Supermarket Ground Beef may not be all that it’s cracked up to be..
Chances are, if you are looking farther than your pocketbook, you might be slightly concerned with buying meat in store. Although not everyone is, some of you out there are.. and that’s understandable. We’re all about saving money too, but not at the expense of our health I guess you could say.
Sometimes that “natural” beef you find marked as such in the supermarket isn’t really as natural as you think it is ;)
Here are the Labels you might see the MOST often in your grocery store.
100% USDA Organic: Antibiotics haven’t been used at any stage of the production of the meat. The animals’ organic feed cannot contain animal by-products, antibiotics or genetically engineered grains and cannot be grown using persistent pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
Grass Fed: Combined with 100% USDA Organic Label means that no antibiotics have been used. But if the Grass Fed Label has been appears alone, then antibiotics may have been used.
Antibiotic Free, No Antibiotic Residues or No Antibiotic Growth Promotants: Not approved by the FDA. Misleading.
Natural or All Natural: NO Meaning. Natural or All Natural can receive antibiotics, genetically engineered grains and can be raised in CAFO’s.
Buying your Meat directly from a farmer is not only more satisfying, it gives you the chance to meet the person who raised the animal – it gives you the chance to ask questions on the meat you will be ingesting. Not only that, it gives YOU control of your food at a price that might just be more favorable than the supermarket.
We recently mentioned How you can Buy your Meat from a Farmer on our last post. If you haven’t give it too much thought, now is the time to think about it – many farmers are in that time of the year where they are signing up customers or looking for customers who want to investigate farm-direct purchasing of meat.
(Obviously Zaycon is a “skip the supermarket” option too, but we don’t consider Zaycon a farm-direct purchase. Do you know where those cows are being raised? I don’t either. It might be in bulk but it doesn’t necessarily mean the quality is better.)
If you are looking for a way to avoid that beef at the supermarket and pick up something with better quality.. here are some reasons to buy a half cow this year.
Skip those Confusing Labels you See in Store
MOST meat in the United States is raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) – it’s a confined operation, that is controlled by climate, and is the cheapest way to raise meat for profit. Food production allows CAFO’s to produce MORE for less, through low profit-margin production, processing and distribution. Our government subsidizes these operations, which often involve large feedlots of animals crammed into smaller spaces.
Grain-fed cows eat a diet in grain, corn, molasses, cottonseed and protein supplements. Remember though that unless the grain is organic, it’s likely GMO Corn and Soy Grain that they are eating (which is not really great for the consumer but cheap for the farm or CAFO).
Cows that are Grass-fed eat nothing but their mother’s milk and pasture – the American Grassfed Association certification does not allow for ANY hormones or Antibiotics to be administered (unlike CAFO’s – where they are heavily relied on).
Beef labeled all natural does not mean that they are pasture raised – it merely means that growth hormones and antibiotics were used. Those are eventually passed on to you when you eat the meat.
Buying direct will ensure you know how the animals were raised, therefore allowing you to know exactly what you are eating.
Buying from a Farmer is Easy
See our last post to learn how YOU can buy from your local farmer – it’s actually much easier than you might think. You might also be able to find a farmer at your local Farmer’s Market (as many will often set up there as a meat vendor).
Ask questions.. find out how they raise their cattle, and what they feed their animals – that farmer might even offer a CSA if they partner with other farms for eggs, cheese, and produce.
Buying from a Farmer is Cost Effective
If you buy Grass-fed or Organic Ground Beef at the store, it’s usually pretty expensive – as much as $7.49 per pound when on sale. But if you buy in bulk from a farmer you will typically pay a little less.
Farm Ranchers sell whole animals by the hang weight AFTER they are slaughtered. They then charge an additional cost per pound for processing the animal. You’ll want to find out if the cost that the farmer is advertising includes the weight of the meat AFTER processing or, if there are any extra charges.
If you are going to join a CSA (if that is offered), sometimes there is an up front cost/commitment for a season or a period of time. Some farmers who are not involved in a CSA will be able to tell you the price up front and require a small percentage before you make the commitment for 1/2 cow.
Grass-fed Beef is Better AND Better for You
We mentioned why it’s much better on our last post HERE – while eating too much beef may not be the best health choice, in moderation, grass-fed beef is much better for you than the store supermarket beef.
Grass-fed beef is free of hormones, free of antibiotics, and high in health enhancing fats (Omega 3, Omega 6 and Vitamin E, C & more). Because the cows are not pent up in Confined Operations, they are not as stressed – as a result the meat is more tender, fresher – and the reasons behind that you can read about HERE.
Not only is it better for you, it’s just better in general – since grazing cattle get exercise and aren’t fattened with grain/corn, their meat is lower in fat and has less marbling – the meat tends to have more flavor, too.
You can Pick your Own Cuts
Farm Ranchers offer several cutting options – so make sure you let them know what your family likes to eat through the year, what works for you and what time you have to cook up the beef. He/she may recommend several options that work best for you depending on your lifestyle/cooking method.
Supporting a Local Farmer
Lastly, and probably one of the most gratifying reasons to buy your meat from a Farmer is that you are supporting them – most of these Farmers that raise beef to sell directly to people have a vested interest in the quality OF the beef, not to mention their relationship with you, and their relationship with the cattle they raise.
San Rafael Valley Grass Fed Beef down in Sierra Vista/Hereford recently made this statement that I found to be more than true:
It’s more important than ever that you know your rancher. As people learn about the health benefits of grass fed beef there are those who will use it as an opportunity to sell a less than hundred percent grass fed product to the public who are none the wiser… it’s too easy to just write “grass-fed” on your label.
Legitimately all cattle are grass fed up to a certain point ….before they’re hauled off to a feedlot…. or put on man-made permanent pasture with chemical pesticides and fertilizers…..or fed grain to get them big quickly and grass-finish for 30 to 90 days.
There are people at the farmer’s market buying meat from processors and they don’t even know where it’s coming from.
The “Powers that be” have just reduced the label criterion and restrictions for the grassfed designation and don’t even have to give you a country of origin…
For those of us raising cattle on grass from birth to harvest we know we’re offering truly 100% grass fed animals…. And we want you to know it too.
Know your rancher and ask lots of questions… Ask where the babies were born and where they were raised. For most of Arizona there is grass for two or three months, after that the animals have to be fed something.