Grass Fed Beef Better
than Grocery Store Beef

Why the Price Difference when Grass is Free?
American Grass Fed Beef vs. Grocery Store Beef


We receive variations of this legitimate question all the time from folks who aren't aware of the differences in raising our American Grass Fed Beef vs. what they buy for much less in the grocery stores.   I would wonder, too, if I weren't a grass farmer and a veterinarian.

Many people think that you stick a cow out in a pasture and it magically reaches maturity when you cash in on a 1,000+ pound goldmine.  We can only dream it would be that easy . . . the care of any ranch operation includes many hours of hard work all times of the day and night in all types of weather conditions.  Our whole family chips in to keep our overhead down.

Our grass operation takes even more hours because we rotate our cattle at least every 3 days and sometimes as often as 2 times a day.  By physical inspection, we determine how often to rotate based on the growth rate of our grass and even the individual requirements of each cow.  

Most grocery store cattle graze in a single pasture and are not rotated.  Not even many grass operations go to the extreme measures that we take to assure our cattle get the most nutritious diet possible.

Actually grass isn't free   

In August, 2002, the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported, "U.S. farm real estate values, including land in buildings, averaged $1,210 per acre as of January 1, 2002, up 5.2 percent from the previous year." 
Our  4,000 acre grass farm is expensive to own, maintain and pay taxes on each year. 

Another part of our cost of operation is planting grass for grazing and cattle finishing.  We actually have special high nutrition grass and super-green alfalfa fields to uniformly finish our cattle on their natural diet.  

Grocery store cattle never see such lush fields because they are moved to cramped and filthy feedlots for the last 120-160 days of their lives.  They are stuffed with an unnatural diet designed to get maximum growth in the shortest amount of time for the least cost.  This diet consists of grain, corn, steroids, antibiotics, growth hormones, animal by-products and even floor sweepings.  

Why do grocery stores use feedlots?  

The feedlots bring less healthy, fat cows to market 7 months faster than our grass finishing.  The key to profit in the grain/corn fed beef industry, which operates on extremely low individual margins is . . . . volume and speed. 

The sooner an animal can be brought to slaughter weight . . . the higher the volume and hence the greater the profit in the grocery store beef industry.  Once placed in a feedlot, hyped up on growth hormones and grain/corn . . . the animal can be pushed to gains of of 3.5 to 5 lbs/day.

Why we choose entirely grass fed conditions  

We produce grass fed beef using natural methods for those families who appreciate beef that is humanely produced as well as nutritious.  For us . . . grass fed beef is our only alternative.

Animals finished on our grass pastures gain a natural 1.5 to 2 lbs/day.  While our cattle are still being fed and treated the way God intended, the grain/corn fed cows have already gone to market and the large producers are developing their next group of cattle.  

Our grass fed protocol takes a lot of time and labor but our customers and our cattle appreciate the care we take.  Plus we do not believe in negatively impacting our environment with industrial farming methods.

8 major factors for the price difference between grocery store and American Grass Fed Beef: 

1. Additional land required for grass fed beef

2. Quality of our land has to be higher

3. Veterinarian owner overseeing the cattle and establishing the precise protocols for our farming methods

4. Time to bring our cattle to market (average 7 months longer) 

5.  Labor Involved assuring that our cattle receive optimal care, low stress and excellent nutrition

6.  Butcher processing using dry aging rather than unskilled mass production methods using no aging

7.  Economies of scale for a large corporation vs an individual grass farm

8.  Small shipments to individuals rather than having hundreds of pounds of sides and whole beef delivered via semi-truck.

During a time when land and labor increases annually, our grass operation requires a significant number of man-hours per week more labor and more costly land as opposed to grocery store beef.

Comparison of American Grass Fed Beef
and Typical Grocery Store Beef

  American Grass
Fed Beef
Typical Grocery
Store Beef
Ownership Veterinarian owned and operated small grass farm Ranchers paid by large corporations to oversee large herds
Farm Protocols Veterinarian's strict protocols based on humane care of our animals, natural farming methods and health of our herd. Methods based on profit margin to quickly produce beef. 
Months to
Market
from Birth
20 months average . . . reducing our production capacity and turnover of our cattle 13 months average . . . 7 months where they have already marketed their beef and are well on their way to producing another cow to market 
Grazing Labor expense of overseeing grass condition plus rotating cattle at least every 3 days and sometimes as often as 2 times a day depending on the growth of our grass and the individual needs of each cow Feedlots feed hundreds and in some cases hundreds of thousands of cows mechanically each day using automated systems.
Land
Requirements
More areas of fertile land with a long grass growing season Able to grow on a small amount of land in confinement
Finishing Prime natural grass super food while continuing to rotate cattle . . . requires labor and planting expense.  Our grass farm uses only strict natural farming methods. Feedlots using grain, corn, steroids, growth hormones and antibiotics in cramped pens brings cattle to market rapidly at minimal expense under great stress to the cattle.
Fertilizers and Insecticides None used . . . we use the natural rotation of the cattle to fertilize, aerate the land and maintain healthy grass. A beautiful natural ecosystem using God provided solar power for healthy land and cows.    Feedlots revolve around compact and portable corn which allows for feeding tens of thousands of animals in small confined areas.   Cheap government subsidized industrial corn uses more chemical herbicide and  artificial fertilizer than any other crop.  Also, an industrial crop uses huge amounts of fossil fuel which causes huge environmental problems.
Processing
Transportation 
7 cows taken via ranch truck to minimize stress . . . average 6 hour round trip twice (once to drop off and once to pick up finished beef).  Many other grass farms send beef in semi-trucks to large scale processing facilities just like grocery store beef. Large quantities of cattle cramped in semi-trucks taken to processing which maximizes stress
Processing Expensive since cows are individually processed by an experienced butcher.  Our facility is overseen by an USDA inspector and the area is cleaned between each cow.  Our veterinarian chose this facility because of its industry reputation.  No other grass fed beef operation uses this processing facility . . . many other grass farms use big industrial  processors just like the grocery stores. Economies of scale since 400 cows per hour are processed via predominantly unskilled labor.  Plus workers lose hands, fingers and arms regularly in high capacity operations . . . beef processing in these facilities is one of the highest risk jobs in the United States.
Risk of Cross Contamination Minimal Maximized with 400 cows per hour
Chemicals
Used 
Sterile conditions and clean equipment used so treating the beef is NOT required   Treating beef with chemical baths and irradiation to compensate for fast production methods
Cleanliness
Standards
Our small processing operation has  pristine standards in comparison to large processing operations.  Our beef processor has helped to establish national government procedures. Major recalls of beef underline the problem in large capacity operations.  The top 4 or 5 processors are responsible for 95% of the beef in this country.
Aging Dry Aging for 14 days with labor, storage expenses and the loss of 18 to 20 % of our beef.  Only a handful of U.S. grass fed beef operations go to this extreme. No Aging . . . no labor costs for aging and no loss of beef in the aging process
Packaging Many grass fed beef operations use butcher wrap which is messy but less expensive.  Our steaks and roasts are flash frozen and vacuum sealed for convenience and safety but is the most expensive packaging.   Beef is frozen, shipped in sides or whole, thawed, cut and packaged in inexpensive containers by the grocery store . . . finally it is placed out as fresh meat.
Average Cost
for Shipping
Containers, coolant, labor and Fed Ex average $2.75/lb Whole beef hanging or sides in large cardboard boxes . . . average cost of pennies per pound
Shipping Method Small quantities in individual frozen food shipping containers, labor intensive packing and expensive Federal Express shipping.  Many of our packages cost over $50 to ship. Large quantities via frozen freight (minimal packaging, shipping and labor expenses)


Hopefully this hasn't bored you to tears and you have a little more understanding of our operation.  

For those health conscious humanitarians who are ecologically minded, we provide grass fed beef that is safe for our environment and the health of our families.  Grocery store beef can't compare.

Come visit our grass farm, see our operation and pick up your orders.  An added bonus . . . we offer our grass fed beef to farm visitors slightly less per pound since we can eliminate many of the shipping and packaging expenses.



Patricia Whisnant, DVM
Grass Farmer and Veterinarian
AmericanGrassFedBeef.com

Whisnant Family Grass Farm
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Comparison of grocery store beef vs grass fed beef