What’s the difference?
According to purists, grass-fed beef comes from cattle that are fed and finished on grass their entire lives. It doesn’t signify that cattle are always grazing out in the pasture as grass-fed cattle can be fed hay in a barn. However, with Hawai’i’s year-round temperate weather, it’s possible for cattle here to eat year-round out on a pasture.
Pasture-raised animals are those that are fed in their natural environment. They move among managed pastures to feed on grass and might also have their feed supplemented for a variety of reasons. Due to drought, pasture health and availability, or the desire to “finish” cattle with a higher energy/protein diet, ranchers may supplement pasture to better bring the animal to market. Supplements may include cull-crop fruit and vegetables, ag by-products like corn stalks and wheat mill run, beet pulp, soybean meal, molasses, etc.
Either way, both grass-fed beef and pasture-raised beef are marketed as free from growth hormones, antibiotics or steroids.
Pasture-Raised and Grass-Fed: Why Taste Supports Both Meat Production Methods
In year’s past, Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range has touted the preparation and enjoyment of “grass-fed” beef and other locally produced agricultural products by our local chefs.
“This healthy food initiative has been an effort to support our local ranchers who finish their cattle on grass, showcase our farmers and their products, encourage our chefs to use and create dishes with grass-fed beef and local agricultural products and to educate and encourage Island residents and guests to support local agriculture,” says Jeri Moniz, rancher and event chairperson.
This year Taste will feature and support ranchers producing both grass-finished beef and pasture-raised beef as both products have entered our local beef markets and in doing so, have improved Hawai‘i’s food security.
“Most of the beef served at Taste will be grass-fed; however, Taste culinary stations will be identified as serving either grass-fed or pasture-raised beef for attendees wanting to know and both meats will be free from growth hormones, antibiotics or steroids,” she adds.
Why is Taste serving both types of beef? It’s because the success of Taste has resulted in local chefs promoting and featuring more local grass-fed beef on their menus and in turn, local beef cattle producers are keeping more beef cattle home for finishing. The increased need for local beef on the island has presented challenges that require beef production flexibility.
For example, there are few geographic locations throughout the State where year-round growth of grass is consistent and where droughts have minimal affect on grass production. There are even fewer places where it is feasible for water to be used to irrigate forage and ensure year-round grass production. As a result, producers participating in the statewide food security initiative by increasing the local finishing of beef animals for local marketing may find it is necessary to supplement their cattle on pasture. These supplements offer additional energy and protein to properly grow and finish cattle with an adequate, balance diet.
“In Hawai’i, a wheat processing by-product is a favorite of cattle producers because of its high-energy and protein content,” details Moniz. “Wheat mill run is a by-product of wheat milled on O‘ahu. It’s barged throughout the State to supplement cattle in pasture-raised programs. The ability for producers to feed a supplement like wheat mill run allows them to keep more cattle home for local production and maintain steady gains, resulting in a more consistent product marketed at a younger age, which tends to improve tenderness.”
Taste to Use Pasture-Raised Branding
Moniz says supporting both pasture-raised and grass-fed beef producers “is the right thing to do” in Hawai’i Island’s quest for food security and sustainability.
“We at Taste don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves and exclude island ranches that have to supplement their cattle on basic grass diets,” says Moniz. “With ranching, there are uncontrollable weather-related conditions that can make supplementation necessary. In addition, some ranchers choose to finish their cattle with supplemental feed to insure a consistent, final product.”
Either way, both grass-fed/grass-finished and pasture-raised beef is a good, healthy product and promotes the humane and sustainable production of our island food.
Rather than differentiating between them, Taste is collectively referring to all its beef as “pasture-raised” in all current and future branding on the website, facebook, etc.