Grass Fed | The Lexicon of Sustainability | PBS Food

Grass Fed


Most cattle are finished on industrial feedlots, where they are fed a mix of antibiotics, hormones, protein supplements, and corn. Farmers like Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia raise their cattle on grass, using rotational grazing and other fundamental principles of pasture management.

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Food Terms

Grass farmer
Grass is a solar collector. It uses photosynthesis to transform the sun’s rays into chlorophyll. When cows eat grass, they convert this energy into protein and fat.
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Grass fed
Grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning.
– USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service

Carbon sequestration
Excessive carbon in our atmosphere is considered a major contributor to climate change, so practices that remove carbon from the air and capture it in the soil are increasingly in vogue (among progressive farmers.)
– LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton

Rotational grazing
Rotational grazing is periodically moving livestock to fresh paddocks, to allow pastures to regrow. Rotational grazing requires skillful decisions and close monitoring of their consequences. Modern electric fencing and innovative water-delivery devices are important tools. Feed costs decline and animal health improves when animals harvest their own feed in a well-managed rotational grazing system.
– The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

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Featured in the Film

Joel Salatin
Polyface Farm
Swoope, Virginia
Joel Salatin is a farmer in Virginia¬ís Shenandoah Valley. A third generation alternative farmer, he returned to the farm full-time in 1982 and continued refining and adding to his parents’ ideas. A sought-after conference speaker, he addresses a wide range of issues, from “creating the farm your children will want” to “making a white collar salary from a pleasant life in the country.”

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