Grass-Fed or Grass-Finished—What’s the Difference?
In a word, big. And there’s a new(ish) local Lee farm on Pine Island that you’ll want to start shopping from.
Pineshine Farms on Lee County’s Pine Island has 100 acres of pasture where cattle and chickens roam free their entire lives.
Unless you’re deep into USDA naming conventions, you might see a piece of beef labeled “grass-fed” and think it ends there. But then a “grass-finished” label catches your eye.
Both practices are obviously better than the way your average cow, pig or chicken gets to a supermarket shelf, but there’s a significant gap in quality from “fed” to “finished." Pineshine Farms on Pine Island has been raising and selling non-GMO, grass-finished, antibiotic-free and hormone-free beef, poultry and eggs straight from its 100 acres of pasture since 2016.
As folks at the quaint farm on Lee County’s largest island like to say, the biggest difference between the two is that "grass-fed" guarantees only that an animal was allowed to graze in its youth (and most likely after a year and a half was force fed the usual corn or soy for the rest of its life)—whereas “grass-finished” means the real deal (the animals have been happily walking around and munching as Mother Nature meant them to since they were born).
To keep the animals’ stress level at a minimum, Pineshine partners with the granddaddy of local grass-finished farms, Circle C in Felda, for its humane abattoir (a fancy, less graphic term for “slaughterhouse”). All meat is flash-frozen to lock in freshness (they prepare and sell a variety of cuts and preparations), and for those who hesitate to buy frozen, this method is the best to preserve flavor. Where you run into trouble is buying something that’s been sitting around in a fridge for days before being frozen (that’s when the dreaded ice crystals and freezer burn can happen).
For anyone in Cape Coral or even Fort Myers, pack a cooler in your car and take an excursion to Pineshine to yield some of the freshest meat you’ll ever taste—it could even become part of your weekly shopping ritual, as the farm is open to the public for purchases all year. (They’re also working on seasonal events, like hayrides and farm dinners). But if you can’t justify driving a bit out of your way to buy straight from the source, the farm has an e-commerce website that will ship anywhere. Plus, they’re a regular presence at three local farmers markets (Cape Coral’s Surfside Sunshine and Cape Harbour and Fort Myers’ River District), with hopes to expand to more.
To plan a visit:
7401 Stringfellow Road, Saint James City
Gates are open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.