The growing appeal of the 'grass-fed claim'
UK premium bar snack brand Made For Drink, for instance, has just launched South African-inspired, beer-friendly biltong, made from 100% grass-fed Irish beef into Waitrose stores.
Waitrose also claimed an ‘industry first’ earlier this year after making a commitment that all the cows that supply it with own-label milk will be grass-fed for more than half a year.
Made for Drink founder Dan Featherstone said: “Our ongoing ambition is to provide our retailers with common sense trade up opportunities within the snacks category, which is why we prioritise discerning ‘me-time’ moments, specifically Thursday/Friday night with a drink. We seek to make these moments as delicious and as memorable as possible, which is why we’re always on the lookout for any gaping gaps where we can introduce real innovation and best-in-class intentions.”
How strong is the ‘grass-fed’ trend? There’s more interest from consumers in the US. Food and drink related Google searches in the US for ‘grass-fed’ over the past five years are higher than those for ‘sustainable’ and ‘plant-based’. The same search worldwide reveals interest in ‘grass-fed’ has slightly dipped to the same level as ‘sustainability’. That said, searches for ‘organic’ are significantly higher worldwide and in the US.
A report from the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) last year concluded that as pressure towards farming and the environment intensifies there are opportunities to present grass-fed beef, lamb and dairy produce as a positive and unique selling point for British produce.
A heavier reliance on pasture feeding on the farm, for example, limits issues such as deforestation in the Amazon for feed-crops like soya. However, consumers understanding of the benefits of grass-feeding specifically are quite limited, it noted. “The more positive attributes for consumers fall around access to the outdoors and so it is important to carefully position rearing methods to highlight this for the most benefit," the report said. "Additionally, sustainable sourcing and traceability right the way through the supply chain is set to be a bigger issue in future and, here too, grass-fed has a role to play.”
There are a number of reasons why 100% grass-fed beef ‘makes total sense’, according to Featherstone. “Biltong is one of the world’s greatest beer-friendly snacks that has been making positive strides in the UK marketplace in recent times,” he said. “We felt the moment was ripe for a best-in-class biltong made with 100% Irish grass-fed beef, which is why we approached a well-established biltong producer with proud Eastern Cape ties who’ve relocated to Northern Ireland.”
A 'price fight' among established brands, meanwhile, has ultimately left a space to make the very best Biltong people are willing to spend a little bit extra money on, added Featherstone. “It’s no secret that if you are making an unrushed hero product that is very simple (beef rubbed in vinegar, coriander seeds, salt and left to hang) to succeed you need the very best ingredients and beef sits at the very heart of our story.
"We simply tried a number of beef suppliers and low and behold the 100% Irish grass-fed beef was far and away the best; beautiful yellow fat, incredibly well marbled meat, wonderful texture, deep in beefy flavour and a wonderful buttery taste from the fat.”
100% grass fed is making real traction in the meat world, he concluded. “It essentially comes down to better ways of farming (more environmentally sensitive or what is being called regenerative) as well consumers being increasingly aware of what they are putting in their bodies.
"I should also explain 100% grass fed, as in most cases cattle can’t be overwintered in a field (Grass stops growing and it can become life threatening for the cattle) so when they are bought inside for winter they are fed purely on silage (fermented grass) or hay (dried grass). Our cattle are fed on silage.
"All in all, it makes the very best tasting Biltong and allows us to take the premium position in retail and step away from the price fight that only leads to poorer experiences all round.”
The grass-fed claim is tapping into the ‘growing clamour’ for sustainable, regenerative farming practices, agreed Jessica Higgins, co-founder of Take Stock, which has launched its Norway-made bone broth product into the likes of Partridges, Cotswold Fayre and Amazon in the UK.
“I think bone broth has so much legs - like keto, which is massive in US but taking its time to build in UK… The blossoming enthusiasm around world cuisine isn’t confined simply to the final dishes but the ‘building block’ ingredients. Norwegian-made broth is the very essence of unrushed, simmering ‘slow food’ which ekes every last ounce of taste and ‘nutritional worth’ from the too often overlooked elements of cows, chicken and fish.”