You are what you eat... but what is your food eating?
The first picture that comes to mind is some animals grazing on lush green open fields. Unfortunately, nearly all cattle (and now some bison) are taken from open pasture to a confined feedlot 90-120 days before going to the butcher to fatten them up. In some situations, farms manipulate bison’s diet with soy and grain from birth.
Pretty different from that image of green pastures, huh.
Soy and grains like corn are considered high energy feed. When bison or cattle consume grains they gain weight very quickly, but in all the wrong ways. They were never meant to eat grain and are unable to digest it properly, which inevitably leads to serious animal health issues over time. But, then again, they're slaughtered before that happens...
So what is the differences between a grass-finished steak vs. a grain-finished steak?
We look at it this way— If you want to eat healthy, your food should too.
For example, if I'm trying to avoid candy, it doesn't do me much good if my "healthy" food choices are fed candy just before I eat them.
The digestive system of bison, the rumen, doesn't do well with grains, particularly corn. Corn changes the consistency of their stomach making it acidic, causing ulcers which allow bacteria into the bloodstream and end up in the liver, causing liver abscesses. Corn-fed bison contains a lot of saturated fat— the stuff that clogs your arteries. The heart disease we associate with eating meat is really a problem with corn-fed meat.
Why don't all farms only feed grass?
Well, it's difficult, and in some cases, less profitable. Animals just don't gain as much weight eating healthy food - go figure.
Bison that eat grass for their entire lives gain weight slower than bison that eat grain. This means it takes longer to make a burger, and there's less of them to go around.
You might see the term "grass fed" on your meat labels, this means they ate grass at some point during their lives. If a meat label only reads "grass fed" the animal has likely been finished with grains (i.e. corn or soy) at the end of its life. This includes organic meats as well, the only difference is that the animals have been fed organic grains.
Our feeding practices
The bison on our ranch are grass-fed and grass-finished, meaning they eat grass for the entirety of their lives.
Grass, broken down in the bison's natural digestive process, transforms into higher levels of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin E, Selenium, Iron, and Omega-3 fatty acids, resulting in much more nutritious and healthy meat for you and me!
For example, Omega-3 fatty acids help you to think better, calm inflammation and even significantly reduce your risk for heart attack.
Want to learn more about what we talked about in this post?
Read this interview with Michael Pollan or you can watch the documentary Food Inc.