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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Beef labelings and meanings

Image courtesy of Public Energy
Labels have always been confusing to me but since venturing into buying locally raised beef, I'm learning there is a whole set of labels I need to learn.

Here are a few:

Grass fed: generally means beef from cattle that have eaten only grass or forage throughout their lives, however some producers do call their beef grass fed but then actually finish the animals on grain for the last 90 to 160 days before slaughter. (courtesy of Grass Fed Beef 101)

Natural: A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may be labeled natural. The label must explain the use of the term natural (such as - no added colorings or artificial ingredients; minimally processed.) (courtesy of USDA)

No Hormones: The term "no hormones administered" may be approved for use on the label of beef products if sufficient documentation is provided to the Agency by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals. (courtesy of USDA)

No antibotics: The terms "no antibiotics added" may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the USDA demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics. (courtesy of USDA)

Grain finished: When considering the definition of grass fed beef, most beef animals have probably eaten grass at some point in their lives, but the important thing is that they're “finished”, or fattened on grass, rather than grain, for the 90 – 160 days before slaughter. During those few months of grain finishing the levels of important nutrients like CLA and Omega 3 decrease dramatically in the beef animal’s tissues. It is in the finishing process that those levels and ratios drastically decline because of the grain feeding, and that is why it’s so important to make sure that the beef you eat is not only grass fed, but grass finished. Some producers are currently stating that their beef is grass fed, but in fine print, note that it is grain finished. (courtesy of Grass Fed Beef 101)

Vegetarian fed: The cattle ate feed free of animal byproducts, including grasses, hay, silage or grain like corn and barley. (courtesy of USDA)

I hope you find this as helpful as I have!

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