When you are driving out west and see cows graising on the side of the road, are those typical grass fed free range cattle? Is that what people are talking about when they refer to sustainable / grass fed cattle?

I know this is a generalization, but I’m curious to know more about how the cows you see on the sides of roads are different from the “bad” cows that are force fed corn in factory farms.



  1. 0 Votes

    I think that would be difficult to say – we drove across country and back last year and saw very few cattle grazing near the highway (and I hope for their sake most are a mile or more away, simply due to pollution), but we did see many confined cattle operations.  I think if you would like to see a free range ranch you could contact some of the resources listed in the article and make arrangements to visit!  Then you will know for sure that what your seeing is grass grazed cattle.  The cows that are confined are not “bad” cows, they are being raised in less than ideal circumstances and in ways that have negative consequnces for the cows, the environment and the people who consume their meat.

  2. mle
    0 Votes

    Grass fed cattle are cattle that eat grass 90-100% of their life. (Some cattle are “corn finished – they are fed corn for the last bit of their life because people like the marbling of the fat and the taste this gives to the meat).  

    It’s hard to know what you are seeing on the side of the road.  Most cattle eat grass for the first months of their life.  If they are grass-fed they will eat grass their entire life (or 90% as mentioned above).  However, the majority of the big-box cattle are shipped to a feed lot (CAF0) when they are 5-6 months of age.  In the feedlot they are fed corn, which causes them health issues and changes the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratios in their meat (in a way negative to human health).

    Thank you for reading!  I am open to more questions!

  3. 0 Votes

    I often wonder this myself. In Northern California at least, cows in wide, open fields are a very common roadside attraction. The above answers are good, but neither seemed applicable to the cows I see.  I’m not sure where you’re based, but at eatwild.com I found a map of California which detailed the various grass-fed farms. I then checked if there were any located along my local highways (where I remember seeing cows), and found that quite a few seem to correlate with the cows I see on the side of the road, which I thought was quite cool.

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