We'll be forthright. The blatant dishonesty by some in the beef business really makes us angry. Usually, the promotional materials are technically true, but are misleading, and take advantage of the consumer's confusion or lack of knowledge. Read carefully. Even better, know your producer. We are glad to answer any questions you have with complete honesty.
“Grass-fed” or “Grass-grown.”
There are no USDA guidelines for use of these terms on labels. Animals
may have been taken off grain rations only for the last few weeks of their
lives, or may be fed a grass-based diet while continuing supplementation
with high levels of grain or other materials. Some companies advertise
their cattle as "grass-fed" although the fine print adds "grain finished
for flavor" and animals spend at least 90 days in a feedlot. None
of these approaches provides the benefits of truly grass grown beef.
Be sure to learn the actual production protocols by reading websites carefully
or contacting the producer.
"No antibiotics" With the
justifiable concern about antibiotic use in livestock, we have seen this
claim become more common. Unfortunately, if you read the fine print,
what is really being claimed is that the animals are not fed low level
antibiotics while in the feedlot (a practice that increases feed efficiency
and decreases the incidence of illness--read
more). These animals can be, however, treated with antibiotics
if they become sick, and the only protection you have is the standard recommended
withdrawal time. The percentage of animals in a feedlot requiring
treatment for illness depends on the management of the feedlot, the density
of animals, the weather, and the presence of disease.
“Free ranging” or “free roaming”
may be used on labels if the producer can demonstrate that the animal has
been “allowed access to the outside.” This can still mean that the
animal spent much of its time in a feedlot or inside on a concrete slab.
“All Natural” may be used on any
meat that has been “minimally processed and containing no artificial ingredients.”
This simply means that no chemicals can be added to the meat during or
after processing. Note that meat still gets a chemical disinfectant
bath during processing to try to reduce the E. coli on the carcass.
The "natural" label does not exclude meats raised using feed-grade antibiotics
or hormone implants, nor does it exclude animals raised in a feedlot.
The USDA does not regulate this term on labels, meaning that meat labeled
as such is not given any additional inspection.
“No Added Hormones” All steroid
hormone products marketed in the U.S. for increasing rate of growth in
beef cattle are sold as implantable pellets and are designed to deliver
the hormones at a slow, constant rate when injected subcutaneously under
the skin of the animal's ear. Because the USDA does allow the use
of a number of hormones on beef, the terms “no hormones administered” or
"no synthetic hormones" means no hormones in the form of implants have
been used over the lifetime of the animal. Use of the term “hormone free”
is considered “unapprovable” by USDA on any meat products because all animals
have natural levels of hormones.
“USDA inspected” does not necessarily
mean grown in the USA. Consider this from R-CALF (a grassroots cattle
“Organic” beef. Unfortunately,
some organic beef operations raise their animals in confinement and most
feed them grain and other feedstuff rather than their natural diet of fresh
forage. This provides an organic product that is similar in taste
and texture to typical American beef, and thus palatable to a wider range
of consumers. Research shows, however, that feeding large amounts
of grain to a ruminant compromises the health of the animal and reduces
the nutritional value of its meat whether the grain is raised organically
or conventionally. Be sure to contact your organic producer to learn
their particular protocols.
|COPYRIGHT: CARYL ELZINGA and ALDERSPRING RANCH 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006|