Recently a study was done by Oregon State University to evaluate the appeal and cost effectiveness of bringing grassfed beef into the local school system. This is a great step, and I was excited to see that the effort was being made. Unfortunately, once I dug into the details of the study, I was disappointed to see that they didn’t actually test for what they claimed
The grass-fed beef the students tasted in the surveys came from Portland-based SP Provisions, which processes a brand of beef called Cascade Natural Beef. It’s made from Angus steers in Oregon and Washington that are raised on grass, but for the last four months of their lives are fed grain and corn to fatten them up, said Jim Register, the general manager of the company.
This results in an animal that is more expensive to raise, since there’s the longer time to get to a harvestable weight, which is a result of grassfed production, and then switched to grain, which negates any of the health and taste benefits (scroll down) that result from a grassfed and grass finished animal. It essentially takes the weaknesses of both production types, and calls it grassfed. No wonder it didn’t work out.
While farm to school programs are an excellent way to help farmers and get healthy, local food into our kids, studies such as this one distort the costs and benefits of the program…hopefully they’ll get a more robust study underway to really measure the costs and appeal of grassfed meat.