In recent decades the American consumer has often been led to believe, by advertising and other means, that grain-fed meat is superior to grass-fed meat. This is a useful doctrine for those with interests in big feedlots and corn acreage, but the rest of us have reason to question it.
If given access to clean, fast-growing forage crops, lambs grow excellent meat. If their genetics and their shepherds allow them to, they can get fat on grass. If the lambs are harvested at the right time off of grass, their meat is tender, mild, and not too fat. On pasture, lambs get exercise, fresh air, and a body that functions the way a sheep's body is designed to function; all that means healthy meat. For our customers, that also means tasty meat.
A substantial portion of the American meat diet comes from animals that have spent weeks, months, or sometimes even longer, in feedlots where most or all of their diet is grain (corn, soybean, oats, barley, etc.). The practice of finishing animals in feedlots can be useful for optimizing carcass quality, but we believe it has come to be overextended in modern industrial agriculture. Feedlot animals often become over-fattened and too old to taste good because the financial incentives of buying and selling animals for feedlot tenure favor unnaturally large weight gains. The lack of exercise, chronic exposure to manure and proximity to other animals also preclude a normal sheep life; the organism has evolved to live on grass, not crowded drylots.
Our own taste buds corroborate this conviction that grass-fed makes sense, but so does abundant evidence beyond our farm. For example, British, Irish, and American researchers have documented that grass-fed meat has higher concentrations of conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs), ". . . the only fatty acid shown unequivocally to inhibit carcinogens in experimental animals." (National Academy of Science, 1996, Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet). According to the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, lamb has a higher concentration of CLA than ground beef, veal, pork, chicken, or turkey (5.6 mg CLA per gm of fat vs. 4.3, 2.7, 0.6, 0.9 and 2.5 mg/g, respectively). Grass fed meats also have higher concentrations of beta-carotenes, and higher ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids than grain-fed meats have, contributing to anti-carcinogenic and possibly cholesterol-lowering properties in grass-fed meat (Stockman Grass farmer, November, 1999). In addition, experimental studies have demonstrated that the normal acidity of the ruminant gut is altered when grain dominates the diet, creating an artificially favorable environment for some microorganisms that can pose human health risks. Gourmet restaurants in this country are now serving Argentinian beef. Why? Because it melts in your mouth, its taste is elegant, and the chef has read research that is healthier because it is grass-fed.
We can grow grass-fed meat here.
|THIRTEEN MILE LAMB & WOOL COMPANY
13000 Springhill Road
Belgrade, Montana 59714