Beef Cattle And The Label

       Have you ever heard the phrase "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 industry. 

     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.

Conventional beef
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
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, this means:
     * Cattle must be fed 100 percent organic feed, but may be provided certain vitamin and mineral supplements.
     * 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.
     * Practically all cattle meet the national organic standard that requires ruminants to have access to pasture.
     * 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
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.

Beef Cattle Basics 


 Red Beef Cattle Barn