What do farms grain feed?
Given the growing customer sentiments towards fully grass fed and grass finished livestock, it is a fair to wonder why farms choose to grain feed their cattle.
Some misconceptions about grain feeding
When I first started the Half A Cow marketplace, I assumed that grain fed cattle were also always feedlot cattle. I had also assumed that feedlot cattle had a very poor quality of life.
Both of these assumptions turned out to be totally incorrect!
Many cattle which are ‘finished” on grain or other feeds are also totally free range / pasture raised.
This means that they can wander around eating grass and enjoying the wide open spaces, and if they wish, can also take a snack of grain. My assumption was that all grain fed cattle were held in small pens and not able to move around. Yes, I eat meat, but I would prefer the animals had a happy life!
What does "Finishing" mean?
Many animals on the site will be described as “grass fed, grain finished” or some combination of the two.
Finishing Type refers to what the animal eats in the last 30, 60, 90 or 120 days of its life. The longer the finishing time, the more pronounced the impact of that feed type. Animals which are just finished on grass, don’t have a ‘finishing time’ listed.
A grain fed animal will typically put on more weight, and more fat then a grass fed animal. So the longer the animal is grain fed, the more ‘intramuscular fat” will be present. This is how we achieve the very high marbling scores with Wagyu cows. There simply isn’t enough nutritional content in grass to achieve the same goal.
Reasons for Grain Feeding
Not enough alternative feed
Grains are tested and graded for feed quality, and can be sourced outside of the immedate area.
Timing of product
A well run feedlot will know, down to the day, exactly when their cows will be ready for processing many weeks in advance.