What’s in a name? That which we call “All-natural, organic, certified organic, non-GMO"
In the name of transparency, it is important that you as the consumer understand the differences in the labels on your meat packages. Today, I will take you through the differences and what to look for when purchasing your meat.
The USDA defines natural meat as “ a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed").”
This term is used on labels of beef products if the producer has sufficient documentation proving that no hormones have been administered to their livestock.
According to USDA, the meat had to be officially evaluated on their grade (e.g. Prime, Choice, Select, Standard), class, or other characteristic such as “Certified Angus Beef.” To be certified organic, a farm must apply, pay a fee, be evaluated and inspected by a USDA-accredited certifying agent and then approved. The farm will be reviewed and inspected annually to be sure it continues to comply with the USDA standards.
Farmers can use the terms “100 percent organic”, “organic”, “made with organic____”. Organic labels means the product is 95% or more made from organic materials. 100 percent organic are any raw, unprocessed farm products such as grain flours and rolled oats. Made with organic ____ can be used on products that have at least 70 percent organic materials. There is one nuance: if you sell less than $5,000 in product, you don’t have to apply for organic certification.
Navigating the label differences:
Why would a farmer choose a natural label over an organic one? Organic certification is expensive. Between yearly recertifications and label costs, as well as an extremely intensive record-keeping process, some farms may not generate enough revenue to justify the costs to become officially certified. Just because a small farm doesn’t have the official certification, doesn’t mean their product is not good. In fact, many small farms have advantages over the large farms.
1. In the instance of beef cattle, a small herd is easier to observe and watch for any illnesses or disabilities that might occur.
2. The pens get more attention and can be cleaned and maintained more often and easier.
3. A small herd may have access to more grassland in pasture.
4. A better quality grade (prime or choice) may be more prominent in small herds because the farmer can observe them closer as they grow and mature. This means the cattle are only sent when they are completely mature and not just when their birth date says so.
Advice for future buying:
Labels can be confusing. Organic beef is more expensive to the consumer because the farmer must recoup the certification costs. Other labels may be of the same quality and less expensive. Do your homework! There is so much that goes into raising cattle; from how the livestock is treated, whether they were exposed to hormones, grass-fed or grain-fed, etc. Each method appeals to a different type of consumer. Make sure to voice your preferences to the farmer before buying to be sure their product is right for you.
We use the term all-natural, hormone-free, non-GMO beef. This means that our beef cattle are not given antibiotics, hormones, steroids, or by-products at any point. They are fed corn, usually grown on our farms, which has not been genetically-altered. We prefer grain-fed over 100 percent grass-fed for several reasons (we will discuss in another post). Any livestock sold through our cooperative has been inspected by a veterinarian and their facility has been inspected by our quality auditor. Producers are Beef Quality Assurance (BQA certified) and comply with the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) standards required for beef sent to Whole Foods. For more information, check out our website: https://www.buckeyevalleybeef.com/our-production-guidlines or contact us at 937-403-4135 and Aubrey will answer any questions you have!