though consumer demand is high, the way it is currently being met is problematic for many American farmers.
For those not selling directly to consumers, there is also no streamlined distribution system for their meat compared to conventional beef production.
Currently, there are very few U.S. grassfed farms finishing more than 5,000 animals per year.
“Could we raise all of the animals in the U.S. now on grass?
Despite their optimistic models, the report authors agree, writing that it’s unrealistic “to expect grassfed beef to replace conventional feedlot beef any time soon given the amount of resources invested in the current beef system.” Instead, they present their work as an argument detailing ways in which the many challenges might be met gradually, to slowly transform the American landscape back to grazed grassland, for the sake of farmers, animals, eaters, and the planet.