Why is Grass-fed Beef More Expensive?

Two of our main goals at Mountainside Family Farms is to make our premium products affordable and available. Rewind a hundred years ago and nutrient-dense, clean, non-toxic food was readily available and affordable because small family farms provided the food for the community. The industrialization of our nation’s food system has caused a paradigm shift of how food is produced, processed, priced, packaged, and sold. The goal for large-scale producers is cheap and fast. The reason behind this is because there is a very low profit margin per head of cattle for the industry cattleman; therefore, making volume an important factor in the market. This lends itself to the vertically integrated corporate producers who also own the feedlots, the granaries, and the meat packing facilities. It also makes time a determining factor for success because the faster an animal can be fattened and ready for processing, the quicker you can turnover that meat and focus on the next round of livestock. Cattle confined in feedlots are fed grain/corn and fattened in a much shorter time; however, the confinement conditions make it necessary to medicate the animals to fight sickness and disease until the animal is ready for slaughter between 12-13 months of age. Commodity beef can travel thousands of miles before landing on your plate.  It travels from the farm, to the feedlot, to the processor, to the grocery store, to your home.  Another result of the industrialization of our food system are corn and soy subsidies, which are given to incentivize the use of the commodity market and artificially deflates the price of commercial beef. 

On the other hand, grass-fed beef which is produced in a better, healthier way provides our bodies with the necessary vitamins, nutrients, minerals, and fats promoting wellness and vitality.  Grass-fed/pastured beef is nutrient-dense, clean, and non-toxic. The factors that contribute to the price of grass-fed beef include the length of time for finishing, space required, the price of hay, and processing fees. Grass fattened cattle take 18-24 months to finish, not only is this nearly twice as long, but is also considered an opportunity cost, because the longer length of time reduces the amount of beef that can be turned over each cycle which could then be used to develop other beef.  Space is another factor which greatly influences the price.  Where confinement feedlots house thousands of cattle, grass-fed cattle require green pastures and wide open spaces to graze.  The price of hay, which is required during the winter months, also increases the price of grass-fed beef because it is more expensive than grain.   We aim to make our farms the most efficient they can be in order to keeps costs down and prices affordable.  We have conducted a market analysis and are proud to say our prices beat the direct local competition and farmer’s markets.  When compared to the USDA national monthly grass-fed beef report, our prices were better than the median prices in almost all cuts of beef. 

Check out the links below for the USDA and NCDA Monthly Grass Fed Beef Reports:



Melissa George