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Organic in UK is grass fed? - a minimum of 60% daily

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  • Organic in UK is grass fed? - a minimum of 60% daily

    I’ve been looking at The soil Association PDF “Organic Beef and Dairy Production: An introductory guide” findable by searching at Soil Association : Home

    It gives a guide to some of the organic standards in the UK. From what I understand of USA practices, organic beef means the cows were fed organic feed, even if that feed is less than bio-ideal organic grain. The UK organic standard means much more and covers many aspects of husbandry beyond simply feeding of organic food.

    In particular “For all ruminants, a minimum of 60% of the daily dry matter intake (DMI) must either be fresh green food or unmilled forage grown to organic standard and produced from the holding or linked holdings. This means that systems reliant on high levels of concentrate, such as barley-beef or high-concentrate feed regimes for finishing, are not suitable.”

    It seems to me that even this minimum DAILY amount is an absolute minimum, and generally feeding on grass and silage as much as possible is advised and recommended as the way to meet organic standards.

    So would it be reasonable to say that all organic beef in the UK is ‘pretty much’ grass fed? Seems to me that it would be many times superior in this regard to non-organics.

    I don’t have money to burn, but I’ve been considering organic beef to be “very close to” grass fed. I accept than guaranteed 100% grass is likely a superior option - But it seems to me that this is an easier way for us Brits to be getting our “almost grass fed” beef from the supermarket rather than specialist suppliers who tend to be £££ here.

    Ps. It’s a similar picture with the ‘organic’ standard across UK food production, it means a lot more than you might imagine. Check out the website linked for details.

    I welcome any thoughts or comments, particularly from any experts relating to nutrition or farm practices.

  • #2
    Yes, the Organic certification in the UK is very strict. Even the non-organic beef in the UK is likely to be substantially grass-fed, though you can't be sure of this (there are some intensive cattle farms in the UK, though they're in a minority) so it's better to go for stuff labelled 'organic' or at least 'free range'.

    Bear in mind also that European regulations forbid the use of growth hormone supplementation in animal feed full stop, as well as banning the use of antibiotics as growth promoters. So as long as you're buying British beef at all you'll be doing better than our poor transpondian cousins.


    • #3
      With all the efforts sometimes made to find grass fed beef, I was genuinely surprised and excited to find that I didn't have to seek out artisan herders.


      • #4
        The thing about having livestock where you don't give them antibiotics or drugs is that you have to keep them healthy! That means you can't keep them scrunched together in a barn, and you can't be feeding them grain. The stomach of cows is meant to be quite neutral or even alkaline (not sure exactly what it is), and the stomach of grain-fed cows becomes very acidic. This produces sickness in all cases. So, the only way that you could possibly get grain-fed meat from a supplier that doesn't use antibiotics or drugs (and provided that there's no loopholes in these classifications) is if they finished them on grain. This will make the cow gain extra weight, and it will be slaughtered before its sickness becomes too much. We all know that the fat profiles of the cow will have long been changed at that point anyways.

        So, I guess the Brits really got it right if they are keeping the farmers from doing this shady practice.


        • #5
          My last post was a misnomer so I scrapped it....

          As I see it, the Soil Association leave a farmer an allowable 40% of the cattle feed to be of a non-grass origin. In many cases that will mean an additional pelletted feed, this is brought up in the Soil Associations paper "Feeding the Animals that Feed us".

          Around 60 to 80 per cent of a typical concentrate
          feed ration will be cereals, primarily wheat and
          barley, though oats, triticale and by products
          from flour milling or brewing are also used.

          I understand the cost issues with buying grass fed only beef, but if you look hard enough it is available and at not too much of a premium. Aberdeen Angus are naturally grass fed as that is their ilk and there are a lot of resources in the UK when you look hard.

          Early on in my quest for better than Tescos meat I telephoned a supplier of organic beef to ask if the cattle was all grass fed to which he replied "their feed is supplemented in the winter when there is no pasture with pelletted feed", again...No. It may be that you feel organic is a good starting point for you, or you are comfortable with that as an ethical choice, however as feed contains both grains and soya I would prefer to eat less beef and pay the higher cost just because I am a purist!
          Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.
          Walter Elliot

          I am a horse for a single harness, not cut out for tandem or teamwork; for well I know that in order to attain any definite goal, it is imperative that one person do the thinking and the commanding. Albert Einstein