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Course 1 - Modern Beef Production

Course 1 - Modern Beef Production

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Published by: JoeO'Connell on Jan 11, 2012
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Masters of Beef Advocacy Course 1: Modern Beef Production Course Introduction: Beef…It’s What’s for Dinner • • • • Where does

beef come from? Is “natural” beef safer? Is grass-fed beef more nutritious? Why do you use antibiotics and hormones to produce beef?

More than ever before, consumers have a lot of questions about their food and beef is no exception. They see cattle grazing in the fields and fresh beef in the meat case but don’t know what happens in that “fuzzy spot” in between. Unfortunately, anti-animal agriculture activist groups exploit this lack of knowledge and thirst for information. They use terms like “factory farming” and “industrial agriculture” as they try to cast modern beef production in a negative light. They want consumers to believe modern beef production is harmful to the environment, cruel to animals and produces unsafe and unhealthy food. You know that’s not true, but what can you do about it? You can answer their questions. You can help connect the consumer to the people who produce their food. You’re the expert. You can put a face on modern beef production. Let’s start with some background on modern beef production. As you know, consumers’ lifestyles and budgets have changed over time and beef production has evolved to meet those needs. For instance, we now provide consumers with grain-finished, grass-fed, certified organic and natural beef products. While each kind of beef offers something different to the consumer, all beef shares one common denominator that continues to spark demand: a safe, wholesome and nutritious meal. What consumers need to know is the range of options in beef products results from the different ways cattle are fed and raised. But what all types of beef have in common is the same safety and nutritional benefits. All beef goes through a rigorous inspection process and is subject to strict government guidelines to ensure the highest level of safety, and all beef choices are a nutrient-rich source of protein, zinc, iron and many other nutrients. This course will provide a brief overview of what consumers need to know about modern beef production and conclude by reviewing the various beef choices available today and what to tell consumers who are weighing their options.

So what’s the best way to explain modern beef production to the average consumer? You can use the information in this section to help you provide simple. How are cattle raised? Cow-calf operation Most beef calves are born on cow-calf operations.000 American producers whose livelihoods depend on producing a safe. beef industry? Cattle and beef production represent the largest single segment of American agriculture. beef comes from one of the 800. wholesome and nutritious beef at an affordable price for consumers around the world. you can be confident all beef choices are safe. Most cattle farms and ranches are family owned and operated and for many producers. today’s consumers can choose from a wider selection of beef products than ever before. USDA says more farms are classified as beef cattle operations (35%) than any other type. In fact.Course 1: Modern Beef Production Consumers need to know… • • • • The modern beef production system provides a year-round supply of safe.S. All U. How big is the U. wholesome and nutritious product tailored to the needs of consumers. straightforward information. raising cattle is a family tradition passed down through generations. Section One: Beef Production While most consumers probably don’t want to actually visit a feedlot or processing plant. These are farms and ranches like people see along highways and country roads. According to USDA. During this stage.000 American producers whose livelihood dependso n producing a safe. Producers nationwide are responsible for more than 100 million head of beef cattle. Thanks to the efforts of cattle farmers and ranchers. cattle graze 2 .S. the typical herd averages just 40 head of cattle.S.-raised beef comes from one of the 800. wholesome and nutritious. No matter what type of beef you prefer. though most cattle operations are smaller than most people might think. wholesome and nutritious product tailored to the needs of consumers. U. they do they want to be confident the beef they serve their family is safe and produced in a responsible manner. There is no better source for consumers to get their information on beef production than from the people who actually produce it.

Cattle usually spend four to six months in a feedlot. most large feedlots have environmental engineers on staff or on contract to ensure the operation is in compliance with the strict Environmental Protection Agency regulations that govern concentrated animal feeding operations. Cattle are carefully loaded and unloaded into trailers that are specially designed to avoid injury and strain. Environmental factors such as water quality. Transportation Once cattle have reached 18 to 22 months of age or weigh between 1. Packing plant technicians then use a mechanical stunning device to quickly and effectively render animals unconscious. Stockers and backgrounding As weanlings. As calves reach six to 10 months of age. during which they are fed a scientifically formulated ration averaging 70 percent to 90 percent grain. Weaned and castrated male calves (called steers) may graze until about one year old and then their sold to a cattle feeder or a stocker/backgrounder who will prepare the animal for the feedlot. They also have constant access to water.” They are then transported to packing plants to be harvested and processed. they are weaned from their mothers. they are moved inside in a quiet and orderly manner.250 pounds. Like cow-calf operations. Once most cattle reach approximately 12-18 months. Life at the feedlot Feedlots look different than cow-calf and backgrounding operations because cattle do not graze on pasture. In fact. A variety of precautions are taken during transportation minimize stress and injury to the animals. they are usually separated into groups of 100 animals and live in pens that allow about 125 to 250 square feet of room per animal.100 and 1. but also for protecting the environment. they are taken to a feedlot. air quality and land utilization are monitored and managed in feedlots daily. Instead. Operators are not only responsible for constantly monitoring the health and well-being of cattle. The Humane Slaughter Act (passed in 3 . There is little excess movement or unnecessary noise so cattle are not unduly stressed. The harvest process has evolved over the years to ensure both humane animal treatment and the production of safe food. Arriving at the packing plant When cattle arrive at packing plants. cattle may be transferred from cow-calf operations to backgrounders or stockers. these are mostly familyowned ranches and farms where cattle graze on pasture or start receiving grain to supplement their diet.Course 1: Modern Beef Production in herds on large pastures within sight of their mothers. they are typically considered “finished.

Some plants sell subprimals to meat processing facilities where workers break them down into individual steaks and roasts that are sent to supermarkets and restaurants. To complete the modern beef production story. Following are brief snapshots explaining the key differences between various beef choices. a growing number of consumers are interested in buying beef that has been produced under very specific conditions. beef cattle are now much leaner than just a decade ago because of consumer demand for products with less fat. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) observes federally-inspected facilities to ensure compliance with all regulations. While you’re probably familiar with various production methods. consumers dictate the actions of the beef production chain. sirloin and 95% lean ground beef. Fabrication When beef leaves the packing plant it is in large sections called primals or subprimals. it’s beneficial to think about beef choices from the consumers' perspective. Consumers may look to you to explain the key differences between the different choices of beef. most consumers tell us that taste is their highest priority. like organic or grass-fed beef. additional steps are taken to ensure safety and quality. and loin.Course 1: Modern Beef Production 1958 and updated in 1978 and 2002) dictates strict animal handling and slaughtering standards for packing plants. by determining what kinds of beef they will buy and at what price. eye of round and round tip. But that’s the subject for another course: beef nutrition. including some of our favorite cuts like tenderloin. This gives you an opportunity to emphasize that no matter what type of beef consumers choose. That’s why there are now 29 cuts of beef that meet government guidelines for lean. For instance. However. wholesome and nutritious. Supermarkets and restaurants Once beef reaches retailers and foodservice operators who sell beef products in supermarkets and restaurants. from pasture to plate. rib. top round. round. Ultimately. Subprimals are smaller cuts of meat such as the bottom round. they can be confident all beef choices are safe. 4 . let’s take a look at the choices of beef available to today’s consumer… Section Two: Beef Choices When it comes to beef. Primals include the chuck.

The cattle are fed a scientifically formulated ration of 70 percent to 90 percent concentrate. Grain-finished beef cattle spend most of their lives in range or pasture conditions eating grass. it is important for consumers to read labels carefully to understand what a particular company means when it says “natural.” Since the definition of “natural” production practices can vary. year-round supply of high quality beef with the tenderness and flavor most consumers prefer. By this definition. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Natural beef The definition of “natural” beef can confuse some consumers. high fiber co-products that result from processing grains for human use. This is the product most consumers see in the meat case at the supermarket. What would you want to know about the beef you buy in the store? What does natural mean? What’s the difference between natural and organic? Don’t all cattle eat grass? Grain-finished (conventional) beef Grain-finished. However. Common “natural” production claims include. 5 . This feeding period typically lasts between four and six months. That’s why most grass-finished beef is imported from Australia and New Zealand where grass grows all year. or they can be high energy. Concentrates may be grain such as corn or barley. natural means that a product is minimally processed and contains no additives. also known as conventional or grain-fed. “raised without hormones.” Grass-fed beef Consumers typically don't know that all cattle spend the majority of their lives eating grass in pastures. At 12 to 18 months of age. In North America it’s difficult to produce grass-fed beef in large due to limited growing seasons. Many companies are raising beef under “natural” production practices. Grain-finished beef assures a consistent. is the most widely produced kind of beef in the United States.” “free range” and “vegetarian fed. grain-finished cattle are moved to a feedlot where they receive a carefully balanced diet. grass-fed cattle (also known as grassfinished) eat only a grass and forage-based diet throughout their whole lifespan.” “raised without antibiotics. most beef in the meat case is natural.Course 1: Modern Beef Production So think about what’s on their minds.

so they are providing the most efficient treatment and getting the animal back to good health quickly. Organic food differs only in the way it is grown. Antibiotics. not how it's handled and processed. organic beef is more expensive to produce. wholesome and nutritious. When they need to they treat them with the correct type and amount of medication. but you can help consumers understand why and how beef producers use antibiotics and growth promotants to care for cattle. 6 . also known as antimicrobials. Advances in technology allow beef producers and veterinarians to treat and prevent illnesses more effectively than ever before. Section Three: Antibiotics and Growth Promotants You probably already know that the use of antibiotics and growth promotants are among the most controversial issues surrounding modern beef production. Like many organic products. Organically-raised cattle must be fed 100 percent organic feed. If consumers take away just one thing about beef choices. it should be that regardless of the type of beef they choose. there has been a lot of misinformation that has led to a great deal of consumer confusion on these very issues. Producers and veterinarians take great care to promptly diagnose illnesses in cattle. and they may not be given hormones to promote growth or antibiotics for any reason. they can be confident the beef they buy is safe. USDA states organically produced food is no safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced foods. Treating Sick Cattle with Antibiotics The primary day-to-day concern for all cattle producers is the health and wellbeing of their animals. Certified organic beef can be grain-fed or grass-finished. which results in higher prices than other beef choices in the meat case. Certified organic beef Certified organic beef must meet USDA’s National Organic Program standards. including marinades and shorter cooking times. Antibiotics made specifically for cattle are used to help an animal regain or maintain superior health and produce safe beef.Course 1: Modern Beef Production Grass-finished beef is often described as having a distinct taste and may require different preparation methods. are medications that fight bacterial infections. Unfortunately.

The hormones in growth promotants are metabolized or used by the animal’s body before it goes to harvest. They can also be administered through an animal’s feed. they generally work by discouraging protein depletion and encouraging protein synthesis in cattle so they can gain more lean muscle from less feed. Growth Promotants Lead to Leaner Beef America’s cattle producers have safely used growth promotants for nearly 60 years to produce the lean beef consumers demand while using fewer resources. growth promotants are required to go through a comprehensive. FSIS has conducted testing since 1967. These production technologies sometimes referred to as growth hormones or steroids. FDA has developed an approval process that stringently manages antibiotic use and specifically monitors for potential resistance. these products are then re-evaluated by FDA annually and only remain in the marketplace if they are still proven safe. and the most recent data show zero residue violations for growth promotants in cattle. In addition.S. which is placed under the skin on the back of an animal’s ear. The safety of growth promoting products used in cattle production is assured through several layers of requirements. like land and feed. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) tests beef for growth promotant residues at harvest to ensure compliance with FDAestablished safe levels. help cattle efficiently convert their feed into more pounds of lean muscle. If approved. Growth promotants typically are administered through a small pellet. The U. multi-step scientific review process to ensure animal health and food safety. Although these products vary in active ingredients and dose. More than 500 different studies have been conducted on growthpromoting products and submitted as part of this stringent approval process.Course 1: Modern Beef Production Antibiotics used in beef production must go through a rigorous testing process before being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to assure the safety of cattle as well as beef products entering the food supply. which are enforced by multiple government agencies. called an implant. This system helps protect human health while giving veterinarians and beef producers the tools needed to keep animals healthy. government mandates that no beef with antibiotic residues that exceed strict FDA standards be allowed in the food supply. Most growth promotants are used to supplement existing hormones or compensate for missing hormones in an animal’s body. 7 . First.

you can be confident all beef choices are safe. nutrition and safety. wholesome and nutritious beef at an affordable price for consumers around the world. Homework It’s now time to apply your general knowledge and what you learned in this course to complete a homework assignment. 8 . where they express their thoughts and opinions. it's beneficial for consumers to have a basic understanding of the different options available. shares the same popular characteristics that put it at the center of the dinner plate: taste. With so many new terms in the meat case. consumers today can choose from a wider selection of beef products than ever before. This is an effective method of helping to get the true story out about beef. You will see several comments from readers after the article. All U. As a reminder.S. We’re not asking you to actually post the comment – we’ll go into more detail about that in another course. The great news for consumers is that all U. please read the news article posted below. But consider your thoughts and opinions about what has been written and offer a concise response of no more than 50 words. wholesome and nutritious product tailored to the needs of consumers.S. consumers need to know: • • • • The modern beef production system provides a year-round supply of safe. Assignment: Practice being an advocate for Modern Beef Production First. beef comes from one of the 800. wholesome and nutritious.000 American producers whose livelihoods depend on producing a safe. Please draft a similar comment. No matter what type of beef you prefer. Beef producers at every level of the production process take seriously their responsibility to provide safe and wholesome food for America’s dinner tables. Thanks to the efforts of cattle farmers and ranchers. regardless of type or brand. beef.Course 1: Modern Beef Production Course Review: The Checkout Line The modern beef production system gives consumers a year-round supply of consistent. high-quality beef for consumers at every price point.

and the terms are widely misunderstood. and the kids didn't prefer one over the other? Maybe that's because they While the press release used the term grass-fed. one from a grass-fed animal." That's because all cattle eat grass. Premium "natural" meat brands such as California's Niman Ranch have been so successful that stores including Whole Foods Market.from an animal fattened up on grain. it also talked about how the cattle ate grain for part of their lives. beef sold. the other -..Course 1: Modern Beef Production What's your beef? Posted by Leslie Cole. The problem is this: Most labels are vague or oversimplified. Portland elementary and middle school students compared hamburgers made from grass-fed beef and grain-fed beef. But to call a steak "grass-fed" and comply with the American Grassfed Association and the USDA Agricultural 9 . School is in session. 2009 Grass fed? Grain finished? Organic? Free-range? How do you know. we might think we know. Does a muddle about a PR message really matter to anyone? Yes. The Oregonian. which started in 1986 with 14 eastern Oregon ranches and now encompasses more than 100 cattle ranching members as far away as New Mexico." says Gabrielle Homer. something didn't seem right: At a taste test conducted by Oregon State University. Plenty of consumers are looking for more healthful. responsibly raised beef and are willing to pay a premium for it. What? Two burgers. Restaurant menus and well-meaning butchers consistently make mistakes. but what? "I think it comes down to the consumer understanding what they're purchasing. Is it organic? Grassfed? And do any of these "green" terms really mean that the cow led a happy life frolicking in a local farmer's field? Thanks to confusing marketing terms. but very little is true "grass-fed beef. Trader Joe's and New Seasons now offer similar house brands.S.perhaps more familiar to most kids -. an executive for Painted Hills Natural Beef in Fossil.. indeed. including in Oregon. The confusion certainly isn't slowing the growth of this segment of the beef market -. as were the several news services that picked up the story and ran it without question. it's growing in volume and value by about 30 percent a year. but often we don't. February 17. 1 All beef is grass-fed. "We want them to get what they want. Witness Country Natural Beef (formerly known as Oregon Country Beef). because it's further evidence of the rampant confusion about so-called "green" food in the marketplace. which use the term "natural" on their labels . Seems the writer was a bit confused. LESSON NO. Hawaii and North Dakota.the brands touting "healthy practices" are booming these days. While "healthy" beef still is only about 3 percent of total U. implying something. but they may not be buying what they think they're buying. which doesn't help." So do we. at least for the first few months of life. And there was no clear winner. and what does it mean? When I read the press release.

and that it was minimally processed. producers say. where they're fattened up quickly on high-calorie grain. or grain-finished (translation: What did it eat during those final months of fattening)? LESSON NO. A nationwide standard is on the way: USDA just wrote rules. "natural" simply means the meat product contains no artificial ingredients. "Naturally raised. most U. "It's just not what people expect. the animal must only eat mother's milk. "It depends on the company what their definition of 'natural' is. spent time at dozens of feedlots around the nation. "Right now the majority of claims on naturally raised animal products are defined by the individual company. spokesman for the USDA's agricultural marketing service." LESSON NO. and USDA has the authority to audit the paperwork. Betty Fussell. One thing that lots of "green" beef eaters don't know is that most "naturally raised" animals spend three to six months in feedlots. outlining requirements for using the term "naturally raised. including Beef Northwest Feeders in Boardman.com) is dedicated to preaching truths about artisan beef and steering shoppers to top producers. Love the idea of cattle romping in open pastures and munching on special. head to a feedlot to eat grain for three to six months. mass-produced beef cattle leave the pasture by 6 months of age to live out their lives in a feed yard or feedlot. producers must raise animals without added hormones and most antibiotics. though they're not yet in effect. whose Oliver Ranch Web site (www." says Carrie Oliver. the picture is nuanced." Oliver says. worker-safety and animal welfare problems. In other words." Under most brands. grass or hay for its entire life. But exactly what it means depends on the brand. 2 Most grass-fed beef lives out its life on the range. it means no hormones given to animals. but at 14 months of age.S. But again. additive-free grains? "Natural" doesn't get you there. too." says Billy Cox. author of the new book "Raising Steaks" (see accompanying story)." on the other hand. "The thing people want when they get grass-fed beef is that bucolic cow on green grass. neither are 10 . indicates a set of practices ranchers and beef companies have followed with their beef cattle.Course 1: Modern Beef Production Marketing Service's official definition. So-called "naturally raised" beef is a hybrid: They spend more of their lives on the range. 3 "Natural" means nothing. so relatively few folks are doing it. That's confused a lot of people in the marketplace. On food packaging. By comparison. and concludes that those "in the right location and on the right scale can be run humanely and soundly. this allows for more-marbled meat. no antibiotics and an all-vegetarian diet. Oregon's midsize operations have more space per cow and better living conditions for animals than the industry norm. "(A feed yard) is not necessarily bad. which are thought by many to be a source of environmental. they. not grain). and feed 100 percent vegetarian rations (no animal proteins). If they are not an ideal way to fatten cows. This takes more time." To use the marketing claim.oliverranch. It's up to you to decide which you prefer. but here are three questions to ask if you want true grass-fed beef: Did the animal eat any grain? Was it 100 percent grass-fed? Was it grassfinished. Ranchers supply documentation and sign affidavits to become part of such groups as Country Natural Beef or Niman Ranch. but some goes to a feed yard (where it eats hay. and more land. the steak wasn't pumped up with a sodium solution to make it more tender.

"It's a heckuva lot more like wine. it's all about marbling (USDA grade) and yield. do some homework. Check out the Web sites. 5 Beef is like wine. it's in their best interest to pursue practices that keep animals and the land healthy. stress on animals. Beef producers can pay for certification with inspections by independent groups. 4 There are no." says Oliver. with uniform standards for producers and certifying agents verifying producers' claims. guarantees. in fact.Course 1: Modern Beef Production they in themselves the devil's work." 11 . a brand that works with about 10 Oregon and Washington ranches. let's not make assumptions about taste. or Humane Farm Animal Care." LESSON NO." Oliver suggests looking past vagaries on the label. regional differences and aging have much to do with taste. Finally. But guess what? Most "naturally raised" beef -. and they don't get credit for it. even if it means doing a little more work to find what you want. doing your homework and finding producers you can trust. "If it's been wellraised and aged well. The details matter. LESSON NO. who hosts blind tastings of artisan beef for groups around the country. or few.there's no requirement for third-party verification. "The truth is. we should explore them. such as the Portland-based Food Alliance. In the conventional cattle system. That doesn't mean ranchers are trying to break the rules. there's a lot of natural variety. "There are all these people who are trying to scratch out a living in central and eastern Oregon." producers only need submit adequate paperwork to make the claim -. Call and ask questions. "And I think that surprises people. diet." If you're skeptical. "There are other things that influence taste besides marbling. Now that we have more beef options. and all still good. which can be all over the spectrum. Despite the pending USDA regulation governing the term "naturally raised." says Brett Meisner.isn't certified by an outside party. but many opt not to because of the cost. Beef is much more complex than marbling. "They're doing great stuff." Oliver says. natural or organic. Proponents of organic food scored a huge victory when USDA's national organic program passed." Breed." Oliver says. which sells Cascade Natural Beef. One common misconception is that grass-finished beef is too lean to taste good. sales consultant with SP Provisions. full-flavored meat.the lion's share of the green market -. "If we can find a way to celebrate that. we'll be better off. Go to a farmers market and talk to a rancher. you can have absolutely delicious.

Angus or Angus-cross cattle. barley for 4 to 5 months before processing). Certified by Food Alliance. pasture-raised. Private label started by Portland meat distributor SP Provisions about five years ago. Strawberry Mountain Natural Beef: Founded in 2005 by John Day rancher Darrel Holliday. no antibiotics administered and 100 percent vegetarian feed. Naturally raised: Implies no hormones added to feed. check Consumer Reports' eco-labels center: www. independent third party that has standards for animal welfare. Angus or Angus-cross. No animal products in feed. Cooperative with around 100 members. no antibiotics or hormones given to animals. it's not just about food. grain-finished for 90-120 days. 12 . Beef comes from more than 20 ranches. To learn more about what's behind specific brands or certification programs. Cascade Natural Beef: Pasture-raised. aged 14 to 21 days. USDA Choice grade. Only animals born and raised on members' ranches are part of program.Course 1: Modern Beef Production What's in a name? Here's what Oregon's best-known naturally raised beef producers have to say: Country Natural Beef (formerly Oregon Country Beef): Pasture-raised. Owners of seven Wheeler County ranches manage program. where cattle spend up to a year on pasture before going to a feed yard to eat corn or another vegetarian ration for fattening and extra marbling. which some producers don't want to shoulder or pass on to customers.org/eco-labels Grass-fed: Though all cows eat grass for a portion of their lives. grain-finished: Common practice for "naturally raised" beef. alfalfa. Grass-fed. partly because of the shortage and expense of organic grain and the cost of certification.greenerchoices. sustainable farming and fair labor practices. grain-finished. You won't find much Certified Organic beef at the meat counter. who sign affidavits to participate in program. USDA grade high Select/low Choice. Angus or Angus-cross animals. USDA Choice beef. grain-finished (corn. sales associate Brett Meisner says. no antibiotics or hormones given to animals. it's a philosophy. and that cattle had access to pasture for a bigger portion of its life than commercial beef. No animal products in feed. Works with 10 Northwest ranches. which markets cattle from about 70 Oregon and Washington and Idaho ranches. Painted Hills Natural Beef: Pasture-raised. true grass-fed beef eats only grass or hay for the duration of its life. ownership maintained through processing. Small size of program allows for greater quality control. What do the labels mean? Here are commonly accepted definitions of terms found on meat labels. For ranchers who rear cattle on grass. Among the few programs that dry ages its beef. Ground meat products get more e-coli testing at plant than what USDA specifies. started in 1986 with 14 ranches in Oregon. wet aged at least 21 days. Asking for "grass-finished" or "all grass fed" is the best way to find this type of beef. Organic beef: Beef that grazes on pasture that's certified organic and eats only certified organic grains. encompassing range management and holistic raising of animals. grain-finished for 90 days.

Choice. and the enduring confusion about brands. Select the least. meat processors/packers)." meaning livestock spends many months on pasture. Now that "natural" beef is more widely available. such as Niman Ranch or Country Natural Beef. small ranches. The woman who describes herself as a "mad carnivore" spent months visiting stock shows and rodeos. Done by only a handful of producers and butchers. If this is your issue. you see lots of labels with different claims. grow? Can they become too large to be accountable for their practices and cattle? How to square the business model for growth with small and local and regional? That's a problem. talking with meat scientists and cattlemen (including Oregon's own Doc and Connie Hatfield. $26. Select: A measure of intramuscular fat or marbling. Author sees some 'good guys' in cattle industry Food writer Betty Fussell knows beef and all its contradictions. meaning the animal hasn't been given growth enhancers or antibiotics at any point in its life. Wet aged: Beef vacuum-packed in heavy plastic held at 34 to 38 degrees for seven to 28 days. because they're very responsible toward their animals and what they're doing. no added hormones: Antibiotics and growth hormones are feed additives in conventional beef operations. The result is "Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. No antibiotics. We recently spoke with Fussell by phone about the growth of the green movement in beef. and getting to know environmentalists and feedlot operators. science and politics of beef.Course 1: Modern Beef Production Free-range: A term usually applied to poultry. They were the opposite of the great big four (U. but flavor isn't as concentrated as with dry aging. from grass-fed to vegetarian-fed to sustainably raised. I think they're all good guys. How to choose? The problem is there are so many elements involved: Niman Ranch was never grass-finished. 13 . The corollary for cattle is "pasture-raised. USDA Prime. Dry aged: The traditional process of placing a whole carcass in a refrigerated room and allowing enzymes to break down muscle fibers and develop flavor. never" program. as opposed to conventional beef that spends much of its life in confined feeding operations. with Prime having the most. (Instead). Meat becomes more tender. they were concentrating on humane practices. Country Natural was never grass-finished. Some programs interpret "none" as nothing given 120 days before slaughter. an engaging read in which Fussell takes on the history. founders of Country Natural Beef). What happens when "natural" beef marketing cooperatives. Vegetarian diet: Feeding rations did not contain ground-up animal parts. small feedlots.S. 416 pages). labels and claims. ask producers if theirs is a "never.

14 .Course 1: Modern Beef Production More ranchers want to come in (under a "natural beef" label) because it's a good thing (for profits). no hormones. grass finished beef producer. like Harris Ranch. He's out of it.. There isn't to Michael Pollan (author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma") or Eric Schlosser (author of "Fast Food Nation"). Is there such a thing as a "good" feedlot? There is to me.000 or 200. You have to know more than that. Be skeptical. As a grassfed." or "pasture raised. When a meat package says things like "no antibiotics. it's very frustrating to see competitors jump on the bandwagon without doing the work to create quality. Bill Niman (founder of Niman Ranch) sold the brand last fall. etc." can I assume it to be true? You can't just trust the name.. talk to growers. I wrote a critique of this study a while back (www. Talk to me about feedlots or feed yards.eatwild.mossbackfarm. so why should we trust brands? The buyer needs to investigate. Spend time looking around. This is the way our publicity machinery has worked for a century. Talk to ranchers. This is not unusual. the family-owned companies where everything is local. It is the enormously big feedlots where you have 100. Farmers Markets are another great place to meet ranchers who sell naturally raised beef by the quarter or half. I'm not a purist on this. It's the whole package. She's looking for information on buying cooperatives. Then you have to supply your suppliers. So where's the control? It's hard to maintain. so it's nice to see you clarifying the issue. family-owned. What's the greenest beef of all? The green-minded shopper should look for beef that's grass-finished and humanely cared for. Then they really have to keep expanding. The name is the brand. bulk purchasing from small ranches. Go to your local farmers market. READER COMMENTS (7) Post a comment Posted by lcole on 02/17/09 at 11:49AM Where to buy natural beef for less? Janet e-mailed me today asking where she can find naturally raised beef at lower prices than what supermarkets charge.com/2009/01/flawed-grassfed-beef-study). that's not good for anyone. Any other ideas to share? Posted by mossbackfarm on 02/17/09 at 12:29PM Thanks for this article. Then someone like Whole Foods gets interested. where cattle go to be fattened up before slaughter. well-managed. I've seen some small-scale feedlots where things are being done well.com can lead you to grass-fed producers in the region who sell direct and in bulk. There are a whole lot of (beef producers) that grew up kind of naturally. Here's my two cents: www. Try to find out for yourself. Look at the Internet.000 head . See who you like. I hate the big generalizations.

grass finished beef producer.com or email us as wistfulmistfarm@yahoo. and inevitably they're the ones who run out early and wish they would have bought more :). grass. Posted by wistfulmist on 02/19/09 at 3:04PM Our small farm is another local business specializing in grass fed and grass-finished beef.mossbackfarm. Ursula McVittie Nicky USA. If you're interested in purchasing a better-tasting beef that's been raised locally on mother's milk.mossbackfarm. Rich Mossback Farm LLC Yamhill.mossbackfarm. educational pieces such as this are crucial. Rich Mossback Farm LLC Yamhill. We sell beef by the quarter. As a grassfed. Cheers. 15 . I also wanted to mention that the "What's in a name?" portion of the article neglected to mention that Strawberry Mountain Natural Beef cattle receive no hormones.com Posted by mossbackfarm on 02/17/09 at 12:32PM Thanks for this article. it's very frustrating to see competitors jump on the bandwagon without doing the work to create quality.com/2009/01/flawed-grassfed-beef-study). The small farms can't compete with the large advertising budgets of the larger farms and/or those that sell through commercial retailers. I wrote a critique of this study a while back (www. Cheers. check out our website at wistfulmistfarm.com. Until USDA regulations catch up and truly inform the consumer. Inc. no antibiotics and are fed no animal byproducts. so it's nice to see you clarifying the issue.com Posted by umcvittie on 02/18/09 at 10:34AM I was very glad to see this topic featured in FOODday. I work in the industry and often must wrangle with just these questions. We have a great product but it's not always easy to find customers because we operate mostly via word-of-mouth. and while it can seem like a lot of meat. some of our customers with smaller families go in with neighbors.Course 1: Modern Beef Production We sell beef by the quarter. some of our customers with smaller families go in with neighbors. OR www. and while it can seem like a lot of meat. OR www. and inevitably they're the ones who run out early and wish they would have bought more :). or hay.

How can soy be put up as an alternative when it is GMO. Crude protein is just a measure of nitrogen. Grassfed flies in the face of all that. Anti-livestock tactics are getting pretty brazen.this is called "herd effect" and "mob grazing" in modern grassfeeding parlance . more pesticides. more soil-killing chemical fertilizers.it has nothing to do with some horrific "carbon footprint. When the animal is a healthy. that if 6 million acres of corn . cycling of nutrients is done by the correct management of the animals and only a smattering of minerals should be called for to replace what the grass and animals take out. blasted with insecticides and herbicides. More GMO. Enough it has been said.which is what protein is . releasing CO2 into the atmosphere and killing soil life? Agricultural practices such as growing soybeans are responsible for sapping the soil of minerals required to build complete nutrition for humans.the animal needs. as in factory farming.Course 1: Modern Beef Production Posted by blackbelly73 on 02/20/09 at 2:34PM The Science News article suggesting that all meat eating should be eliminated in favor of all soy was a really upsetting article. In a healthy pasture. in a healthy pasture. Grassfed is just bad for Big Ag . If anyone is interested.was returned to managed grazing. and requires the soil to be plowed and plowed and plowed. I have sent her my contact information.was responsible for building the vast fertile plains in the days of the bison herds. we wouldn't have a CO2 problem anymore. please contact Leslie." If you want carbon foot print. Soil biota can completely "disappear" a cow pat in three days.or shall we say soy . there is no need for any pharmaceuticals.those that exist in the right climates. There are similar efforts across the country that deal with most goods produced on the land where a group gets together to market their own product rather than rely on the general markets. Trampling is not understood by science writers that don't know how to manage it for good ecological effect. Lack of herd effect is largely responsible for the desertification of much of the planet's vital grass lands. Somebody doesn't necessarily want us eating less beef . more herbicides. 16 . More than trees. When were soybeans exempted from the use of fertilizers? In the best grassfed operations . The government can prescribe how much "Crude Protein" is required in an animal's diet. Manure. is only a toxic waste substance when it's mismanaged. well managed grassfed animal.in canned tuna!!! Barb Lee Posted by woodtick6 on 02/20/09 at 8:24PM I have helped set up landowner cooperatives to assist with the sale of farm produce from a group of landowners. for instance. on the right soils. but doesn't know how much of each amino acid .they want us eating more soybeans. Then make a tuna salad from any commercial brand . Soy . sequester vast amounts of CO2. "Trampling" .they all now contain soy and pyrophosphate. ship iceberg lettuce in plastic baggies from Salinas to New York city. whatever that is. it is returned to the earth to feed the soil biota that feed the grass plants which unplowed.

Operators monitor the animals’ health and well-being d. Producing safe. Large feedlots have environmental engineers 17 . 800. which of the following is NOT true? a. 200.000 d. 100 head of cattle d. With regard to feedlots. The one thing I want consumers to know about modern beef production is… 3. herd? a. Lean. A and C 2. organic. 1. What is the typical size of a U. wholesome and nutritious beef is important to me and my family because… 4. Safe. Natural. I am proud to be a beef producer because… 2. Animals have access to water only twice a day when fed e.Course 1: Modern Beef Production Sharing Your Story: What I want consumers to know… Please complete the following sentences in your own words.000 c. red. _________ and _______ beef at an affordable price for consumers around the world. 100. 250 head of cattle 5. well-marbled d. 40 head of cattle b. True False 4.000 3. 20.000 b.S. nutritious c. Roughly how many beef producers are working in American today? a. grass-fed b. Cattle are fed a scientifically formulated ration c. Providing consumers a variety of beef choices is important because… Modern Beef Production Quiz 1. wholesome. True or false? Cattle and beef production represents the largest single segment of American agriculture. 75 head of cattle c. Each animal has 125-250 square feet b. Select the BEST answer: The modern beef production system provides a year-round supply of __________. a.

Organically raised cattle may not be given antibiotics d.Course 1: Modern Beef Production 6. Which of the following beef choices is the safest and most nutritious? a. Organically raised cattle may not be given hormones to promote growth c. Less lean 8. True or false? Growth promotants and antibiotics pass through the animal’s system prior to harvest. Nutritional profile and value c. Grain-fed b. but may be provided certain vitamin and mineral supplements b. Natural/branded e. Country of origin d. How do beef choices differ from each other? a. All of the above 9. About the same c. Certified organic d. Which of the following is NOT a USDA standard of certified organic beef? a. How the beef was raised 7. Organically raise cattle may not have grain in their diet 10. Grass-finished c. Safety of the product b. True False 18 . How does the fat content of beef differ from 10 years ago? a. Organically raised cattle must be fed 100 percent organic feed. Leaner b.

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