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LIFE ON THE CROFT: Don't believe everything you read of food packaging labels

By Gavin Musgrove

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THE REAL DEAL: A Highland cow in an idyllic setting at Lynbreck Croft earlier this year.
THE REAL DEAL: A Highland cow in an idyllic setting at Lynbreck Croft earlier this year.

What’s the actual beef with grass fed cattle?

At the end of last month, we offered our annual ‘pasture and tree leaf fed Highland Beef’ for sale.

This is a big deal for us as it’s the culmination of several years of hard work with these animals as part of our re-generative grazing team.

As a small-scale producer, it’s also an important contributory chunk to our income so we were delighted that when we put it out to sale, it was all snapped up within just an hour.

As people become increasingly aware of not just where their food comes from – but the environmental impact and what’s in it or what it’s been made of – there’s increasing questioning around what some of these phrases actually mean.

When it comes to grass fed beef, we always thought that meant it came from cattle that just ate grass so we were surprised to find out that isn’t actually the case.

In fact in the UK, beef can be marketed as ‘grass fed’ if the animal has been fed a diet of at least 51 per cent grass while the other 49 per cent can be made up of things like grains.

The more we read up about the benefits of running a 100 per cent grass fed set up, the more it made sense that we would follow that route, ultimately leading us to become members of an organisation called Pasture for Life.

They carry out pioneering work into raising awareness of the importance for human health and for nature of pasture based systems which includes access to tree leaves for diversity in forage.

Through their research, they claim that 100 per cent pasture fed produces a product that is lower in total fat but higher in ‘good fats’ such as Omega 3 fatty acids, contains considerably more antioxidants as well as vitamin and minerals.

And it doesn’t stop there.

They also claim that cattle fed exclusively on a diet of pasture and forage including hay in winter, have a higher overall standard of animal welfare where they are less likely to suffer from disease and require little veterinary attention or antibiotics.

And they say that over all, these farms have a much lower carbon footprint than those of farms where cereal crops are grown to feed ruminants.

Labelling and slogans can evoke certain images in our minds but when we look at what they actually mean, it doesn’t always turn out to be what we think it is.

With the food industry under increasing pressure and scrutiny every day, it’s important to know as a customer what it is you are buying when you spend your hard-earned cash.

If you’d like to find out more about the Pasture for Life organisation you can check out their website www.pastureforlife.org.

Lynn Cassells and Sandra Baer farm at Lynbreck Croft by Grantown, from where they live off the land, run a business and help feed the local community. The couple have featured on BBC’s hit series This Farming Life.

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