Grass vs Grain Finished

In the fun world we live in today, there are so many terms, slogans, descriptions, etc out there that seem to impose fear over the products you are buying. For example, what emotions do you feel when you hear GMO, organic, grass fed, antibiotic free, hormone free? It kind of makes it sound like we, as farmers, are hiding something or something is wrong. But the reality is… we all do things a little different. Some farmers find they can manage their farm better by using one practice or another, and that is their choice.


I feel the need to preface this post by saying that I am not here to get into a controversial debate with anyone. There are good things out there and there are bad things out there. Maybe one day I will make a post about some of these things but for today, I simply want to share some definitions and what they mean for our farm!

The word “finished” is commonly used but may not be understood when discussing feeding cattle. “Finished” or “Finishing” means it is the last 4 to 10 months of that animals lifespan until it is mature and ready for processing.

Now that we have laid out some ground rules, lets get into the meat (haha, I did not do that on purpose! okay, maybe I did).


According to Beef – It’s what’s for dinner, grass-finished beef spend their entire lives on pasture and can also eat haylage and silage, which is like a chopped up fermented hay stalk (for haylage) or corn stalk (for silage). And that is it. There is no extra protein or fiber added to these animals diets. However, this diet is considered complete if done correctly so the animal is not malnourished. Think of it like a low carb / low calorie diet.


According to Beef – It’s what’s for dinner, grain-finished beef also eat haylage and silage in addition to a balanced grain diet. A balanced grain diet includes supplementing different types of proteins that may not be available in the environment they are raised in, such as soybean meal, cracked corn, or some fun flavored things like malases beat pulp (which to me tastes like raisin bran, yes, farmers taste test what their animals eat!). Think of this diet like a body builder, high protein, high calorie.


So what is the big difference?? Grass-finished beef take longer to mature and are usually leaner due to a lower calorie diet. Grass-finished beef still have access to all the hay their complex digestive system needs, but they get a little treat with it as well.

Like I said in the beginning, I am not here to discuss controversial topics. I want to share with you the facts and then explain what they may mean for our farm.

If you are looking at our farm in terms of definitions, we raise grain-finished beef. However, we rotationally graze our animals. They get the best of both worlds! They have free choice access to the tasty stuff in the field and then they get the cherry on top with grain. We also make sure they are receiving all their required vitamins and minerals.

Like I said, everyone does things a little different. We have found that giving our calves a nutritional, balanced grain diet in addition to letting them rotationally graze on fresh pastures gives you, our customers, the high quality guarantee for our products you deserve!!

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