Grass-fed beef are cattle that are forage- or pasture-finished. In the last decade, consumer demand has grown for products produced through more natural and holistic production systems. Included in this class of less industrialized animal production systems are forage-finished beef programs. Consumption of grass-fed beef grew about 25% and there has been documented a tremendous increase in sales evaluated at $5 million in 1998 to over $2.5 billion in 2013 (BEEF Magazine). Sales of grass-fed beef now account for about 3%-4% of all beef consumption in the U.S. signaling the potential of this niche market. Grass-fed beef is consider a healthier alternative to grain-fed beef. It is documented to be leaner, has higher concentrations in antioxidants, vitamins, and omega-3 fats, and has lower levels of other fats and cholesterol.
In 2016, an estimated 3,900 ranchers were producing grass-fed beef finishing about 232,000 head of cattle per year (Back to Grass report, 2017). Grass-fed beef operations are usually small in scale and are well distributed throughout the country, with the industry making $78.2 billion of revenue in 2015 (Back to Grass report, 2017). Several of Louisiana’s ranchers produce grass-fed beef and there are opportunities for further development of the industry. Big urban areas like New Orleans and Baton Rouge where producers can sell directly their product; a large influx of immigrants from Central America and Asia into Louisiana that has expanded the marketing potential to ethnic groups; and proximity to large Texas ethnic markets in Houston and Dallas to name a few.
In 2010, an interdisciplinary team was formed with scientists from the LSU AgCenter and Southern University. The team has been awarded two USDA grants to work on developing a sustainable forage-beef system. Topics include:
In this website you will find the results of our past, present, and future work. Thanks for your interest in grass-fed beef production!