In all my years visiting cattlemen and cattlewomen, all their cattle have been raised in pasture, grazing grass. So, the marketing term “grass fed beef” is really interesting to me.
While no one knows the exact number of cattle there are in Angelina County, it is a safe bet that over 99% of all cattle are raised for beef production. In fact, the closest dairy I know of is outside of Angelina County to the north of us in Cherokee County.
The fact is that all cattle spend the vast majority (if not all their lives) on pasture grazing grasses and a few kinds of other plants. Only at the last stage are some cattle fed the most nutritiously dense part of the plants (the seeds commonly called grains) to rapidly get cattle to market weight. By feeding this most nutritionally dense part of the plant, it shortens the time it takes to get cattle to market, and reduce costs for a quality, marketable product.
Of all the varieties of grasses you’ll see in our area, you’ll find nearly all will fit into two species: bermuda and bahia. There are several varieties of bermuda and bahia. Just like car guys can talk about motors, transmissions and more, you can find stockmen discussing the choices between pasture varietals such as Coastal, Jiggs, and Tifton 85 bermudas or Argentina, Pensacola and Common bahias.
True there are a few folks that will plant clover for high quality, short term supplemental grazing of their beef herds. Though excellent forage for cattle, it is most certainly a broad-leafed forb. However, clover isn’t a grass.
Indeed, clover is considered a weed in many lawns. You can find numerous products to eliminate clover from your yard.
In some agricultural regions, alfalfa reigns supreme. Nicknamed “The Queen of Forages”, alfalfa is a perennial plant that can build the soil by taking nitrogen from the air and “fixing” it in the soil. Alfalfa, like the aforementioned clover, is a legume. And legumes are well known in agricultural operations for improving the soil in which they grow by incorporating the most limiting nutrient, nitrogen.
But alfalfa, like clover, is not a grass. So technically, cattle fed alfalfa or clover are not “grass fed” beef.
I’m a glutton for marketing. Honestly, I know that there are countless smart individuals who have studied customers just like me. They know what I like and don’t like, what I respond to and what I ignore.
There are several products that I am relatively ignorant about and I yield to the advertisements. So, if you tell me nine out of ten dentists say this toothpaste is better? Sounds good to me.
But try and tell me that “grass-fed” beef is unique or superior? I know I don’t want to spend the extra money for that cut of beef.
Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with grass fed beef. It can be perfectly nutritious and a healthy part of one’s diet.
Truth is, I think more of our local cattlemen could profit greatly from marketing and selling locally grown, custom finished beef. I have neither the time or the resources to do that myself. But for folks interested in this marketing niche, I’ve shared my plan before and would again if asked.
On Monday, Aug 20, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Angelina County will be holding a program called “Path to the Plate”. The program will separate fact from fiction in modern day food production systems and marketing.
We’ll be highlighting a local farmer, demonstrating and preparing some nutritious meals, and busting some myths about food production. The evening starts at 6:30 pm. Cost is $10 per person. RSVP’s appreciated. The first 50 people to RSVP will receive a cookbook.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.