what is the difference between pastured and grass-fed?


Where’s the beef? Hopefully, in the pasture.

What about pigs? Likely poking around in the mud.

On Barn2Door we hold high quality standards, promising clean meats and sustainable practices. We also throw around quality-standard ‘terms’ that deserve some unpacking. We figured you might like to know that while the words ‘pastured’ and ‘grass-fed’ are often used interchangeably, they have vastly different meanings.

Pastured refers to where the animal was raised, regardless of what it ate.

Grass-fed refers to what the animal ate, regardless of where it was raised.

Many of the ranchers and farmers selling meat through Barn2Door include these terms to describe the quality of the animals’ living conditions and eating habits. While the words are not interchangeable, depending on the animal, one is often more appropriate than the other.

For example, ruminants (cattle, goats, sheep, deer, bison) have a 4 chambered stomach. They consume grass and foliage, let it digest in their first stomach chamber, regurgitate the material (cud) and chew it again to break down difficult-to-digest cellulose. Ruminants can live primarily on high quality grass and forage (plus water, salt, some minerals).

Grass-fed appropriately implies the animal was fed grass the majority of it’s life; it may or may not mean it was exclusively grass-fed. It is important to note: ruminant meats sold on Barn2Door are required to be 100% grass-fed; this means grass-fed and grass-finished.

Non-ruminant meat animals (poultry, waterfowl, pigs) are unable to adequately break down pasture and foliage to get complete nutrition; they need additional food sources. This means these animals may be raised on pasture - which may include eating grass aka ‘grass-fed’ - an environment that includes invertebrates (snails, worms, insects), fresh forage and sunlight. But these animals will need supplemental feed. Therefore, Barn2Door does not require these animals be exclusively grass-fed; we do require non-ruminant animals to be pasture-raised and fed only organic-quality supplemental feed, grains or scraps.