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Grass Fed VS 100% Grass Fed

The difference between “Grass Fed Meat” and “100% Grass Fed Meat”.

You will notice a high number of shops and farmers selling direct to customers are now selling "grass fed meat". At Ruxstons we agree with this principle so naturally are happy to see this, put simply, the less imported feed, the lower the overall emissions of agriculture. Yes, it is only one factor of many factors with regard to emissions within agriculture but it is a moderately quick thing that can be changed in farming animals in the UK, just a few years in fact.

However with this becoming more well known amongst the wider population outside of farming it is now becoming a key selling point and this creates a downside, some shops and farmers selling their produce are cutting corners to sell their meat by saying grass fed in a very disingenuous way. To say grass fed, only 51% of the animals diet needs to have come from grass, and considering that most of a cow or sheep diet will often have a proportion of grass then 51% means very little!

At Ruxstons we only source from suppliers where the cattle and lambs are 100% grass fed, no soya, no barley, no oats. Only what grows and is eaten naturally from the pasture, it can be hay or silage (preserved grass) in the winter. Of course, we do not expect everyone to buy their meat off only us, ideally there will be a high number of companies and farmers selling 100% grass fed meat within the UK, sourcing from local farms.

You will find, particularly with our 100% grass fed beef, is that the fat is a more yellow colour than the grain fed counterparts of which the white colour is the telltale sign of lack of grass. It isn't just so simple as to say the more yellow the fat, the higher the diet in grass, as older ages have an effect to increase this colouring too. But older ages are good too as the cattle haven't been rushed to get to weight quickly. So yellow fat is a good sign overall!

100 percent grass fed beef sirloin steak

What else to look for beyond 100% (or not) grass fed labelling...

So if you are buying or have recently started buying meat from a shop or farm that says grass fed or 100% grass fed, there are a few things you can look out for, or if in a shop ask, that will make is clear that a farmer is farming in a way that is beneficial for the environment aside from just the diet of the animal:

1)Are they driving on the land unnecessarily and excessively even in wet weather? This can cause compaction and hugely damage the soil, therefore reducing its ability to sequester carbon. You can put in fence post by hand and you do not always need a quadbike to check stock.

2) Are they using artificial fertilisers on their land? Yes 100% grass fed is great but if you are pouring on imported fertilisers to make your grass grow faster because you are overstocked animal wise this is not going to benefit the environment at all. Herbal leys and multispecies grazing are a fantastic solution to reduce the need for fertiliser. We have a separate article on the benefits Ducks can have within regenerative farming.

3) Is their grass grazed short without breaks? If it is this will almost certainly be reducing how much carbon the soil can absorb, which is one of the key reasons why Holly Purdey's farm at Horner Farm has managed to absorb more carbon than it emits. Long rest periods between grazing lets the grass grow longer with deeper roots carbon can be stored in the soil. Naturally different grasses, soil types, different altitudes of the farm, which animals are grazing will mean this observations usefulness can vary. Yes, sometimes having some thistles and docks in with long grass may not look attractive, and Holly at Horner Farm has had complaints about this, but it is a lot better for the planet.

grass fed goat foraging

4) Probably the best thing you can ask anyone selling grass fed meat though is their history in the area. I say this because we recently had a customer at Ruxstons admiring our pasture fed chicken and the colour and size of them.

He said he used to be a farmer and said he did battery hens because everyone back then thought it was cool, which we felt was puzzling to say the least. In my own view if you simply do what everyone else's is doing at the time without using your own observation and analytical skills you probably don’t really care about what you are doing, you are simply doing it to be “cool” as he said.

So ask the shop or farmer who is selling you grass fed meat how long they have been doing it and what they were doing before? Why for example have the supermarkets that are now pushing grass fed (likely 51% +) meat only recently started selling this, why not 10 years ago? This is not a recent breakthrough and they could have used some of their marketing budget to push a new product years ago. Yes no one has a perfect history and people and companies do change but if you buy off a farmer who went organic 50 years ago it is likely they don’t cut corners because they firmly believe in what they are doing. Remember when they started out a lot of people would have been scoffing or down right laughing at them for being a “hippie” or just "strange", if someone keeps doing it despite a negative reaction then it is likely because they fully believe in what they are doing.


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