Beef! Its Whats For Dinner!
It's all in the Label?
There is a huge variety of beef products
available for today’s consumer’s to enjoy, and as diets and attitudes toward nutrition change, so to has the beef
Consumers will always dictate the type of products and services offered
within the industry. Despite highs and lows throughout the years in consumption, thankfully, for ranchers with
small or large operations, America’s love of beef and beef products shows little sign of waning,
Consumers will see a host of terms on the labels in America’s grocery stores indicating
how animals were raised but, in the end, there are really four types marketed by producers. These are conventional,
branded, certified organic and grass-finished.
This category defines almost
all of the beef you see in the grocery store meat section. This generally comes from pasture-raised cattle that are
grain-fed for 120-200 days prior to harvest. Most of the beef you see in your grocery store’s meat case is
conventional. The grain feeding period increases the quality and tenderness of the meat.
Natural beef refers to beef that has been minimally processed and contains no artificial
flavors, colors or preservatives. This applies to all meat without an ingredient label. Labels are added if the
product includes a marinade or solution.
Branded beef products
A brand could be based on the breed of cattle or a name given to a program that follows
certain guidelines. Ultimately, it is the decision of the company behind their brand as to what brand to assign.
Brand marketing is big business and branded beef is sold at restaurants and grocery stores. Some familiar
types of branded beef include “Certified Angus Beef” and “Cattleman’s Collection.”
All brands are inspected just as any other; however, some companies request government
approval of their product label through the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) or
Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
Certified organic beef
Certified organic beef must meet USDA National Organic Program standards. For beef,
1. Cattle must be fed 100 percent organic feed, but may be provided certain vitamin and
2. Organically raised cattle may not be given hormones to promote growth or antibiotics
for any reason. However, if an animal is sick, the animal cannot be denied treatment to ensure its health; any
animal that is treated with antibiotics is taken out of the National Organic Program.
3. Practically all cattle meet the national organic standard that requires ruminants
to have access to pasture.
4. Organic beef must be certified through USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
Organic beef produced conventionally
Some organic beef is conventionally produced, where cattle are raised in pastures for the
majority of their lives, typically 12 to 18 months, and then are fed a grain-based diet for approximately 120 to
200 days. The grain, however, must be sourced from organic farmers and must also be certified organic by USDA.
Grass-finished beef comes from cattle that have grazed in pastures their entire lives.
This beef is not necessarily raised organically and is only organic if it has the appropriate label.
Remember, in the end, it all comes down to consumer tastes and trends.