We know that Riverbend Ranch cattle are grass-fed. But are they grass-finished? Or are they grain-finished?

Answer: We do not advertise Riverbend Ranch Black Label Beef as being either “grass-finished” or “grain-finished.” Neither term would be an accurate description of our finishing ration. In fact, we believe that neither “grass-finishing” nor “grain-finishing” are optimal because both are too extreme. At Riverbend Ranch we provide our cattle with a much more nutritious and more balanced finishing ration that we consider a “nutritionally balanced ration.”

First a Word About Grass-finished Programs:

At Riverbend Ranch, we consider ourselves experts in grass-fed/grass-finished programs because, in the past, we operated as a “qualified” and “verified” grass-fed/grass-finished operation. We supplied verified grass-fed/grass-finished cattle to one of the largest “grass-fed/grass-finished” marketers in the nation. Because we were a grass-finished operation, we know exactly what it takes to qualify as “grass-finished.” Based on our firsthand experience, we believe the term “grass-finished” is a misleading concept originally designed with the intent to improve profits for corporations that sell meat under the grass-finished label.

Again, our opinion was not formed while being on the outside looking in. We were on the inside of that industry as a producer of grass-fed/grass-finished cattle producing cattle that were verified not only as “grass-fed” but also as “grass-finished.” We ceased operating under that program because we concluded that it didn’t have any merit for the consumer and, in our opinion, is not healthier for humans and certainly not healthier for the cattle.

Most people believe that grass-fed/grass-finished means that the cattle grazed on grass their entire life. But most often, that is not the case, and for good reason: eating such beef is usually not a pleasant eating experience! Grass-finished beef is usually seriously lacking in both flavor and tenderness. Here’s the problem: Cattle need more nutrition than just grass. Beef raised strictly on grass will not have marbling. Beef without marbling will lack both flavor and tenderness. That is why, after the grass-fed industry somehow got people to believe that grass-fed is healthier for humans (which is not true), they had to change the rules in order to produce a product that people would eat. In fact, several years ago, the grass-fed industry changed all the rules, and those rules are entirely different than what the general public now believes.

Grass-fed and Grass-finished Rules

You can legally advertise your cattle as being grass-fed/grass-finished even if they spent the last six months of their lives in a confined area or large feedlot and were fed a ration high in carbohydrates containing such things as corn syrup, molasses, corn gluten, and various grains, including corn, barley, oats, wheat, and almost every other type of grain. That’s right! Grass-finished programs can still feed the cattle grains—such as barley, wheat, or corn—and still be “verified” as “grass-finished.” The unbelievable caveat is that to qualify as “grass-finished,” these grains simply need to be harvested in the “milk” stage. That means that the plant has not yet matured and produced a dry kernel. (A grain kernel goes through three stages: 1) boot, 2) milk, and 3) dough. A big difference between the three stages is simply the amount of moisture in the kernel.)

With profits as the goal, corporations first spent a lot of energy and resources coming up with the narrative that somehow grass-fed beef was healthier for humans than grain-fed beef. But after creating a market for grass-fed beef, they learned that the public would only try it one time! Because it had no marbling, the grass-fed product tasted so bad that consumers would quickly abandon grass-fed beef. In order to produce a palatable product, the grass-fed industry had to somehow create a product that contained marbling. That meant adding carbohydrates to the cows’ diet. But in order to continue their concocted narrative and product differentiation, they decided to come up with rules to suggest that grass-fed meant that they could use other forms of carbohydrates in the feed—but no grain! When that didn’t work, they decided to allow grain but to change it just enough to make it look like it was different.

To prove our point, below are the official rules for producing beef that can be marketed as “grass-fed/grass-finished.”

Grass Fed Chart

It is important to note that “grass -fed/grass-finished” protocols contain extremely high levels of carbohydrates such as sugar, corn syrup, molasses, corn cannery waste, brewery byproduct, sugar beet pulp, etc. That’s why, in our opinion, the “grass-finished” label claim is a misleading claim designed to appease naïve consumers who have been enticed to believe that “grass-finished” means actually finished on grass and that it is somehow healthier than other beef. Neither is the case.

Supporting Small Farmers and Ranches

Regardless of the above information about the grass-fed/grass-finished industry, there are hundreds of small farmers who make an honest living raising their cattle totally on grass and who market them as grass-fed. We are in total support of those operations. To the degree that you know those farmers personally, and you can verify their programs, we advocate that you support them. They deserve your support! We suggest, however, that you should verify that they do not use hormones or antibiotic feed! And if they feed grain as a finishing ration, there is nothing wrong with that! In fact, that would be far better than simply grass-finished! The meat will be just as healthy for you and it will greatly improve the quality, tenderness, and flavor of the meat. We also suggest that you check out where their beef is being harvested and processed. For your safety, it should be a USDA-inspected facility! However, for those who do not have access to a neighborhood farmer who they can trust, we suggest Riverbend Ranch Black Label Beef!

Riverbend Ranch Cattle

Our cattle are raised on their mother’s milk and on grass the first summer of their lives. Then, when winter arrives, they are given a ration consisting of grass hay and alfalfa hay. (Note: throughout the entire Midwest and Northwest United States and throughout Canada, during the winter, snow covers the grass and ranchers need to feed cattle some type of hay ration.) In the spring they are taken again to lush mountain pastures and are fed only grass for their second summer. As winter approaches, they are brought to lower elevations where the winters are less harsh, and through the winter they are fed a ration of hay, barley sprouts, barley, wheat, and corn, supplemented with vitamins and minerals to assure optimum health. Their feed is monitored by one of the nation’s most expert cattle nutritionists. Their ration changes as they mature and as their physical needs change. Their health and well-being are our top priority.

After many years of experience, we can assure you that Riverbend Ranch cattle are much healthier and more robust than cattle that are simply fed grass hay or any of the concoctions that the “grass-finished” industry has come up with. Not only do cattle prefer our more nutritious ration, but our cattle are healthier and more robust and have much more energy. We know this because we tried their method. And there is no comparison.