The Year in Food 2007

We’re Into Grass

Since World War II, American cattle have been raised primarily on grain in industrial feedlots. Their soft texture and unbeefy flavor are what consumers have grown to love, or at least understand. But a variety of factors—health, environment, snob appeal, and good old-fashioned taste—have created a demand for grass-fed cattle; more than 1,000 ranchers have taken their livestock back to the pastures in the last few years. Meanwhile the official definition of grass-fed came under fire this year. In 2006, the USDA drafted some controversial standards that allow for confined (not pasture-raised) animals. In response, this year the American Grassfed Association announced that it will launch its own, stricter certification program. And overseas—particularly in Asian markets—grass-fed beef from New Zealand and elsewhere is sought after as an alternative to U.S. meat, which is viewed as unsafe because of mad cow disease. —Elizabeth Gillian