Ever wonder what all those labels on the packages of meat really mean? Here’s how to know what you are actually getting when you purchase beef:
- Feed allowed – Grass is the best feed for cattle! Most cattle spend time in a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) where they are fattened up with corn and other grains. This causes all kinds of health problems and changes the nutrients in the meat.
- Access to Pasture – Even if cattle never leave their stalls, the label can still claim that it has access to pasture. You need to find out exactly what “access to pasture” means.
- Antibiotics – Cattle in CAFOs are fed a continuous diet of antibiotics which contributes to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
- Growth Hormones – Most cattle in the US receive growth hormones
- Animal Welfare – Some labels can be quite vague regarding animal welfare.
Certification labels analyzed are:
- USDA Certified Organic -Foods labeled “organic” must consist of at least 95% organically produced ingredients. The other 5% must be approved by the USDA. They can not be produced with any antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, petroleum or sewage-sludge based fertilizers, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation.
- 100% Organic – Foods labeled “100% organic” must consist of only organic ingredients and processing aids.
- USDA Certified Grassfed – If an animal consumes something other than grass it must be documented but it can still have this label; antibiotics are allowed; growth hormones allowed; access to pasture not defined
- American Grassfed Association – Grass only; animals spend majority of time on pasture; antibiotics only given to sick animals; no growth hormones allowed
- Certified Humane Raised and Handled – Grass, corn and grain are allowed; access to pasture not required; growth hormones prohibited; antibiotics given to sick animals only
- Food Alliance Certified – Grass, corn and grain allowed; access to pasture required; animals spend the majority of their lives on pasture; antibiotics given to sick animals only; growth hormones prohibited; animal welfare requirements very specific concerning health, shelter and handling
- Animal Welfare Approved – Grass, corn and grain allowed; access to pasture required; animals spend the majority of their lives on pasture; antibiotics given to sick animals only; no growth hormones allowed; animal welfare requirements very specific regarding health, shelter and handling of animals