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Free Range Meat

An interesting article regarding free range meat.

Personally, I have never found the taste of free range chickens any better than standard chickens.

I also recall reading a Choice review of 16 different brands of chickens some years ago in which the standard Coles and Woollies chickens were rated highly whilst the expensive free range chickens were at the bottom of the list.


I have to agree with you Fred123 they all taste the same to me, but I do consider the animals and want them to receive the best care that they can get. Why pay for eggs from sad and unhappy chickens? My ethics and moral beliefs want meat from happy and contented animals, not animals that are squashed into feedlots, fed grain and other high rich foods just to get them fat… can you eat meat knowing that animals are suffering…? I certainly can not, and am more than happy to pay for happy contented animals at the checkout.


Same. My perception is that its all about how it is prepared and cooked. I’m sure if you bought cheap old boilers they’d not be too flash roasted, but even then you’d have to ask how many people would know the difference …

I do enjoy free range red meats from time to time - camel etc …


I’ll pass on the free range sausage …

Sorry - couldn’t resist. Here he is, in living colour (in case the link is killed):


Some work has been done in regards to meats from various animals and the evidence in beef points to a better outcome for us when the cattle are grass fed on green pastures…Cue the current drought and dried feed and the results for these are not as good and certainly grain alters the profile even more after 30 days of grain feeding to something definitely not as good for us.

I am not sure if this translates well to for example chicken meat but evidence in scientific analysis would be out there to help clarify.


Possibly because unlike many other countries, Australian cattle are raised on rangelands and only a small percentage are finished off in feedlots for a short period of time before being slaughtered. One could argue that all Australian cattle are free range, and labelling Australian beef products as free range would be a tautological statement.

In some countries, like those in Europe, cattle are grown in sheds especially during the winter months (noting that vealers can be shedded all year round) where the ground is covered in snow and outdoor raising of stock is challenging. Such raising does not occur in Australia.

Sheep are generally not sent to a feedlot for finishing and generally are raised as free range animals. Marking sheep as free range would be meaningless and only a marketing gimmick.

Pigs are possibly the only other exception and fall into the same category as chickens. They are often raised in sheds and may not have access to ‘rangeland’ type conditions.


This point is lost on many. In Australia we still get all the stories about the horrors of intensive feedlots and how costly it is to the environment to eat beef instead of the corn that you feed the beeves, and the vast amount of water required per kilo produced and the fossil fuel required to make the fertiliser to grow the corn … This has elements of truth in some places.

Look at the huge areas of QLD and NT that are not suitable for any kind of crop and where if there was no stock there is no other use for the water. Under those circumstances it is clever to get food out such marginal country and the feedlot argument is irrelevant.


Many of the poorer quality but still stocked areas are used as breeding areas and the resultant offspring are then moved to better pastures or indeed feedlots to finish their growth. A period as short as a month in a feedlot (or longer) certainly changes the profile of the meat thus produced, as is referred to in the linked research above. While we may think it isn’t too long the effects are certainly apparent when the meat is analysed.

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The MLA has it’s own take on grass vs grain fed beef.

The general note here is that to be considered grain fed beef cattle need to be on a diet of grain for a minimum of 60 days. Another source indicated that although a large percentage of Australian beef cattle are finished on grain only approx 3% actually achieve the 60 day mark.

There are general comments with many sources that grain fed produces whiter fat when compared with grass fed that has a more yellow colour, however no one source suggested how much grain for how long was needed to make this change noticable.

One reasonable assumption is that all Australian grass fed beef has most likely been grain finished - unless it has a PCAS certification.

The MLA has stated that finishing cattle on grain for short periods does not increase marbling or total fat content.

In considering any study that points out any other observed differences it would appear necessary to also know the extent of time the cattle were on grain and other details of the diet. EG Japanese produced Kobe beef are finished on a diet including brewery products and renowned for the texture and marbling.

Just to confuse the issue further is whether or not the feed used either in finishing in a feed lot, or as an on property supplement, or grazed pasture crops/stubble have been herbicided, pesticided or medicinally supplemented?

Hence free range does not guarantee other qualities, some of which are not acceptable for export to some markets, but may be acceptable in the domestic market. What we don’t know?


That’s correct, many properties use food supplements such as molasses, meals and grains to supplement the quality of the grass growing in the rangelands.

Stock during periods of drought may also be yarded (n areas possibly similar to that at a feedlot) for a number of reasons and fed foods similar to what would be found at a feedlot.

Some farmers also finish off their own cattle on their own properties, which may include food supplements or high energy foods and yarding.


Glover Art Prize winner Robert O’Connor divides opinion with meaty landscape.

He’s got my vote.


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I suppose if it featured the decaying carcass of a drought stricken long dead cow it might not have been so appealing?

I thought poignant symbolism and strong metaphors is what many artists strive to create. :thinking:

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I’ve just been noticing the “grass fed beef” packaging at my local woolies. I mentally remarked on it at the time, because other than “organic” beef and the “heartsmart (very lean)” beef, I’d not really seen any special labels on beef.
They hd no clarification that I could see on exactly what their “grass fed” actually meant… seemed a bit like another foodwank marketing strategy to me.

Whether Woolies agree?

My take is all beef is grass fed.
There is a difference between beef finished on grain and traditional grass only. It would be useful to see “Grass Fed” clarified to exclude any grain in the final feeding period. Something that would seem extremely unlikely given our recent history of poor conditions on paddock.

Some cattle may have been finished on grain and supplemental feeds, but not sufficient to qualify as grain fed. Where do they fit, “grain failed” beef?

That is my understanding also. The reason one would want to advertise ‘grass fed’ in this country are unclear.

In some places there is a big difference between grass and lot fed because (for example in the US) much of the herd spends much of its life in feedlots and too often they are dirty, overcrowded and the feed is poor. Then it makes a real difference to the outcome whether your concerns are animal welfare or the flavour of the meat, or both.

I would be interested to hear from an expert on the subject if lot finishing, in a well managed lot, makes any discernible difference to either meat quality or animal welfare.

Perhaps this is like the ‘no added hormones’ campaign where this does not actually distinguish your product from the rest but you sound like it does.

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Woollies and Coles have been selling grass fed beef for years.

Many chefs on TV including my favourite bogan chef, Adrian Richardson, say that they will only use grass fed beef.

Does that mean the cattle are grass fed all their lives? What does it mean for the beef that is not labelled ‘grass fed’? Does this actually mean anything or could they have called the line “Gourmet beef” or some similar meaningless label?

I’m sure they have - but for some reason I am attempting to discern, I’ve only just noticed that they have. Did they move it to make it more prominent, or is it something else I’ve taken in (obviously without realising) from another source that has made it more noticeable?

Or am I going through a Consumer Awakening??? :blush:

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Lot finishing does make a difference, the animal whether grass or grain fed in a lot puts more marbling into it’s muscle. Reduced activity and thus like us greater weight gain in a shorter period.

Difference in flavour between grain and grass is probably the most noticeable aspect then after marbling. Grass fed cattle tend to have a more distinct richer taste when they are eaten due to the grassy (forage) plant material they consumed. Grain tends to lead to a more mild flavour profile. Grain is not a normal food source for cattle and they have a harder time of digesting grains, so it is better to supplement grain with fibre feeds to improve the cattle for slaughter. There are disorders related to high grain diets such as foundering and there are other rumen disorders from grain feeding. Also high nitrated and carbohydrated diets such as grain tend to be lower in Vit A so cattle need further supplementation of Vit A. Grass fed cattle don’t usually suffer this and tend to have better uptake and usage of Vit A than grain feed beef do. So better to add grain or other high protein foods to the mix rather than make it all grain feed, of course if only for a short time before slaughter then high grain/protein diets can be tolerated.