We have covered the general overview of meat classifications. We've covered how you need to read into your labels because even the meat you buy at your health food store might not be what you preceive it to be.
Now, let's go back to the USDA's definition of 'All Natural'. Part of the definition states there are no added colorings to your beef. But, did you know that grain-fed beef has more redness in its coloring versus grassfed beef? So any beef cow supplemented with grains will havea more reddish color to it, which our culture accepts as a good thing, and therefore, preceives a grain-fed beef to be better for them.
Sadly, the 'All Natural' label doesn't mean that the beef has never had hormone injections or antibitoics. Yes, let me say that again -- the 'All Natural' label doesn't mean that the beef has never had hormone injections or antibitoics. It doesn't even mean that the animal didn't live in some terrible and nasty conditions in a CAFO and 'beefed up' [no pun intended] on a grain based diet. Because, the 'All Natural' label refers to the minimal processing that the beef goes through, after slaughter. In other words, once the beef is processed, it cannot receive any injections or chemical addtions - that's it! THAT'S IT! It has nothing to do with the animal prior to processing.
Really, how good does that make you feel to know that the 'All Natural' cut of beef you are bringing home for dinner was pumped with all kinds of hormones and antibitoics while it stood knee deep in manure in a CAFO gorging itself on grain? The old saying 'You are what you eat rings ever so true, no?
If you had a choice to be one or the other, which would you be?
Now before you say 'Oh well she is an animal welfare advocate and so of course she is going to get all 'don't eat meat from cows standing in 5 feet of shit' because that is cruel' on me - hear me out. Let's think about this. When you have an excess of animals living in crowded conditions, of course dieases and infection is going to rum rampant. Especially if they are confined in a place that doesn't allow them much if any fresh air, sun and wind -- or, confined in a place where they do get fresh air, sun and wind, but have to stand in their own feces. C'mon, that is common sense! So of course there is then a need to give antibiotics. On the flip side, you have pastured raised beef that is out in the open, with sun, wind and fresh air. They are free to roam and have ample room. They aren't tucked in butt to butt with other cows. Logic would tell you these cows are more likely to be healthy and not contracting and passing diease and infection. AND, they are foraging on grasses, they way they were intended to be. Not gorging on grains.
Ok, so back to labels. I had to run into the grocery store the other day. I needed a few things like bananas and milk. I do go to a locally owned 'chain' grocer when I have to. This one in particular tries to support local farmers when they can and I appreciate that. And they are locally owned. And, I know what to buy there. Like I said, I needed a few things. Banana's and Milk - and they carry the milk I like to purchase! I did end up purchasing some meat while I was there. I knew I'd need it for some dinners and I wasn't going to have an opportunity to buy it at a local farm before I needed it. I tried to make the best, educated decisons when I purchased, and the labels STILL dupped me - some. Let's look.
|The Angus Roast I purchased|
The roast was located in the section of beef that was 'free of hormones and antibiotics'. Funny, while I was looking, another lady asked the 'butcher' (lady in white coat stocking styrofoam trays of meat on shelf) what was different with 'that' section of meat. When the employee told her, she swiftly hiked it back to the 'other' sections of meat. Back to the roast.....I chose a 'CAB Natural Certified Angus Beef' cut of meat. I figured it was my safest option. The label states how the cattle this cut came from was never given antibiotics or hormones, contained no artificial ingredients, was minimally processed, traceable to its birth place and fed a 100% vegetarian diet.
So what does this tell us? Obviously good things like being hormone/antibiotic/artificial ingredient free. Traceable to it's place of birth is interesting for meat bought at this type of establishment. And obviously, Vegetarian Diet means no animal by-products, but still likely feed corn. I sent an email via the Certified Angus Beef Beef website asking how I can trace the roast I purchased to its birth place, but I have yet to receive a response. I was hoping they'd have a link on their site where I can input a serial # from the package and do it right there, but no such luck!
Update: This is the response I received from the Certified Angus Beef bran rep: 'Certified Angus Beef LLC and our licensed processors have internal auditing systems in place to track Certified Angus Beef® brand Natural product back to the ranch of origin. These systems are in place to ensure the cattle have been managed in such a way that no antibiotics or supplemental growth promotants were ever administered, or animal-derived feeds were ever fed. These processes are not in an automated system where consumers can trace an individual cut but rather for our company to ensure our label claims of “natural” are being met. They are similar to processes used for organic products to ensure the authenticity of the claim.'
I found a very good article here that further discusses grades of beef here. They also mention how the Certified Angus Beef logo is really more marketing, rather than 'fact'.
The main take away here, once again, is to 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food'. But more importantly, know how to 'decode' your food - sad that's what it's come down to, isn't it?
From the Beef Files!