Maybe You Shouldn’t Tell Folks You’ve Got Grass-fed Animals

You remember Romeo and Juliet, don't you?  When her father heard the name of the man she loved, she knew he'd be angry.  So in a fit of "marketing" Juliet said to her sweetheart" "What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet... ...Romeo, doff thy name, And for that name which is no part of thee Take all myself." Just as Romeo thought it was a good idea to give up his name for the sake of obtaining his true love, you might consider a new name for your product based on some information researchers have found about what customers prefer when thinking about pasture-based meat. When Ady Voltedge, a firm specializing in branding, ran focus groups to find out more about consumer attitudes and interest in grass fed products, they learned that "grass-fed" conjured up images of confined cattle being fed grass.  Participants preferred the term "pasture-grazed" because to them it presented an image of cows harvesting their own feed on pasture.  When I told a friend what focus group participants thought about the term "grass fed" she said, "Well, obviously, those were uninformed people!  Everyone knows what grass fed means!" Actually, the people in the focus group were picked because they were informed consumers.  All of them had an interest in and experience with local, pasture-based, artisanal foods.  They were considered to be "opinion leaders" or "cutting edge buyers" and the assumption was that their answers would give us a

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8 thoughts on “Maybe You Shouldn’t Tell Folks You’ve Got Grass-fed Animals

  1. We were using the term “pastured” quite a bit more than grass-fed, but the unanticipated effect of using “pastured” is that many consumers were hearing or reading it as “pasteurized.” Not quite the same! “Pasture-grazed” or similar should help with that misconception – glad to have seen it!

    1. It’s because “pasture Grazed” is an active, taking verb, where as “grass fed” is a passive, receiving verb. The cow has to actively graze, but can easily be handed grass to eat.

  2. Thank you for this. I would love to see info from other parts of the country. I’m in the southeast and involved with a couple local WAPF groups and there is a great deal of confusion on what constitutes grass fed.

    And there is more than just a lifetime on grass. I think how the animals are managed on grass (mob grazing/frequent rotational grazing vs. continuous grazing) is a critical educating point, if not so much marketing.

  3. Kathy –

    Thanks for sharing the info from Wisconsin and Michigan – I hope to be able to find more details from their studies on the web.

    I work closely with several “grassfed” producers and the key to their success (after rainfall) is marketing a perception. Shaping their production system and product to fit the expectation of their customers.

    Among all the available beef products (traditional grain fed, natural, grassfed, organic) I submit that grassfed may be the most variable – in terms of preharvest production systems and finished products. I see everything from fat, 7-10 month old fresh-weaned calves to old ‘retiring’ cows being marketed as grassfed beef. True, the American Grassfed Association has well defined standards, but not all ‘grassfed’ producers adhere to them.

    1. Hi Rick,

      Here are two of the resources I used for this article:
      Growing the Pasture-Grazed Dairy Sector in Wisconsin
      Demand for Pasture Raised Products: Results of Surveys in Michigan

      I think your point about marketing a perception is very important for folks to understand. I think that it’s less about what WE think about our product, and more about what the CONSUMER thinks. Just as when I’m working with training cows to eat weeds, I find I do best when I understand and work with what the cows or the customers already believe. 🙂

  4. Kathy,

    Keith has a good point. Here at Beaver Creek Farm the animals spend their whole life (except for a few hours a year when we vaccinate and one hour ride to harvest humanely) grazing fresh forage on pasture.

    How about “Whole life fresh pasture grazed” or “Whole life Grazed”?


  5. Kathy,

    I have a problem with any grass-fed, pasture-grazed words when it can qualify for “any point during the animal’s lifetime”, which qualifies most cattle. I prefer the words grass, pasture, or forage “finished”.


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