Why Grass Fed Beef is More Expensive Than Regular Beef

in Beef

Frequently I am asked why our grass fed beef is so much more expensive than regular grocery store beef, and we often hear the comment that our beef should be cheaper than feedlot beef because we don't have to buy grain, antibiotics, or growth hormones.   Unfortunately, there is much more to it than that. Our grass fed beef is more expensive for two primary reasons.

The cost of processing

The first thing that makes it so much more costly for us is the processing. With the small, family owned processing facility we use it costs us around $700 per head for processing, while in the large packing houses, which operate on a huge economy of scale, it costs less than $100 per head to process.

Slower finishing

Another factor that plays into it is that grass finishing takes much longer than grain finishing. Cattle just don't fatten as quickly on grass as they do on grain and growth hormones.

The average feedlot steer is slaughtered at about 14 months of age, while we never process our steers before they are 24 months old and usually they are closer to 30 months. Because of that, we end up carrying our beef steers over for 2 winters, feeding hay. Keeping and maintaining that animal for the extra 10 to 18 months creates more added expense.

In the meantime, while we are carrying over that steer, we could instead be carrying another cow during that time and she would produce two calves in that amount of time which we could then sell.

We can only compete on quality not on price

Honestly, I wish we could compete with Wal Mart and the grocery stores on price, but it is impossible. We can only compete on quality, and in that case there is almost no competition either in health benefits, flavor, wholesomeness, or purity.

You get what you pay for

In life you generally get what you pay for, and that especially holds true for food. You can buy hamburger for 99 cents per pound, but personally I would consider putting that stuff in my body. It most likely comes from an old dairy cow that has had years of production stimulating hormones like rBST, has had countless doses of antibiotics, and other pharmaceutical treatments.

Mid range ground beef that costs around $2.00 - $3.00 / pound is usually from feedlot steers or heifers that have been given growth stimulating hormones, been fed low level antibiotics every day for months, and have lived for months in concentrated confinement, knee deep in their own feces and mud.

Our grass fed beef hamburger costs between $4.50 and $6.00 per pound, depending on the quantity purchased and whether or not it is shipped. It comes from steers that were conceived, born, and raised on our ranch on lush pastures and meadows for their entire lives. Our cattle have been raised with love and gratitude and treated humanely with care and respect.

Good health is worth the price

Good health is at the top of the list of my life priorities and so I have no problem paying more for food that is healthy, wholesome, and nutritious. Therefore I only buy pastured poultry, eggs, and pork, and grass fed dairy, lamb, and bison, and of course only eat our own beef.  I also try to buy organic fruits and vegetables whenever I can. 

There's no doubt that grass fed beef is more expensive than regular grocery store beef, but  Isn't it worth paying the extra cost for food that enhances your health rather than diminishes it?

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Cathy McNeil has 1 articles online

Mike and Cathy McNeil co-own and operate McNeil Ranch, located in Colorado's San Luis Valley, which has been in Mike's, family since 1897. We currently raise and market our own grass fed beef.

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Why Grass Fed Beef is More Expensive Than Regular Beef

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This article was published on 2010/04/02