Most U.S. cattle are sent to feedlots where they are fattened and finished with corn and other grains, Gustin reports. That system allows the beef industry to run cheaply and efficiently with fewer workers, and ranchers say even a partial switch to a pasture-based system, in which cattle are left to graze until slaughter, would be costly and impractical. Grass-fed advocates say the feedlot system and growth of the industry "has come at too high a cost for the environment, for human health and for the animals themselves," Gustin reports.
"Basically, it comes down to time," said American Grassfed Association president Patricia Whisnant, who also owns Rain Crow Ranch, one of the largest producers of grass-fed beef. "You take an animal off of the pasture, you give him antibiotics and corn, you're looking at harvesting that animal in 12 to 14 months. On grass, you're looking at 24 months, and more likely 28." (Read more)