Grass fed and pasture-raised are two terms that we have all seen when we are at the store shopping for meat, butter, milk, and eggs. But they mean the same thing right? Wrong.
Lets start with “pasture-raised”. According to Consumer Reports’ Greener Choices, animals must spend “at least some portion of their lives on pasture or with access to a pasture, not continually confined indoors,” to qualify as “pasture-raised.” This leaves a lot of room for interpretation. And the FDA does not regulate how much time an animal has to be on a pasture to qualify for a “pasture-raised” label. On top of that, “pasture-raised” does not mean “grass fed”. A lot of these animals are supplemented with gain or corn- especially in the winter months.
Well what about “grass-fed”? “Grass-fed” was a little more clear for a while, but in 2016 the USDA withdrew its standards for this label. Previously, the standards included the requirement that “grass, and forage needed to be 99 percent or more of the energy source for the lifetime of a ruminant species after weaning.” Currently, there is no
governmental standard that defines “grass-fed.” And “grass-fed” can mean a wide range of things- it could be on a pasture and eat grass,or it can be given hay in a barn
So which is better? This is all based on personal preference and depends on what is important to you. If you want to know that your meat, dairy, or egg source ate the food it evolved to eat, then grass-fed is for you. Grass-fed animals eat grass and little to no grain. If you want to know that your meat, dairy, or egg source roamed and grazed in its natural environment, choose pasture-raised.
Also, if you want to make sure that they are fed and did what you think the animal did, look for specific labels like “100% grass-fed” or certified by governing bodies such as the American Grassfed Association (AGA). This associations are more stringent on what qualifies as “pasture-raised” or “grass-fed”. Always try to get the best meat, dairy, or eggs that you can- it’s better for you and better for the animals.