When it comes to selecting meat, you want to look for the words “hormone free” and “antibiotic free,” since both substances are stored in the animals fat and flesh and then passed onto you. Use the following information to make an informed choice about the beef you eat.
Certified Organic Beef must meet USDA National Organic Program standards. Organic meat comes from animals that are not given antibiotics, growthhormones, growth enhancers and feed additives such as urea and slaughter byproducts. Cattle must be fed 100 percent organic feed. Organic beef must be certified through USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Organic agriculture standards require that cattle graze on grass for the entirety of the grazing season in the region where they are raised, a period that must total at least 120 days. Organic production requires a management plan that prevents manure from becoming a pollutant and encourages the recycling of manure. Organically raised cattle may benefit the environment because the grass used to feed them prevents soil erosion.
Grass Fed Beef are animals fed on grass, legumes and forages from birth to harvest and have been shown to be higher in beta carotene (Vitamin A), conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and Omega-3 fatty acids. They do permit the use of feedlots temporarily during the non-grazing season, as long as animals are not crowded and do not have to compete for access to food and water. Living conditions must accommodate the animals’ natural behaviors. Note that grass fed does not mean organic.
Natural Beef describes beef products that have been minimally processed and contain no additives – which means no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. This definition applies to all meat that does not have an ingredient label. Remember, this does not mean organic or grass fed. The label can be vague.
Conventional beef: Cattle in the U.S. start life on a pasture, nursing from their mothers and eating grass. When the calves are about 12-18 months old, they are transferred to a feedlot where they eat mostly grain. Feedlot production raises animals in confined animal feeding operations where animals eat a diet of grain to promote rapid weight gain. Cows, sheep, and other grazing animals have the ability to convert grasses in a rumen (a fermentation tank in which resident bacteria convert cellulose into protein and fats). Feeding grain to cattle is unnatural. Switching a cow from grass to grain is disturbing to the animal’s digestive system and causes many negative affects on the animal, and the environment. Because a calf is taken from a birth weight of 80 pounds to 1,200 pounds in a little more than a year it takes large quantities of corn, protein supplements, antibiotics and other drugs-including growth hormones-in their feed regime to accomplish this. In addition, cattle feed can contain beef tallow, urea, feather meal and chicken litter.
Environmental Concerns about feedlots: First, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, livestock in the United States produce 6 to 10 times the amount of waste as humans creating challenges for safe disposal. Second, livestock wastes contain dangerously high nutrient levels, pharmaceuticals and pathogens that pollute the soil, waterways and air.
Considering the negatives, it is alarming that about 97% of the beef in the United States is grain fed feedlot beef!
Until we chat again, make the right choice.