Grass-Fed Beef vs. Corn-Fed Beef: What’s the Difference, and Why Does It Matter?


Picture a cow. A happy, normal cow. What color is it? Where is it standing? Is it by itself? You probably pictured a herd of black-and-white, spotted brown, or perhaps classic black Angus cows, grazing serenely outdoors on lush pastures, basking in prairie sunshine. Yet 97% of beef in America is corn-fed, in enclosed feedlots. Why? 

America feeds cows corn because 97% of cattle producers in America today have three concerns: money, efficiency, and speed. Their goal is to raise the largest number of cattle, for the least amount of money, in the quickest amount of time. It takes a long time, years in fact, to naturally fatten cows on grass. Commercial cattle producers want to make money quickly and found that cows get fat quickly -- in about six months -- when fed a diet of mostly corn.

Why do cows get so fat, so fast, eating corn? Corn of course is higher in calories and fat than the fibrous plant matter of grass. However, complications may occur when any animal eats a diet that it is not able to digest. When cows are fed a majority corn diet, they may suffer a from number of health problems including obesity, bloating, inflammation, ulcers, polio and paralysis. Diseases such as “dust pneumonia,” “feedlot polio,” “acidosis,” and “rumentitis” are all serious and potentially fatal illness that 97% of cattle producers must contend with -- all due to unnatural diet of corn, grain, and mysterious “by-products” that most beef-eaters would rather not even think about, like “feather meal” (ground-up poultry feathers), and even, bizarrely, bakery waste. Given the obvious and numerous health implications, why do 97% of cattle producers use corn and grain as primary feed?

Before World War II, most Americans had never eaten corn-fed beef. During the war, demand and production of grain production increased. Afterwards, demand decreased and farmers were left with an excess of product. The government offered to help by subsidizing certain crops, such as corn and soy, to guarantee payment to farmers regardless of demand for the product. American farmers, no longer subject to the economical whims of supply-and-demand, continued producing an extraordinary amount of corn and soy. With an excess of these products came ingenious ways to use them. In addition, Americans started eating more meat while spending less money on food. The demand for beef increased and an excess of corn led to the practice of corn fed beef. By 2008, these two forces has been at play for nearly 60 years and corn-fed beef had become the norm in America.

Carter Country does it differently. We are not “cattle producers” trying to cut costs at the expense of health. We are not feedlot owners. We are families. We are cowboys. We are ranchers. We are stewards of the land, and we use generations of ranching knowledge, the knowledge that’s in our blood, to responsibly, and respectfully, take care of the cattle in our charge, to let them live the longest, happiest, healthiest lives, so that they can help you and your family live long, happy, healthy lives too. Our beef is different -- it’s not just rare, it’s the rarest beef in the world. Our cattle graze for a minimum of four years, on tens of thousands of acres of wild Wyoming lands, from 4,000 to 10,000 feet in elevation. They enjoy a diverse, wild diet of natural grasses, supplemented carefully with a small amount of grain that has been fermented to make it more easily digestible. The result? The best beef you’ve ever had. The flavor is not just in the steak, but also in the fat. We call it “grass-fed gold.” The natural fat that our cows develop occurs over a number of years, and the high levels of nutrients in the wild grasses contribute a gorgeous golden hue to this precious fat that coats your tongue with the terroir of the Wyoming Wild West. Most people haven’t seen grass-fed beef that is as marbled as the coveted Wagyu. Most people haven’t savored the “grass-fed gold” fat melt in their mouth. Most people haven’t tasted the complex and rich terroir of beef that has eaten a diverse wild diet, that has aged naturally in its life, then aged again to concentrate that intense flavor and promote tenderness in all muscles and cuts. Then again, most people aren’t you. And we’re not most cattle ranchers.

Our forefathers who lived on the grassy open plains of the American West and Midwest found that these gentle giants possessed an amazing ability to turn fibrous grass, indigestible by humans, into protein-rich meat. Cows are ruminants, which means they’re a kind of mammal that are able to turn cellulose, the most common organic compound on earth, into steak.Their complex and sophisticated digestive system allows for efficient digestion of large quantities of plant matter. Having a ruminant stomach is a major advantage in the Wild West where the most abundant resource is grass. It makes sense that our forefathers, looking over vast expanses of grassy plains, started domesticating and raising cattle, those amazing gentle giants that turn plants into meat. We at Carter Country learned ranching tradition from our fathers and grandfathers. Then, we keep learning, to provide our friends, family, community and world with not just meat, but the best meat you’ve ever had.

We at Carter Country keep to tradition and the natural way, allowing our cows to roam, forage and graze on our 40,000 acres of pristine Wyoming land, abundant with diverse grasses and watered by 27 natural springs. We allow our cows to live naturally longer lives, to slowly and happily fatten up on their natural, healthy diet. We don’t just take care of the cows, we take care of the land. We respect tradition but we are always willing to learn. We explore regenerative practices, we embrace bio-dynamic methods. We don’t just raise cattle, we raise our kids on the ranch. We take care of our pet pig, Peaches. We train horses, we catch toads, we watch birds. We are gardeners, we are parents, we are teachers. We are cowboys, we are ranchers, we are Carter Country.

Written by Kaley Sutton


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