n the United States, most cows start living similar lives.
The calves are born in the early spring, drink milk from their mothers, and are then allowed to roam free and eat grass or other edible plants they find in their environment.
This continues for about 7–9 months. After that, most conventionally raised cows are moved to feedlots.
Large feedlots are called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). There, the cows are kept in confined stalls, often with limited space.
They are rapidly fattened with grain-based feeds that are usually made from a base of soy or corn. Typically, their diet is also supplemented with small amounts of dried grass.
The cows live in these feedlots for a few months before being brought to a slaughterhouse.
Of course, it’s not that simple. The different feeding practices are complicated and varied.
For example, grass-fed beef in Australia may not be directly comparable to US products, and grass-fed beef isn’t necessarily pasture-raised. Not all grass-fed cows can graze outdoors.
In fact, the term grass-fed isn’t clearly defined.
That said, grass-fed cows eat (mostly) grass, while grain-fed cows eat (mostly) an unnatural diet based on corn and soy during the latter part of their lives.
To maximize growth, the cows are often given drugs, such as antibiotics and growth hormones.
As of January 1st, 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) passed new legislation known as the Veterinary Feed Directive.
According to this legislation, antibiotics that are considered important in human medicine need to be administered under the oversight of a licensed veterinarian and cannot be used for growth promotion