Grass Versus Grain: Question 13


By: John Maday

Drovers recently received an inquiry from a college student conducting research for a public-health class project.  She sent a list of questions regarding the relative merits of finishing cattle on grass versus grain-based rations. Her questions, while somewhat biased, reflect common misperceptions of grain feeing and the kinds of question consumers are asking. For that reason, we have adapted the questions and answers into this article, to serve as possible “talking points” for our readers as you encounter similar questions from the public.

We’ve been posting the 13 questions, along with our answers, over the last couple weeks. Here is question 13:


How can the typical American lessen the dependency on corn?

Drovers CattleNetwork

I do want to be clear that I am not opposed to grass finishing as a production system, nor are most people involved in the beef business. It is a system that can work for some producers and provides a choice for consumers. However, for the reasons previously listed, I do not think it is either feasible or necessary to shift all or most of our production to a grass-finishing system.

Our current production system capitalizes on the bovine’s ability to gain weight on forage for much of its life, and allows us to produce food on land that often is unsuitable for growing crops. Then we use grain to improve weight gains and efficiency during the final stage of the production cycle.

At the retail counter, a variety of beef options including natural, organic, locally produced or grass-finished helps address a variety of consumer preferences. Those alternative production systems also offer opportunities for some producers to differentiate their products and sell cattle into premium market chains. For the majority of consumers though, conventional grain-finished beef offers the best combination of price, quality and overall value.

See question 12 from this series here.


Latest News

Mastitis in Beef Cows: What You Need to Know

Although mastitis, an infection of the udder, is often considered a dairy cow problem, the disease may also impact beef producers. Here's what you need to know and look for and how to help protect your herd.

We Need More Answers, Veterinarian Says About Biosecurity Research

As a veterinarian, Jeremy Pittman, senior director of U.S. veterinary services for Smithfield Foods, says he is constantly tasked with, asked about and challenged on biosecurity processes or protocols. 

Mineral and Vitamin Considerations When Drylotting Cows

Managing cows in a drylot can be a way to maintain the herd when forage production is reduced. However, it's important to make sure cows are getting the vitamins and minerals they need.

Animal Activist and Former Baywatch Star Found Not Guilty in ‘Open Rescue’

Former “Baywatch” star Alexandra Paul and activist Alicia Santurio were found not guilty of misdemeanor theft after “rescuing” two chickens in 2021. Although they faced jail time, Paul says it was worth the risk.

7 Tips for More Effective Vaccination Programs in Calves

Ask 10 dairy producers what they believe is an effective vaccination program for calves, and you’ll likely get 10 unique answers. That’s OK, because there is no effective one-size-fits-all strategy.

For the Love of the Game, How Agriculture Helped Birth the Game of Basketball

It may not seem like basketball has a strong connection to agriculture, but from the balls used in the NBA, to the sport itself, agriculture has direct ties to a sport that takes over televisions during March Madness.