Does anyone know whether all or most of the cattle in Ireland is grassfed? I know a lot of their butter (such as Kerrygold) is from grassfed cows, but I was wondering about the meat, particularly the meat that they export.
I'm in southern Europe and in some supermarkets here, the country of origin of the beef and veal is labelled. I usually choose the one from Ireland when it's available (it's the same price and is sold in the same packs as that from other countries, just a different origin on the label), in the (vain?) hope that because it's such a green, grassy country there's a greater likelihood of it being pastured!
Incidentally, I've noticed that the Irish labelled cuts are often the cheaper, stewing cuts rather than the steaks... I tell myself this is because grassfed meat is meant to be tougher than grainfed... (wishful thinking?) Also, I noticed that the bits of fat on it have a peculiar taste, different to the local grainfed fatty meat. Not sure if it was due to rancidity or a genuine characteristic taste.
Any input appreciated!
All cattle in Ireland are predominatly grassfed, grazing in the summer and silage in the winter. Some supplemental feed would be given over the winter, what this is made from can vary alot. Supplemental food is also often given when finishing beef cattle for market. However grass makes up the most of the cattle's food and so the meat is unlikey to be significantly different to 100% grassfed beef. This is a world away from american cornfed feedlot beef.
Most veal in Europe, if it is white in colour, has been kept crammed indoors fed nothing but powdered milk supplements. There are farmers in the Uk and Ireland producing veal with real food and better conditions and this produces pink coloured veal.
I'm the UK and from what I've researched, it seems most cattle here (and in most of Europe) are grass-fed the majority of the time (it's cheaper than grains!) but usually fed some grains and most of the time grain-finished. At least most of the commercial cream & butter here (esp. Jersey origin) is grass-fed which is something to be grateful for. Still best to find a genuine "natural" farm if you can IMO.
Thanks everyone for your answers!!
UPDATE: I just found this document on Sustainable Practices in Irish Beef Processing.
"Irish cattle are mainly grass-fed on pasture land and have a lower overall environmental footprint than grain-fed cattle, which constitute most of the world’s supply of beef. Another advantage of this type of production is that grass-fed cattle, unlike grain-fed cattle, are not fattened in giant feedlots which consume agricultural produce such as corn (15kg/kg beef produced) that could reasonably be used to feed the human population."
Also, on this site it says:
"Irish beef production systems are grass based and extensive by nature."
I asked about the 'Greenfields' brand some time ago. This was their reply (translated from Dutch):
Thank you for your email. The oxen are kept outside on the grass from March till November. During the Winter months they live indoors and are fed with silage (grass) and corn.
So, not purely grassfed.
part of the difference is that same reason why HFCS is everywhere in the US as is corn/grain fed beef. In the USA corn especially and other cereal grains are subsidized so much that its the most cost effective feed for cattle.
In places like Europe and NZ changing from grass to grain isn't cost effective year round, and on top of that the meat/milk quality suffers, so yes I'd say Irish would be a good bet cause of how much grass they do have and I don't think they farm subsidized cereal grain enough to feed cows full time there a a cost/quality effective rate.
Just 3 months on corn make a big difference. No longer 100% grass fed.
From what I have seen, there is very little 100% grass-fed beef in Europe that is easy to find. I have been scouring Italy for 1 yr now. There are no agencies providing certification as in the US, so if they say grass-fed fine. Means nothing. Most farms that I call, say their animals are raised at pasture until you get into the details and it's always...Oh well of course for the last 3-4 months they need grains. Many are even convinced that it is impossible to feed ONLY grass to cows.
There is no market (very small) so why bother? They do not have the vast land and pastures that exist in Argentina and the US. Where there is exposed land, it gets put to more lucrative use. I found ONE very small rancher who has always fed only grass and hay to his animals. No shipping, no e-commerce, no fancy packaging- no volume for that matter.
I found 2 who are willing to skip the grain-fattening with the guarantee of the entire animal. (no web site- no shipping) I found one who raises only for reproduction (only grass and hay) who is willing to organize himself and will most likely become the supplier of the purchasing group that I am putting together. (2 weeks I have been waiting for a quote- this is Italy) I have 49 people in Italy alone waiting for this beef deal to get put together.
Serving all of Europe would be wonderful. Shipping remains the big problem. Appears to be only on food however since products are moving left and right all over Europe. A few are shipping food as well. Since the interstate VAT issue is complex and requires lengthy waits for reimbursements, this may be why some do not bother shipping out of country.
Anyway to make a long story short, in Europe with no control agency...you have to ask specific questions to get the right answers. Pasture raised and grass fed can literaly mean (as in Italy) they have had access at some point in their lives to grass. As little as 10 days?
And the hype here is organic. ORGANIC IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH GRASS FED.
Here is an interesting article and a link to a scientific paper if anyone is so inclined!