Q & A

Know Your Food

A. Part of the challenge in raising grass-fed beef is providing year round consistent quality. The Pasture Perfect beef program provides consistent quality 365 days of the year. Our cattle are able to graze year round on pasture. Only cattle that meet our strict standards are selected for the Pasture Perfect program—and it’s not that easy to make the grade. These include grading based on the condition of the animal (it’s conformation and marbling of the meat produced) and the breed of the animal (some breeds are known to marble at higher levels than others). If the beef isn’t Pasture Perfect quality, it doesn’t get packed.

A. There is a variety of grasses, predominantly rye grass with clover and other broad leaf grasses in spring and summer. If needed in winter when grass growth is reduced, the cattle can be put on leafy feed crops such as chicory or brassicas, or hay harvested during the summer.

A. The flavor profile of beef is influenced by what the animal is fed during its lifetime, and especially in the months just prior to processing. Most beef in the US is raised on grain which has a less substantial flavor than grass-fed beef. Many connoisseurs of beef consider grass-fed beef to have a richer, “truer” beef flavor.

A. The succulence and ‘bite’ of all beef varies depending on the animals “finish” (condition at harvest). Tenderness and juiciness can be closely associated with intramuscular fat (marbling). Beef selected for the Pasture Perfect grass-fed beef program is graded for marbling under an internationally recognized system to marble scores (MBS) of 2-4, which is USDA Choice to Prime equivalent. Its marbling prevents the “over-lean” toughness that is sometimes associated with grass-fed beef.

A. OK, you’ve got us there. While we do have some great feedback and testimonials, we thought these were a bit of fun. Not everyone gets every reference, did you?

A. Grass-fed beef in the Pasture Perfect program comes from New Zealand. Famous for its spectacular scenery and lush pasturelands, New Zealand has the perfect environment for raising grass-fed beef year round in a natural pastoral environment. Pilot Brands works only with producers in New Zealand who share our focus on a delicious beef eating experience.

A. Yes, but don’t be misled by this. The only saturated fat in grass-fed beef is a “good” fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which can reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. It is actually the only type of saturated fat that is considered healthy for you. Because nutrition labeling regulations do not distinguish between CLA and other saturated fats, CLA is reported under the saturated fats value in the “nutrition information” panel on retail labels which unfortunately lumps it in with “bad” fats.

A. Our grass-fed cattle are never confined. New Zealand’s mild, temperate climate means that it is not necessary to house the cattle during winter, and they can roam comfortably outside all year round.

A. New Zealand is an isolated island nation, with famously strict biosecurity and quarantine regulations. There has never ever been a case of BSE in New Zealand.

A. No. Grass-fed beef in the Pasture Perfect program has never been treated with growth hormones.

A. Grass-fed beef is higher in vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene and health benefiting fats such as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and lower in cholesterol, calories and saturated fats than grain-fed beef. Grass-fed beef has much higher proportions of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids than grain-fed beef. A higher ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 essential fatty acids is important in a healthy diet and reduces the risk of many diseases (the FDA recognizes the value of Omega-3 in reducing the risk of heart disease).

A. Grass-fed animals range freely in pastures and are allowed to behave naturally in the way that they evolved, so there are few of the stresses experienced by confined animals. The free-range lifestyle and diet means there is less requirement for daily intervention and healthcare treatment such as antibiotic regimes. Our farmers know their animals thrive on well managed pastures and a low stress environment. New Zealand has strict animal welfare codes under the Animal Welfare Act that are enforced by government authority. This imposes obligations on those responsible for the care of animals based on the internationally recognized “Five Freedoms” which requires:

• Proper and sufficient food and water.
• Adequate shelter.
• The opportunity to display normal patterns of behavior.
• Physical handling in a way which minimizes the likelihood of unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.
• Protection from, and rapid diagnosis of any significant injury or disease.

Because of its remote geographic location, there are no natural predators of farm animals in New Zealand and animals graze freely without threat.

A. DDGs are Dry Distillers Grains, the corn that has been processed in a refining process that removes starch, leaving only the dry matter from the corn. As there's no starch, it technically qualifies as a grass-fed feeding supplement and its use is quite common practice, especially in places where it’s hard to grow grass. It helps fatten the animal, but has none of the benefits of real grass. We feel this is misleading practice—our cattle are never fed DDGs. Likewise, our cattle are never fed alfalfa pellets or other manufactured feeds that look more like chicken feed than pasture.

A. The development of industrial feedlots, sometimes called Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), has enabled the mass production of cheap beef, but at a cost to the animal and the environment, and it alters the nutritional profile of the beef produced. Now – take a deep breath, and read on!

Feedlot cattle are routinely treated with antibiotics to not only artificially promote growth, but to treat such common feedlot health issues such as acidosis, proximity and handling stress, vitamin deficiencies, bovine respiratory disease, dust pneumonia and Sudden Death Syndrome. Pasture‐raised animals have less stress, and are able to exhibit important natural behaviors including grazing at will, forming social relationships, and play. Grass-fed beef is higher in vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene and health benefiting fats such as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and lower in cholesterol, calories and saturated fats than grain-fed beef, and it has much higher proportions of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids than grain-fed beef. Environmentally, grass-fed beef doesn’t require the monoculture production of cattle feed on land better suited to human food crops (grazing land is typically land unsuited to growing crops), and there is none of the waste and water runoff issues associated with feedlots. Pastureland provides for biodiversity and is able to sequester (absorb) carbon and nitrogen, and it has a lower carbon footprint when the full lifecycle of grass-fed beef is considered. Not least, pastoral beef production by its very nature cannot be intensified, and it keeps farming families living on and working the land they love.

A. Because feedlot grain-fed cattle get sick due to the confined environment, dust, stress, and difficulty digesting grain—which cattle, as ruminants, are not naturally equipped to digest--they are routinely treated with antibiotics in their feed to prevent illness. This is called sub-therapeutic use. There is also a lot of pressure to put weight on feedlot cattle quickly and cost effectively, and because antibiotics have an additional advantage of promoting weight gain there is an extra incentive to feed them to animals. This routine use is a major reason for the growing concern about residues and antibiotic resistant bacteria. In a pasture raised environment, animals are healthier and preventative antibiotic use is unnecessary. They aren’t fed antibiotics—and after all there are no antibiotics in grass!