Grain Fed Beef
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There are two very good written accounts of how industrial beef is raised in America. One is Betty Fussell’s Raising Steaks: The Life & Times of American Beef the other is an article written by Michael Pollan (of the Ominvore’s Dilemma fame) called “Power Steer” that appeared in the New York Times Magazine in 2002 and which follows Steer #534 that Pollan purchased in South Dakota for $598.

The book and article will give you a better picture of how beef is raised but in abbreviated form here; beef is typically born on a ranch or a “Cow-Calf” operation, where native grasses are converted to milk for the calf who typically remains with his mother until he/she is weaned at 14 or 15 months, then prepared for a high-calorie grain diet in a feedlot like those of Garden City, Kansas where #534 was finished.

The strengths of the current system are that it makes high-end protein available to an increasingly larger proportion of the population at historically low prices turning Malthus’ maxim (about population growth always exceeding the food supply), on its ear. It is also more consistent in both taste and supply and can be harvested 12 months a year.

The knocks against the current commercial system are many and the overall trend of beef consumption is down as people are put off beef by blander tastes, health issues, animal treatment worries and environmental concerns associated with “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.”