The days of having to find and trek to a craft butcher shop and pay a steep premium for a grassfed steak may be numbered. This spring, leaders from all sectors of the grassfed beef industry gathered at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York for the release of a groundbreaking report titled “Back to Grass: The Market Potential for U.S. Grassfed Beef.”
Produced by sustainability-minded investment firms Bonterra Partners and SLM Partners in collaboration with Stone Barns, the report is the first deep dive into consumer demand for grassfed beef and the economics of its production. And the news is good: according to “Back to Grass,” despite major obstacles, there is serious potential to grow grassfed systems to a size that could compete with the grain-fed feedlot system that currently produces the vast majority of U.S. beef.
While the production of meat under the feedlot system causes major environmental issues, including methane emissions, intensive resource use, and soil and water pollution, regenerative grassfed systems have been shown to restore soil health and sequester carbon, while prioritizing animal welfare and producing meat that’s better for human health.
But big questions remain: Can production challenges be met while maintaining the integrity of the regenerative approach and of the term grassfed? Can the industry effectively educate consumers on what labels really mean? And can grassfed proponents convince people that grassfed beef is not overwhelmingly lean and dry, as commonly believed, when produced properly?