What is Grain Fed Beef?

riverine grain fed beef steak

Our Riverine Tender Cut Beef, which is grain finished for 100 days. Photo credit: The Glen Hotel

In Australia, for cattle to be categorised as grain fed they need to have been finished on grain for a minimum of 100 days in a National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme (NFAS) accredited feedlot.

These animals are fed grass for the majority of their lives and then transitioned to grain-based diets. Use of grain depends on customer requirements and seasonal conditions – about ⅓ of Australian beef is grain finished. The Australian grass and grain fed production systems are highly complementary, interrelated and dependent upon each other.

Why are cattle grain fed?

Livestock are fed grain for numerous reasons, most commonly to maintain a predictable meat supply, meet the specific needs of customers and markets (for example the need for marbled meat), meet the energy needs of animals when pasture is limited (such as a drought) and to increase animal size.

What grains do they eat?

The diets of feedlot cattle are developed by animal nutritionists and compose of cereal grains (wheat, barley, sorghum), fibre (hay and silage), protein (cottonseed, canola meal and molasses), vitamins and minerals. These ingredients are different to those used in the U.S, where soy and corn predominate.

Combination of ingredients in Australian grain feed

grain fed beef

Image credit: Australian Lot Feeders Association

What are the differences between grain fed and grass fed beef?

Grass fed and grain fed beef have more similarities than differences. They both provide an excellent source of essential nutrients including iron, zinc, protein and B vitamins.

In terms of texture and flavour, personal preference tends to play a large role.

The above information is adapted from the Australian Lot Feeders Association and Meat Livestock Australia.