Ethical Cattle Raising: How Does Animal Welfare Affect Meat Quality?

As consumers in the US begin to wake up to ethical business practices and start to care more about where and how they receive their goods, one practice stands out amongst them—cattle raising and the meat production industry.

Cattle farms across the country don’t all implement ethical raising practices. Of the 33 million cattle that are farmed on average in the US, only about 3% are raised on grass-fed farms opposed to grain feed lots. Grass fed cattle tend to have a better quality of life and are healthier animals throughout their lifetime than grain-fed cattle.

Ethically, we know that treating animals humanely and with care is what they deserve, but does an animal’s quality of life affect the quality of the meat they produce? The short answer is yes. Everything from stress, transportation, and painful experiences can affect the quality of meat that a cow may produce.

High stress from castration or a slaughter environment can reduce glycogen levels in the animals and this stress is present in the meat quality. Tenderness, taste, and color can all be negatively affected by exposure to stressful environments and/or pain. When fearful or anxious, animals will produce adrenaline, causing their muscles to become tense and increase the pH levels in their body. Overtime, this can actually cause their meat to deteriorate.

What Does Good Animal Welfare Look Like When Raising Cattle for Meat Production?

To understand the livestock experience, you must first understand that cattle farming methods vary. Some are raised on a pasture, while others are confined to an overcrowded area or even a barn stall. The welfare of the animals is left up to the farmer but there are two main approaches to raising cattle: grain feeding and grass feeding.

Grain Feedlots

Typically, calves are free to roam in a pasture area for the first 6-7 months of their life, where they are then forced into a poorly maintained grain feedlot where they are essentially fattened up for slaughter. It’s not uncommon for these animals to experience castration, branding, falls in transportation, and other traumatizing experiences in a grain feed lot. The focus is on cost and yield of the meat production, not the animal producing the meat.

Grass Fed Pastures

The idea behind grass feeding cattle is keeping the animal in tune with their intended experiences. Cattle are meant to graze freely on grass in open areas, not to be force-fed grain and corn in dirty and confined spaces. By focusing on giving cattle the life that nature intended, the animals experience less stress, confusion, and pain, giving them a better quality of life.

Providing livestock with adequate measures like shade and heat protection, and generally just considering the mental well-being of an animal all go into practicing good animal welfare.

Better Life = Better Meat: Grass Fed Beef is the Superior Beef for a Reason

Due to the conditions in grain feedlots versus the conditions in grass fed pastures, livestock across both farm types have entirely different experiences. This isn’t only evident in the makeup of the meat that they produce, such as the tenderness and flavor, but in the nutritional quality as well.

Grass fed beef is leaner and more clean cut than grain fed beef because of the nourishment they receive. Allowing cows to graze on grass for the entirety of their life contributes to the overall physical health of the animal. Healthy animals produce healthier meat, it’s as simple as that.

Benefits of grass fed beef include:

For a full comparison of grass fed beef versus grain fed beef, visit here.

Animal Welfare: Good for the Animal, the Consumer, and the Environment

While grass-feeding all of the cattle in the United State isn’t exactly feasible, the benefits suggest much more than 3% should be grass fed. The life of a farmed cow may be a bleak one, but it doesn’t have to feel that way to the animal. By providing them with basic considerations and care, they will produce better meat for the consumer.

Good animal welfare and grass feeding cattle is also thought to benefit the environment. By continuously eating the grass in pastures and allowing it to grow back, cattle are helping the grass to absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere, ultimately helping to combat global warming. These farms are also able to implement more eco-friendly practices than their larger, corporate counterparts.

While every cattle farm may not be able to grass feed their livestock, they are in complete control of the conditions these animals experience while in their care. Good animal welfare doesn’t have to mean grass fed but it does require consideration and ethical practices.

Where Can You Buy Quality Meat & Feel Good About the Way the Cattle Were Raised?

Buying Farm to Table is a great way to know that the meat you’re buying is coming from farms that practice good animal welfare. When you buy your meat locally, you can know exactly where your meat is coming from and can even take the initiative to investigate the quality of life animals have on that farm.

Trusted Table is a grass fed beef provider in Collin County, Texas. All of our beef is ethically raised and much care goes into ensuring that the grass fed beef you buy is of the highest quality, procured from the happiest cows. 

While we do offer some grain fed beef options, we have ensured that these animals have just as high a quality of life as their grass fed friends down the street.

Our mission at Trusted Table is to create and maintain an carnivore ecosystem that is morally acceptable and mutually beneficial to everyone involved. When buying from Trusted Table, you can feel good knowing that your meat is locally sourced with quality, customer, and cattle in mind. Easily shop our selection of premium beef on our website and have it delivered right to your door—start enjoying grade-A beef from grade-A cows today!

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