CLEMSON, S.C. — The benefits of producing and consuming forage-finished beef may be unfamiliar to many consumers and industry folks. As a result, cattle growers from across the Southeast plan to learn more about raising such animals at a forage-finishing workshop to be held Feb. 12 and 13 at the Radisson Inn on Bush River Road, Columbia, S.C. The event is being conducted by The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service.

Forage is a technical term for grass and other plants livestock eat in pastures. Typically, beef cattle start out grazing on grass and other forages, then are "finished" — fattened — in feedlots, where cattle are fed corn and grain to increase their weight another few hundred pounds. Forage- or pasture-finished cattle offers Southeastern cattle producers a specialty product that appeals to health-conscious consumers.

Research shows that forage-finished meat is a healthy alternative. It is a leaner product with lower total fat and saturated fat content, Dr. Susan Duckett, a Clemson University meat scientist, told "It also has greater concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, a potent cancer-fighting compound," she added. "In addition, forage-finished beef contains greater amounts of antioxidants [alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene] and b-vitamins."

Some Appalachian cattle farms already offer forage-finished meat. Many who have tried it say it’s the best meat they have eaten. Others say it is an acquired taste, like venison.

When asked if there are there any beef packers or processors currently offering foraged-finished beef in the U.S., Ms. Duckett answered, "Yes, a few small independent beef packers are producing forage-finished beef. One example in our area is White Oak Pastures ( ), Bluffton, Ga., who recently built a new processing facility on farm and merchandizes grass-fed beef to Publix and Whole Foods grocery stores and also to consumers."

When asked if providing such products would it be economically feasible for major packers and processors, Ms. Duckett answered yes again. "Forage-finished beef is lean and tender," she added. "The reduction in excess fat with forage finishing would reduce the labor associated with trimming of cuts at the plant and also the excess waste-fat generated. Other countries [Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Uruguay] process forage-finished beef and export the lean trim to the U.S."

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