Beef Purchasing Decisions

Do you purchase your beef from the grocery store or direct from a beef cattle farm?  Is one source better than another?  Isn’t it all the same beef?  I am going to attempt to provide a little insight to beef purchasing in this blog post that can hopefully put your mind at rest.

Myth: Beef purchased directly from a farm is healthier, safer, and is the only way to support local beef cattle farms.

Fact: Whether you purchase beef directly from a farm or at the grocery store, all beef is healthy, safe, and the vast majority is grown on small, family-owned farms.

Did you know that 97% of farms are family-owned, with 88% being considered small farms (source:   It’s true!  So, when you buy beef from the grocery store you are also supporting family-owned farms!  The main difference in beef that is purchased in the grocery store versus directly from the farm is how the animal was finished.  The majority of the beef found in the grocery store is going to be grain-finished.  Now, does that mean the cattle are only given corn?  NO!  Even these cattle are born on family-owned farms and ranches and spend the majority of their lives grazing in pastures.  It is only in the last part of their life cycle that they go to a feedyard where they are fed a total mixed ration (TMR) which includes grain, vitamins, minerals, and forage.  Even if cattle are finished in a feedyard, the majority of their diet will be forage.  The TMR is brought to the cattle instead of the cattle receiving feed on pasture while they are grazing (or no feed at all in the case of grass-finished cattle).


A feedyard I visited in South Dakota a few years back.  The cattle were very well cared for and in excellent condition.

Now, does that mean beef bought directly from the farm is always grass-finished?  No, farmers and ranchers make the decision on how they want to finish cattle on their farm.  Some cattle are moved into a feedyard on the farm that the farmers owns, others are given grain or other feedstuffs while grazing on pastures, and lastly, there are cattle that are finished on grass only.

Here at 3B Cattle Company, we finish a steer each year for our own beef.  Our steer is always on pasture and receives grain on and off throughout his entire life with the majority being given towards the finishing phase to add fat cover and influence marbling.  Just because we finish our own steer doesn’t mean that we do not trust beef in the grocery store or restaurants.  It just means that it makes good economic sense for our family (we eat a lot of beef) and it allows us to see our genetics all the way through (kind of like quality control).  We know the beef in the grocery store was raised on a cow-calf farm similar to ours and that the cattle were cared for and at the end of the day that is what matters.  More and more cattle producers are now Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) trained and certified and that is very positive for the beef industry and consumers.  Producers learn best management practices and take things a step further to ensure a quality beef product for consumers.  Check out the link at the end of this post for more information about BQA.

Bottom line- no matter where you purchase your beef, just know you are supporting small, local farms like ours.  All of our steers (except one) and heifers not used for breeding each year go into the commercial beef supply and end up in a grocery store or restaurant to feed your family.   Trust me when I say, all beef is safe and nutritious!


For more information please visit: 

Check out the Beef Quality Assurance program to learn more about the training cattle producers receive and how they care for their cattle.

If you are looking for another great blogger to follow that focuses on feeding and raising cattle check out:

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