Why farmer wants to do grass-fed beef 'the right way'
WE ASSUME that beef labelled "grass fed" comes from animals fed and raised naturally on pasture, but that's not always the case according to local beef farmer Andrew Cameron.
"Unfortunately grass fed is an unregulated term in Australia," he said.
"So when you see that on a label, yes, at some point it was on field eating grass, but that still means it could have spent two months in a feedlot being pumped grain ... just to get the weight up in time to make it economical and make good business."
As the owner of local business Byron Grass Fed, Andrew is passionate about doing grass fed beef the right way, even if it does take a little longer. He's also committed to educating consumers of the benefits via his website byrongrassfed.com.au and You Tube Channel, Eating for a Better Future.
The beef he sells online and at farmers' markets is sourced from local farmers who work with nature and raise animals on pasture alone. There's no grain to "finish" - only 100 per cent chemical free pastures.
Andrew says grass fed and finished beef is better for the land, animals and human health. The farmers he works with use regenerative farming methods, such as rotational grazing, that actually improve the health of the soil and can help farms to cope better during dry times.
On one of these local farms near Mullumbimby, carbon in the soil has increased by more than 10 per cent.
Feeding cattle grain to fatten them up is a waste of resources, he says.
"Grain is expensive for farmers to purchase and takes a heavy toll on the land it is grown in. Monoculture crops (like grain) grown for animal feed also usually require heavy synthetic inputs in the form of fertilisers and pesticides. We rip down forests, clear land to grow grain to feed an animal that isn't designed to eat grain."
Andrew says it can be a challenge to fatten animals to the desired weight or fat content purely from grass, especially on the Northern Rivers, however by using the right farming practices and management, he and the local farmers he works with are proving it can be done.
And while it may take a little longer, it's worth the wait. Grass fed beef has a distinct flavour and yellow fat from the naturally occurring beta carotenes in the grass (as opposed to the white fat of grain fed beef) and it more heart healthy Omega 3s than grain fed beef. Andrew says it makes sense that beef from an animal raised on a natural diet is better for you.
"Eating processed foods isn't good for our health, so why would it be any different for animals?"
Find Byron Grass Fed at the Mullumbimby Farmers' Market every Friday.