You mean there’s a difference? Aren’t they both healthy? The answers to those two questions are “yes” and “sometimes.”
While both certified organic and grass-fed cows produce dairy and meat products superior to what’s produced by cows confined to a feedlot, these two categories are different.
If beef or a dairy product is labeled “grass-fed,” it came from cows exclusively fed grass, hay and forage. No grains were included in the mix. It’s possible that pesticides were used on the grasses or hay, and it’s also possible that cows were given antibiotics or hormones. Grass-fed does not mean organic.
Organic cows are fed organic feed that could include grain. For example, our Reedy Fork dairy cows graze in the pasture and eat grass for most of the year, but there are times when grass isn’t accessible and their diet must be supplemented. (See the blog post on the cows’ snowy day diet.)
In addition, organic cows must not be given antibiotics or growth-enhancing hormones. To be certified organic, farmers must supply easy outside access for their cows and document that no pesticides or fertilizers were used on their farm land for the past three years.
What’s the norm?
In the US, there are over 90 million cows, and the vast majority of them are kept in confined areas and fed a grain diet chosen for its affordability rather than its nutrition. The close quarters create an environment where any sickness has the potential to infect every cow in the lot; consequently, many farmers choose to routinely treat all the cows with antibiotics.
To increase growth and milk production, many farmers resort to growth hormones for the cows. The end result is a product that’s economical – at the price of everyone’s health. Traces of these antibiotics and hormones make their way into every sip of milk, and every bite of beef.
Although this feeding method is considered the norm, it’s certainly not best.
What’s a better way?
Look no further than Reedy Fork Farm! Here, cows are known by name and allowed to graze as nature intended. And you can taste the difference in every glass of milk!