The growing popularly of grass-fed beef is great for cattle ranchers. Increased demand means the ranchers can sell more beef. While they welcome this demand, the ability for ranchers to supply more grass-fed beef is complicated. To put it in perspective, grass-fed beef currently makes up 7% of all beef sales. As the trend continues, grass-fed beef will boast a 30% market share of all beef sales.
This demand has put pressure on cattle ranchers to meet this heightened desire for grass-fed beef. Knowing what sustains cattle production will help one understand why the grass-fed supply might decrease. What they eat can be considered common sense. Grass-fed beef means the cattle are on a grass-fed diet. What if the grass eventually goes bad? The supply of grass-fed beef will go down and the prices will likely go up. That’s exactly what might happen soon.
Joe Craine owns Jonah Ventures, an ecological research company. Craine, with the help of researchers from Texas A&M University, have been looking into an unlikely source of information: cow dung.
Cow dung supplies a plenitude of information about their diet. Specifically, Craine wanted to learn about the quality of the grass the cows are eating. His finding explains the reason there might be a grass-fed beef shortage in the near future. Craine studied cow dung samples collected between 1994 and 2016. He wanted a sample that would be large enough to come to a comprehensive conclusion. Therefore, he studied samples from Texas to Kentucky, to Montana.
With such a large net, perhaps he would find corresponding results. And he did. Grass-fed cows grow in part due to the nutrients found in the grass they eat. The cows that eat grass full of nutrients will be larger. This allows cattle ranchers to sell more pounds of beef for each cow. Less nutrient-rich grass would mean cattle ranchers would have fewer pounds of beef to sell for each cow. Craine found the level of crude protein in plants decreased by almost 20%. This is the type of nutrient that cows need to grow. The decrease in crude plant protein is possibly a result of human carbon dioxide emissions. Craine also states that it could be due to moving the cows from the prairie to feedlots. In the prairie, cows had access to grass which grew in and around their own manure.
The increased demand for grass-fed beef, therefore, seems to have come at a bad time. But that hasn’t stopped ranchers from switching to a grass-fed diet for their cows. Tim Joseph, CEO of Maple Hill Creamery, has done just that. To meet the growing grass-fed demand, Joseph has helped 125 small dairy farms convert to grass-fed. Offering grass-fed products is a great deal for farmers. Cows get the protein that they need to grow larger and healthier. Because the cows grow larger, they are able to sell more pounds per cow, making for money. As research will continue to be conducted on the impact of decreasing crude protein in plants the cows eat. If demand continues to increase, we can hope grass-fed cows continue to grow large and healthy.