Sunday, March 7, 2010

Beef Choices

In an effort to educate cattle producers across the nation, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) started a program called the Master’s of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program. Upon acceptance into the program you work through six courses that will not only educate you on modern beef production, but also better equip you to communicate the correct message when talking with consumers and adversaries. I have been enrolled in the program for about six months now and have completed a whopping 6% of my coursework!! Yay me. Real productive, I know. Anyway, in an effort to better retain the information I am learning about, I will be reporting to you! Aren’t you excited??? I’ll be your tour guide on this venture through the land of lean beef.

There are four choices consumers have today when it comes to method of beef production that affect the steak they can purchase at the store. There are many misconceptions and misuses of buzz words such as organic, natural and grass fed. In an effort to clear up some of the haze, please note the following clarifications.

1. Grain Finished Beef – these cattle on raised eating grass for most of their life; when they are about a year old they are placed on a ration of 70-90% concentrates (i.e. cereal grains) for anywhere for four to six months. The majority of beef in the US is grain finished.

2. Natural Beef – the USDA defines natural as “minimally processed and no additives.” By this definition most meat at your grocer is natural. Due to the loose definition of natural, there are many false claims surrounding this word. Naturally produced does not imply anything about growth hormones or antibiotic use.

3. Grass-fed Beef – most cattle spend the majority of their life eating grass; these cattle are finished on a forage based diet. Due to the need for grass consumption, most grass fed beef is imported from Australia where grass grows year round. Most consumers find that this type of beef has a distinct taste, much different than grain finished beef.

4. Certified Organic Beef – the USDA defined organic as beef cattle finished on a 100% organic feed, with no hormones and no antibiotics. Organic beef can be grain fed or grass fed. It is no safer or nutritious than any other type of beef; the only difference lies in the production method.

Today’s Take Home Message
Regardless of production method, American beef can meet the consumers’ demand for taste, nutrition and safety. Grocery stores offer a wider selection of beef products than ever before.

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