Everything old is new again

America gew up on grass-fed beef

Cattle ranching in North America began in the 15th century, first in Mexico and then migrating to Texas and spreading out through the American mid-west. Beef was the first meat to reach a national market in the 1870’s. At the time, virtually all of the animals were raised on grass. As late as 1935, the USDA reported that only 5.1% of the nation’s cattle were being fattened in feedlots, where animals are penned up and fed corn.

Economics, industrialized beef production and consumer demand led to the proliferation of the practice; penning cattle in feedlots became the standard. But confining large groups of animals in close quarters bred disease so antibiotics were added to the feed. A byproduct of this practice was increased growth rates in livestock which meant shorter breading times and increased profits. Animals can be “fattened up” in as little as 14 months.

However, an increasing amount of evidence suggests that the use of antibiotics (in addition to growth hormones, and pesticide residue in the grain) in food animals can pose a health risk to humans. Today, concerned consumers, enlightened ranchers and the food industry are taking note of the return to naturally-raised, grass-fed beef.