Grass-Finished Steers vs. Corn-Finished Steers

Grass-finished steer, ready for butcher.  The four steers we butchered this week averaged 1160 pounds live weight, and 615 pounds carcass weight.  This means they gained an average of roughly a pound and three quarters per day since weaning, October 2010.

I’m very happy with this performance.  Our customers are as well.  We’ve been butchering these yearling steers every few weeks since July, and we haven’t had a complaint, with much repeat business.

In July, the steers have been gaining rapidly as they transitioned from winter/late spring hay to the lush May/June pasture.  The biggest weigh around a thousand pounds.  As the pasture slumps in the heat of summer, the steers are rotated into orchardgrass/alfalfa hay fields to keep their consumption and daily gain up.

Below you can see the level of finish, or fat, in the brisket of this steer.  By industry standards this steer is not fat, nor ready to butcher.  Most would recommend a few months of corn feeding.  But the marbling in the meat is near the select grade.  And the meat is tender.  And like I said before, we have tons of repeat business.

Below is a steer we sold to a farmer who corn-fattens.  This photo was taken in September.  The steer weighs about 300 pounds more than the steer pictured above.  Look at the amount of fat in this steer’s brisket.  This is the amount of finish the industry demands.  The farmer sold this steer shortly after the photo was taken, and topped his local market.  Each of us produced the animal, and meat, our market demanded.

7 Responses to Grass-Finished Steers vs. Corn-Finished Steers

  1. bc says:

    Interesting photos, very timely for us. So these 1160lb steers are 18 months old? They look great.

    You’re only getting 53% of the liveweight as carcass. Is the extra those cornfeeders get just from the added fat?

    I’m not sure our market could handle a steer fattened like the one at the bottom.

    Thanks for these photos. Do you have some photos of the steaks?

  2. Doug says:

    Can you please put an arrow on the ‘brisket’ since I don’t know what that is?

    Found it:
    http://chefpelsor.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/cow.gif

  3. curiousfarmer says:

    Thanks Doug for finding that link. Yes, the brisket is the fatty area between the front legs.
    Bc, glad you noticed the low yield of 53%. Corn-finished cattle are upwards of 60%. 53% is average for our grass-finished cattle.
    What we are talking about is the percent of carcass weight left from the live weight after the head and guts and hide are removed.
    My theory is, grass-finished cattle require more guts, rumen, etc., so they end up losing more weight when the guts are removed. Anyone with any other suggetions?

  4. beth says:

    Really enjoyed this post; I ended up here because of another blog of some renown. :-)

    However, I continue to come back because you’re offering a unique education in farming and food. Thanks for continuing to update! I’m learning something new!

  5. pfj says:

    About the differences, whether in cattle or humans, between quantities of muscle and fat.

    There is a device that is used for humans which uses bioelectric impedance analysis.

    The consumer version is called a “bathroom scale” and there are several companies making them. It takes some mental acuity to figure them out correctly. They are sold on Amazon.com and other places.

    A professional version is made by GE (and perhaps others; don’t know) for doctors’ offices.

    The assumption is that people are interested in knowing their fat-to-muscle ratio. Which is what you are focusing on with regard to your steers. However, think about the (hidden) third factor — water.

    It may be that the corn-finished cattle are carrying more water than yours.

    But if you want to find out, I wonder if you could influence some manufacturer to create a device that would provide information about your cattle. And actually, I was thinking about this the other day with regard to your pigs. Pigs being closer to humans than are cattle.

  6. DL says:

    Years ago we would raise a couple steers at a time for our family’s consumption. We quite when the cost of calves got too high. Anyway, am I remembering right that we would note liveweight, carcass weight and then the weight of meat we finally ended up with?

    If so, is the difference between carcass weight and final meat less in the grass-fed because there is less fat cut away?

  7. curiousfarmer says:

    That sounds true, DL, but I don’t know for sure. Would be an interesting study.
    The final weight of the packaged meat is also heavily influenced by your cutting instructions. If you ask them to remove the bones and turn it all into hamburger, you will end up with less weight of course. This is why the hot carcass weight is the fairest weight to use when selling an animal for beef.

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