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ETHICAL, PASTURE FED MEAT

A spectacular view of Pipers Farm's sheep grazing on Devon's green rolling hills.

Grass-fed meat (also known as grass-grazed) is one of the foundations of the Pipers Farm philosophy - alongside free-range, slow-grown and traditional breeds.


‘Grass-fed’ is sometimes bandied about as a bit of a foodie buzz-word, but its true meaning isn't always made clear so we thought we'd give you our simple take on why grass-fed / grass-grazed is definitely best.

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5 reasons Grass-Fed is best

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Best for the environment

Since farming became a seriously mechanised, global undertaking, the push has been on to make the land more and more productive. Chemicals are tipped onto the soil with the intention of boosting productivity, but, in the long-term have quite the opposite effect. The net result is a vicious circle: chemicals deplete soil fertility so more chemicals are added to try to restore that lost fertility. With the only clear winner being the fertilizer manufacturer.

Permanent pasture – grasslands with a dense covering of diverse, deep-rooting grasses, small plants, and herbs – is an age-old route to getting naturally productive soil. The grass and plant roots improve the stability and structure of the soil, bringing nourishment deep underground and acting as a natural anchor for the topsoil. They encourage the absorption of rainwater, preventing ‘run off’ and soil erosion. Keeping the soil where it should be, stops rivers silting up and improves water quality, so even fish are keen to see the grass grow.

Pastureland also plays an important role by having a ‘carbon sink’ effect, drawing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, converting it to nourishment and feeding it to its roots and to soil-dwelling fungi. There’s a lot of serious science to absorb here, but the top line is that the more carbon we can trap in the soil, the less is released into the atmosphere as bad gassy CO2. And high-carbon soils have improved drought resistance and higher productivity. So bring on the carbon!

Best for Biodiversity

Hedgerows get a lot of press as sanctuaries for flora and fauna, and we’re all for their preservation. But don’t forget about pasture – the hedgerow’s best friend. Hedge-nesting birds feed on insects and seeds that thrive and grow in the grass. Ground-nesting birds find perfect homes amidst long meadow grasses and can happily (though maybe unexpectedly) coexist with grazing livestock. Insect life positively burgeons amidst the complex jumble of grass and clover, hastily converting cow dung or sheep droppings into fertilizer to be washed back into the soil. Small mammals seek cover from high-flying predators and feast on seeds. Beatrix Potter would have a field day. Literally. But these are habitats are lost and interactive relationships interrupted when fields are regularly plowed, pesticides are sprayed and chemical fertilizers spread. So we prefer to let nature get on with it because she knows exactly what she’s doing.

Hedge-nesting birds feed on insects and seeds that thrive and grow in the grass. Ground-nesting birds find perfect homes amidst long meadow grasses and can happily (though maybe unexpectedly) coexist with grazing livestock. Insect life positively burgeons amidst the complex jumble of grass and clover, hastily converting cow dung or sheep droppings into fertilizer to be washed back into the soil. Small mammals seek cover from high-flying predators and feast on seeds. Beatrix Potter would have a field day. Literally. But these are habitats are lost and interactive relationships interrupted when fields are regularly plowed, pesticides are sprayed and chemical fertilizers spread. So we prefer to let nature get on with it because she knows exactly what she’s doing.

So we prefer to let Nature get on with it because she knows exactly what she’s doing.

Best for Livestock

Grass is the ultimate in convenience food. It gets eaten then it grows again. Genius. It’s also capable of feeding animals all year round – even when it’s not growing in the winter months – when cut as hay or preserved as silage (fermented grass). Ruminant animals like cattle and sheep were designed by nature to extract the maximum nutrition from grass. Their complex digestive systems churn and break down grass, plants, and clovers, eking out every drop of goodness and wasting as little as possible. Starchy grains aren’t a natural feature of a ruminant diet and are only given to blast fast-growth onto young bodies. By slow-growing our animals we cut out any need to rapidly bulk them up with grains – and less grain fed means less land needed for grain to be grown, less fertilizer put on that grain crop and less fuel used processing and transporting the grain. So the animals are happy and so is the environment.

Ruminant animals like cattle and sheep were designed by nature to extract the maximum nutrition from grass. Their complex digestive systems churn and break down grass, plants, and clovers, eking out every drop of goodness and wasting as little as possible. Starchy grains aren’t a natural feature of a ruminant diet and are only given to blast fast-growth onto young bodies. By slow-growing our animals we cut out any need to rapidly bulk them up with grains – and less grain fed means less land needed for grain to be grown, less fertilizer put on that grain crop and less fuel used processing and transporting the grain. So the animals are happy and so is the environment.

By slow-growing our animals we cut out any need to rapidly bulk them up with grains – and less grain fed means less land needed for grain to be grown, less fertilizer put on that grain crop and less fuel used processing and transporting the grain. So the animals are happy and so is the environment.

And while eating grass is nutritious, a grass-fed regime brings other benefits. Pigs and chickens, though not ruminants, also thrive on a grass-rich diet. As well as being nourishing, a life spent outdoors grazing, rootling, scratching and browsing on pasture allows animals to engage in their natural behaviours, interact socially with each other and take exercise. Activity is vital to building robust skeletons and strong muscles – both of which result in good meat.

Best for Us

Nutrition is complicated. Very complicated. It’s a big mash-up of science, politics, and commerce. There are many viewpoints, many arguments and lots of truths, untruths, and half-truths to unpick. Our position is this: over the years saturated fats (as found in meat) have been blamed for everything from heart disease to cancer. But it’s now apparent that the real enemies are processed sugars and starchy, high-carb foods. Just like ruminants, we have foods that our bodies are designed to make the most of. Meat is one of those foods when eaten in moderation and in balance. And when the animals from which the meat has come have themselves eaten a natural diet, unsullied by chemicals, then we’re happy that it’s a healthy choice.

A good place to start when thinking about nutrition is with the fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6. You’ll no doubt have heard of them. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate a varied diet that allowed them to have a good balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6. The two Omegas worked well together - controlling, amongst other things, excess inflammation in the body. As time has passed and our diets have changed, we’ve lost the Omega balance, erring heavily on the side of Omega-6 at the expense of Omega-3. It’s this imbalance that’s considered to be responsible for many of the common maladies from which we suffer. Grain-fed animals experience a similar problem: grain feeding packs their bodies with carbohydrates that they convert to sugar and lay down as fat. Their Omega balance is off skew and this results in meat that’s giving us more 6 than 3

Grain-fed animals experience a similar problem: grain feeding packs their bodies with carbohydrates that they convert to sugar and lay down as fat. Their Omega balance is off skew and this results in meat that’s giving us more 6 than 3  thus exacerbating our problem. Grass-fed animals have no such problem.

Furthermore, animals that live in a natural environment, eating a natural grass-based diet offer another vital health-giving substance: bone marrow. Living outdoors in the sun surrounded by all of Nature’s varied bugs and germs means free-ranging animals accrue strong natural immunity – and this immunity is conferred to us through their bone marrow. So whether you simmer it into a broth or spread it on toast, grass-fed bone marrow is an immunity boosting superfood brimming with health-giving properties. 

Best for Farmers

This one isn’ t complicated.

Chemical fertilizer is expensive - manure that comes straight out of animals isn’t.

Grain-based animal feed is expensive - grass isn’t.

Fertilizer and animal feed are known as agricultural ‘inputs’. The less you spend on ‘inputs’ the more profitable your farming operation can be. You do the maths.

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