There's a great website called Eat Wild that lists thousands of places to get locally grown, grass-finished beef (and other meats) directly from the ranchers. If you've never done any reading about what happens in a feedlot & the crap beef are fed (I'm talking diets consisting of old candy, bubblegum with wrappers, chicken waste, heat-treated garbage, candy bars, stale pizza dough...shall I go on?) you will definitely think about purchasing beef from a source besides your grocery store.
I have yet to purchase from a rancher...it seems daunting to know exactly what to buy and how to order. I mean, I don't need a full cow's worth of beef. After reading around the Eat Wild website today though, I see that many ranchers sell a "split half" meaning essentially a 1/4 cow. A lot also will sell just the cuts you want (we use mainly ground beef & steaks) so that you're not purchasing cuts of meat you won't use.
In my most recent issue of Mother Earth News (which is probably the most informative & interesting magazine I've ever read!) there is a fantastic article on feedlot beef called What You Need To Know About The Beef You Eat.
It sites numerous articles from the agricultural community/mega beef producers that support "byproduct feedstuffs" (a balloon term for all sorts of crap, some I listed above).
In a May 2007 article in the Wall Street Journal, it points out that reliance on junk food has increased greatly. The price of corn is now incredibly higher due to increased use of corn for ethanol. The article states that "one farmer now feeds his cattle a ration that is 17% stale candy and 3% stale party mix." Another farmer feeds a 100% byproduct diet: french fries, tater tots, potato peels.
Think about it. Crap in, crap out. I do not think God intended cattle to live on a diet of Hubba Bubba, Chex Mix, & chicken shit. They have four stomachs for a reason, and it's not to process stale Snickers bars.
Every time I purchase & cook store bought meat now, I wonder if what exactly we are eating. My trip to a local grass-finished cattle ranch is not too far off.
**And to finish with some humor**
I found this special listed on one Texas rancher's website, and I'm afraid. Very afraid.:
Contact us for our "TASTE OF MY RANCHER" $99 MEAT SPECIAL.
Um. No thank you. Eeeew.