Not just cause its healthy, but because its hard to fudge.
But now I've caved. I can no longer claim our beef as purely grassfed. Let me explain:
We've been picking up spent brewery grains from Grand Rapids for our Pigs. They turned out to be a decent but imperfect feed. They are high in roughage (fiber) and protein. Our pigs fared poorly on the spent grains by themselves both because they lacked sugar (carbs) and because the protein is incomplete.
Pigs, like humans are omnivores, and complete proteins are the domain of meat/milk. Wise vegetarians know which amino acids are in which foods and combine them (beans and rice) to get more complete proteins. For pigs the primary limiting amino acid is lysine, though methionine and threonine may be short too.
Conventional practice is to add synthetic lysine to the pigs diet, but we chose to add an animal component. Our pigs picked up a lot with the addition of corn (sugar) and organic fishmeal.
Ruminants (Cattle Sheep and Goats) on the other hand are herbivores. As such they still need protein, but they can reprocess the protein to shape their needs. The key to this reprocessing is gut bacteria, and Ruminants are sort of walking fermentation vats.
Anyway, we've been getting more spent grains than our pigs would eat, and scrambling to find enough containers to pick up the next batch. On the Cattle end of things, they were burning through hay bales...
I'm not a fan of feeding corn to cattle. Here's why:
It is hard on the cattle.
Cattle were meant to convert low quality forage into meat. Corn is the bovine equivalent of living on duncan donuts
It propagates dangerous e-coli
E coli is a very commonplace bacteria crucial for the continued existence of the world. E-coli 0157 is a lethal variety that thrives in the acidic rumen of cornfed animals. It is basically nonexistent in grassfed or even mostly grassfed animals
It produces less healthy meat
What goes in comes out. Corn is a nutritional disaster
Its environmentally disastrous
Corn is grown on chemical fertilizers. It steadily strips the soil till nothing will grow.
Now technically we are no longer grass fed. Let me hasten to say that the nutritional profile of brewery grains is somewhere around legumes (clover/alfalfa) Fed a supplement with grass/hay it does not compromise the health of the cattle. It is not sugary and doesn't substantially change the rumen. The Meat will be roughly the same, and best of all, as a byproduct of existing industries, keeping it out the landfill is a very green choice.
Perhaps someday if I have enough pigs or dairy animals to eat all the grain, the cattle will be again purely grassfed, since pigs need it worse than cows. I'm sad to leave the ranks of the purists, but I'm confident the final product and environmental effect have not changed