What are the Differences?
Understanding the differences between all the different grass-fed and grain-fed claims is important to understand exactly what you are paying for and why there are price differences. All apples are not the same and neither are bison.
This simply means they are raised on pasture; there is no strict definition. Whether they are raised completely on pasture or are sometimes removed from pasture and placed in paddocks (for grain-finishing or some other reason) would be up to the person making the claim. As Animal Welfare Approved our bison are always on pasture and allowed to graze even during the winter. They are never enclosed in paddocks and always have access to grass.
This simply means they are fed grass or other forage (including grass, legumes, brassica, and browse). It does not necessarily mean the animal is fed exclusively grass, the quality of the grass, and whether the animals are fed supplemental grains or grain byproducts. It also does not define how long the animal has been fed grass. A skinny old cow or bull fed moldy poor quality hay would be grass-fed. Thus, simply grass-fed does not necessarily mean what is implied and/or the quality of the meat. Often times animals are grass-fed, but grain-finished. There are also now operations (particularly in the beef industry), that feed "grass" within a feedlot system as opposed to out in pasture.
As above, this simply means that the animal was been fed 100% grass or other forage (including grass, legumes, brassica, and browse), but does not define how long, the quality of the feed, and/or whether "close-to" 100% counts as 100%. The feeding of grain during increment weather is often considered acceptable and within the 100% parameters,even within USDA parameters.
This is the absolute strictest of the grass-fed classifications and has a strict set of regulations, standards, and definition. A Certified Grass fed animal is fed exclusively forage (grass, legumes, brassica, or browse) from birth to death, excluding the consumption of milk prior to weaning. In addition, the mother of the calf cannot be fed anything other than forage during anytime the calf is nursing. Should supplemental feeding be necessary during increment weather or other conditions, small defined amounts of approved supplements may be fed but these supplement must be consistent with the characteristics of forage (e.g., alfalfa pellets) and cannot contain any grains. Ozark Valley Bison Farm is Certified Grassfed by A Greener World (AGW), the only certification and logo in the U.S. and Canada that guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100 percent grass and forage diet, raised outdoors on pasture or range and managed according to the highest welfare and environmental standards on an independent farm.
As noted above, feeding grass does not necessarily mean what the wording implies and/or what is perceived. An old cow fed poor quality moldy hay would be grass-fed, but the meat would be tough, nutritionally poor, and poor bitter taste. Grass finishing on the other hand generally means that animals are finished on fresh young spring-summer pasture grasses as opposed to grain-finishing.
Our bison are Animal Welfare Approved and Certified Grass-Fed with annual on-farm audits to insure compliance. Our animals are never allowed to be placed in paddocks and must be on pasture 24/7, 365 days a year, thus providing native edible grasses year round (supplemented with hay during the winter). At the end of February, the bison are moved onto sacrificial pastures, sacrificial in the sense that the bison are expected to destroy the pastures. This is done to allow the other pastures to be fertilized and allowed to grow during the early spring months. When the pasture grass is approximately 6-10 inches high the bison are released back into the other pastures and efforts are made to rejuvenate the sacrificial pastures.
The bison will fatten up and finish on this luxurious and nutritious green pasture grasses. This is grass-finishing - having the animals put on their final growth and weight on fresh green grass rather than on grain in a feedlot. It is the grass finishing that gives the meat that great flavor and tenderness that can only be achieved by grass finishing.
It is also the reason we only process animals in late summer or very early fall. Logic will tell you that you cannot process animals during the winter or spring and have them grass finished.
Why the difference in cost?
Grass-fed meat is almost double the cost of grain fed animals for several legitimate reasons beyond public demand. As noted above, there is a finite time when animals can actually be processed and all animals must go to slaughter irrespective of weight or when they were born. Grass fed and finished bison have a much lower Average Daily Weight Gain (ADG) than grain-fed animals so slaughter weights will be lower, hence the cost per pound of meat higher. Maintaining and managing quality pasture is far more expensive than feeding a few bags of grain byproducts. The end result is a much higher cost to produce a pound of grass-fed bison (or beef for that matter). See additional information on cost
- Meat from grass-fed animals contains 10x more beta-carotene than grain-fed animals and studies have shown important to:
- Stimulate the immune system
- Maintaining healthy vision, skin, & bones
- Meat from grass-fed animals contain 3X more Vitamin E which has been shown to aid in:
- The prevention of some cancer
- The prevention of cardiovascular disease
- Healthy fats such as omega-3-fatty acids are 2-6X more in grass-fed meats and have been shown to:
- Aid in reducing blood pressure
- Aid in the prevention of cardiovascular disease
- Aid in the prevention of arthritis
- Aid in maintaining healthy brain function
- Aid in preventing & slowing the growth of many cancers
- Aid in the prevention and treatment of depression
- Meat from grass-fed animals has 3X more CLA, conjugated linoleic acid, another healthy fat that has been shown to:
- Lower the risk of diabetes
- Lower the risk of heart disease
- Lower blood levels of LDL cholesterol (so-called bad cholesterol)
- Lower risk of many cancers