One of the most common questions our ranch gets from new customers is “Is your beef grass-fed?” We are proud to raise our cattle entirely on pasture with a diet that is always primarily grass and hay. But, we do not fit the USDA definition of “grass-fed”. This is a conscious decision on our part.
The guiding principle behind our management practices at the ranch is a dedication to the welfare of our animals and the quality of our product. It is a fact of life in our region of Texas that we do not grow lush, green grass year round, year-in and year-out. We are working hard at the ranch to build our soil and balance our cattle numbers so that we become relatively immune to our increasingly frequent droughts.
In the meanwhile, we don’t feel it is in the best interest of our cattle, or our beef quality, to allow our cattle to lose weight or suffer due to poor quality or insufficient home-raised forage. Consequently, we sometimes supplement our cattle with alfalfa hay or a minimal amount of feed that contains grain. Ironically, the “grass-fed” rules allow supplementation with feeds such as cotton seed hulls and beet pulp but not oats and corn, which cattle would seek out and eat naturally if given the chance. The problem with feeding grain comes when cattle are fed a diet that is primarily high-energy grain (such as corn) which changes the pH and natural flora of the cow’s digestive system. This is not the way our pasture-raised cattle are fed. We give our cattle the best quality of life possible and produce a healthy, high-quality product.
Yes, we have lost an occasional customer because of our philosophy. It is a small price to pay for the quality of our beef and the welfare of the animals in our care.