Here are the key points you need to know in order to purchase quality meat, especially beef.
- Source carefully, ask questions and buy from reputable places. Consider ButcherBox.com or check out www.EatWild.com as reliable places to start. Dr. Mercola, at www.mercola.com, also has many articles with lists of places and organizations to find clean, sustainable food sources.
- When you see labels on beef that say “no hormones administered” (and on beef, pork and chicken “no antibiotics added”), the USDA has required sufficient documentation and approval.
- The USDA does require that labels making a claim of “100% Grass Fed” meet the “all-grass fed” standard; however, this does not prohibit drugs or animal by-products. I recommend looking for “100% Grass Fed and Finished” and Organic if possible, as a more reliable commitment statement.
- The American Grass Fed Association seal is issued by an industry group that requires its members to feed cattle grass only and to never confine cattle or use antibiotics or hormones.
- According to Larry Olmsted in his book Real Food Fake Food, bison and buffalo are still raised fully on free range, without feedlots, additives, fillers or additives. He claims it to still be the purest grass fed beef available.
A few other considerations include:
- “Natural” is poorly defined and poorly regulated by the USDA and cannot be relied upon to protect you from the issues and concerns raised in the main article. It refers more to processing, not as much how the animal is raised, so may be more about the use of nitrates, artificial flavors and additives, but again, is not well regulated.
- “Grass-fed” basically applies both to CAFO operation cattle (because they started on grass then moved to feed lot) and to grass feeding operations that strive to fully grow the cattle on grass for several years but send the cattle to the feedlot for fattening for several weeks prior to slaughter. In other words, any cow that has had grass at any time, qualifies to be called “grass fed”. So “grass-fed” can apply to an animal that never leaves the stall or pen outside, gets fed exclusively hay its whole life along with antibiotics, steroids and hormones.
- Organic does not necessarily make it grass fed nor does grass fed make it Organic. Organic meat and dairy will be hormone and antibiotic free, but the animal will have spent most of its life confined in a feedlot and fed the organic corn and soy. Sadly, the vast majority of organic beef and dairy products sold in the U.S. today come from feedlot animals.
- Unless meat is labeled both Organic and 100% Grass fed, it isn’t.
- Words like “premium”, “premium natural”, “no additives”, “free roaming”, “humane” or “pesticide free” have no meaning or regulation tied to them, but are allowed.