The Greenwashing Epidemic
Unfortunately, greenwashing is quite common in the food industry, with products being given labels like “local”, “sustainable”, “ethically sourced”, etc. Often, the transparency required to quantify these claims is lacking, or the data may be irrelevant. Depending on the conditions, only 25% of the ingredients in a product may need to be truly locally sourced in order to label it as such.
In the meat industry, it is quite common, especially among big meat packers, to label beef as “grass-fed” when the cattle have actually been finished in a feedlot. The thing is, almost all cattle are on pasture for the first months of their lives, but at weaning (6-10 mo. of age) the calves are moved into a feedlot to be finished on grain. Cattle that are raised on pasture eating grasses cannot be raised as efficiently. Generally, you have the same input costs as a feedlot cow, but a much smaller animal. Because of this, the price tag is higher. Companies see this, and see a strategy for easy money, resulting in the corruption of labeling we see today.
Because of this problem, the term “grass-finished” has emerged in order to differentiate from fake grass-fed beef. Normally this term is relatively trustworthy, however it is always good to make sure you are getting your food from a source that prioritizes integrity and transparency regardless of the labeling. Generally, grass-finished beef has been on a 100% grass diet for at least the last six months of their lives. A grass-finished cow may have had a very limited amount of grain at some point in its life, but from a consumer perspective, this is not a problem. It is the last few months of the cow’s diet that determines the nutrient profile in the meat.
Having said all this, some farms use the grass-fed label with integrity, and to them, grass-fed actually means that their cattle are fed grass and hay all their lives. So, as I mentioned before, transparency is key. There needs to be transparency between the grower and the consumer, so that we can build confident relationships and everyone can receive the value they are pursuing.
One of the goals of Greener Grazing is to educate you, as a consumer, and enable you to make educated, informed decisions as to what you are putting on your table. In general, the food in our system is very low in nutrient value, and my goal is to produce meat products that are nutrient-dense, and can start to swing the balances the other way. We strive to manage the enterprise with integrity, in a way that regenerates the earth and our environment and glorifies God, the Creator.
I hope this content is helpful to you in making decisions on food, and as always, if you have questions about Greener Grazing, don’t hesitate to send them my way!