Grass Fed Beef Helps Grasslands Thrive

Kasie McLaughlinBanner, News

“There’s no excuse not to try grass-fed beef,” says the recently mailed A&W coupon book.

Why would A&W move to serving customers only grass-fed beef? “It is all about feeling good about the food you eat,” says the coupon book. Okay, but what is so special about grass-fed beef?  It’s simple says A&W, “cattle graze on pasture and the grazing helps the grasslands thrive.”

Gerond Davidson is a fifth-generation Davidson to continually farm and raise cattle at Springbank Farm near Neepawa, Manitoba.  “Today the term ‘grass-fed’ beef is being used as a marketing term that is gaining popularity with restaurants wanting to connect the beef they sell with a healthy environment,” says Gerond.  “Grass-fed suggests a different management of the cattle, as compared to other approaches like a ‘conventional’ approach (open pasture), ‘grain fed’ (feedlot approach), or ‘grass finished’ (no grain) approach.  The term ‘grass-fed’ is somewhat ambiguous because at some point all cattle are ‘grass-fed’ on summer pasture.”

“In the ‘grass-fed’ world a more holistic approach is often taken with pasture management.  This includes rotational grazing, multi-paddock grazing, or mob grazing.  Basically, they all mean the same thing.  You move cattle through small paddocks and intensively graze, allowing grass in the ungrazed paddocks to regrow during rest periods.  We have been raising cattle in a holistic way for almost twenty-five years now,” says Gerond.

“Keeping pasture grass and forage plants in a continuous state of vegetative growth means they absorb more carbon from the atmosphere,” Gerond relays.  “This has the added benefit of increasing our soil organic matter, therefore increasing the soil water holding capacity, as well as sequestering carbon. We were early adopters of riparian management on our creeks and adjacent grasslands because we did not want cattle to be a potential threat to water quality.  In 2006 I partnered with Manitoba Habitat Conservancy through a Conservation Agreement to protect the riparian area, grasslands and wildlife habitat in one of my pastures along Boggy Creek upstream of Neepawa.”

“I got the A&W coupon book in my mailbox and was encouraged by the fact that A&W sees value in the link between beef production and a healthy landscape,” says Tim Sopuck, the CEO of Manitoba Habitat Conservancy (MHC).  “MHC has long recognized the important contribution of cattle producers and their pasturelands that support healthy watersheds and the protection of wildlife habitat.  We will continue to work with cattle producers to conserve pasturelands and improving grass quality by offering incentive programs like our new Keep Grazing Project.  I am also thrilled that all my urban neighbors are getting the message that pasturelands are important.  Manitoba beef producers are important players in addressing issues such as climate change, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, water purification, native prairie protection and habitat for birds, wildlife, and species at risk.”

A&W says, “its all about feeling good about the food you eat.”  But are there any nutritional differences between a ‘grass-fed’ beef burger and a ‘grain-fed’ burger?   Studies have shown grass-fed beef contains less fat.  It can also contain up to five times as much omega-3 (lowers risk of heart disease, depression, dementia, and arthritis) and about twice as much conjugated linoleic acid (an antioxidant, reduces heart health risks) as grain-fed beef.

“I would say ‘grass-fed’ beef marketing is gaining popularity with restaurants,” says Gerond. “It relays a positive message to consumers about food production, and it gets the word out that beef is good.”   Bottom line, A&W supports beef produced on grazed grasslands that provides environmental benefits to society. I am glad that A&W is relaying this message.” says Gerond.

“I feel good about the beef we raise, and I hope consumers feel good about the beef they eat,” Gerond says.  My hope is there will be enough cattle producers left in the future so cattle can continue to graze on pastures which will help our grasslands thrive and support a healthy environment.”