Why does grass-fed meat cost more?

On price alone, grass-fed beef is typically more expensive than meat from grain-fed animals. However, the price difference would be smaller if the full environmental and health costs of factory-farmed meat were taken into account and there were greater parity in government support. The government subsidizes corn and soy feed for confined animals but does not generally provide subsidies or other support that could reduce the cost of business for grass-fed operations. Also, it does not force the livestock industry to pay an adequate price for the contamination it causes. Until government policies change, factory-farmed meat will generally remain cheaper than the grass-fed alternative. Also, small businesses selling less volume require higher margins. So the more people that buy the lower the cost. Also, the artisan nature of growing livestock in a humane way costs more


There are other reasons that grass-fed meat is more expensive. Grass-fed beef is often processed and distributed in smaller batches, costing significantly more per head than processing thousands of animals a day in large slaughterhouses. It is also costly to transport animals to reach distant slaughtering facilities. There is a tremendous shortage of processing facilities, especially those that are convenient to smaller livestock operations and are well suited to process small batches of specialized meat.


Additionally, grass-fed cows must be raised for a much longer time to reach full weight than those that are fed a diet of grain, growth hormones and antibiotics to speed growth. The average feedlot steer is slaughtered at about 14 months, while many grass-fed cows live 20-to-30 months, depending on the quality of their forage. Keeping and maintaining an animal for the extra 6-to-18 months adds to the expense, including the cost of hay to feed the animals over the winter.


If you buy less meat overall, you’ll be more able to afford greener, healthier, grass-fed and pasture-raised meats despite their higher cost. To reduce costs, consider food-buying clubs, community-supported agriculture (CSAs) suppliers and whole animal purchases from local farmers (often shared with others).


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