Monday, September 26, 2016
The Pros and Cons of the Grass-Fed Beef Boom
can have a reduced environmental footprint compared with grain-fed beef. Defining what grass-fed beef is can be a challenge, and what lies behind the rising sales is equally murky. Despite sales being up significantly in the past year, grass-fed beef accounted for less than 2 percent of the overall beef market, according to the USDA. Furthermore, the acceptance of grass-fed beef by American diners doesn’t mean that more American ranchers are moving away from conventional beef production. Overall beef imports to the U.S. have been trending downward for about a decade, but two of the largest foreign suppliers of U.S. beef are New Zealand and Australia—and meat cattle operations in both countries are based in large part on pasture, not feedlots. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, “Most imported beef is lower-valued, grass-fed beef destined for processing, primarily as ground beef.” That’s been the case for a while, but as the market changes, all it takes is some new branding, and the same ground beef that was sold as “ground beef” a few years ago can suddenly become a hip new product with a not-insignificant green halo. The hormone- and antibiotic-free grass-fed burger that Carl’s Jr. debuted in 2014—to much fanfare—is made with 100 percent Australian beef.