The Benefits of Grass-Fed Beef, Part 3: Animal Welfare
Part 3 of 3: Animal Welfare
Animals feel and exhibit stress … it’s true. While they may not have a fear of how this month’s bills are going to be paid when there’s more month than money in the family budget, nor may they fear losing their job in a down-turned economy or any of the many things humans find anxiety in, there’s no doubt about it that animals are filled with emotions. Anger at being crowded in against their will, fear of loud noises or sudden movements, dread that a predator animal may be after their baby or geriatric herd member on a dark night, happiness while enjoying a warm spring day when the sun only dips behind the clouds long enough to cool off their backs … all of these and more are emotions that animals feel. More basic in nature, animals’ emotions contribute largely to their happiness and ability to thrive.
Traditional cattle farms can see herd sizes anywhere from an average of 42 head of cattle to larger operations numbering 500 or more. While the larger numbers are the exception, they most certainly are a part of the beef cattle-raising demographic. Regardless of size, traditional farms follow a similar pattern of close, cramped quarters, rapid animal growth due to hormone and antibiotic injections, and feed designed to increase the individual’s size ahead of its natural growth cycle.
The Food Revolution Network reports that 80-years ago, beef cattle were processed around the age of 4- or 5-years old. Today’s cattle raised on feedlots can expect to live to the ripe old age of 14-16 months. That’s it. Meaning that in roughly one-third of the time, cows are brought up to weight extremely quickly and unhealthily while their lives are shortened by at least three years.
Additionally, the food that traditional feedlot cattle are raised on has been having serious side-effects on their physical health. Bloat, acidosis, ulcers, liver disease, diarrhea, pneumonia, e. coli, and weakened immune systems are but many of the possible health consequences of feeding an unnatural, aggressive diet.
All of these conditions can lead to stress on the animal, resulting in a poor quality dinner. Stress and adrenaline can cause a beef cow to become very tense during finishing. Tense muscles = tough meat, bottom line.
Grass-fed cattle are generally born, raised, and finished in one location. There is no transportation movement from a birthing facility to a calf-raising farm … and then again to a feedlot … and then again to a processing plant. Keeping the individual cow comfortable in their surroundings means less long-term stress and anxiety.
Additionally, there is no crowding as one would expect to see in a multi-head feedlot facility. Cattle are allowed to walk on the soft ground rather than kept on concrete floors. Calves are kept with their mothers long after they’re little – eventually becoming another cow in the same herd. All of these and more are contributing factors to keeping cows happy. And when cows are happy and dealing with little to no stress, less adrenaline is pumped throughout their bodies, keeping their consumable product tender, not toughened, all while their human raisers know they’ve provided their herd with the best possible lifestyle.
In summary, grass-fed beef operations provide many positive outcomes that traditional feedlot farms simply cannot. Health benefits to consumers, fewer negative environmental impacts, and increased animal welfare are all constantly in the forefront of the many grass-fed cattle ranchers’ goals. Consumers have taken note and the demand for grass-fed beef products is rising steadily.
Thank you for taking the time our 3 part blog series, The Benefits of Grass Fed Beef. All parts can be found in the blog section of our website.