Today’s consumers are met with more choices and resources regarding the products they consume than in the past. With a wealth of information at our fingertips, we are better educated and as a result, we are more conscientious about our health.
However, the sheer volume of articles written about organic food, genetically modified foods, etc. can leave many of us overwhelmed.
In this article, we will provide you, the consumer, with all the facts to determine for yourself whether or not “Organic Beef” is really a thing and if so, is it any better than traditionally raised beef?
What Does “Organic Beef” Even Mean?
First of all, farmers raising organic livestock must meet specific guidelines and pass an inspection by a USDA certified agent. These guidelines require that the animals have better living conditions than that of traditional farming standards.
In fact, the cattle must have year-round access to the outdoors. This relieves the animals from added stress and disease that are common amongst animals raised in cramped cages.
Another advantage to raising livestock to meet organic requirements is that the livestock is provided with feed that is 100% organic. This way the animal is sure to not be ingesting contaminants.
Even the land they are raised on has to be certified as organic.
Similarly, animals that are to be certified organic can not be treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. The USDA provides farmers with a list of approved drugs that have been proven safe and practice a no tolerance policy where unapproved drugs have been utilized.
This means that if an animal falls ill and must be treated with antibiotics, for instance, after treatment with an unapproved drug the animal can no longer be sold as organic.
What About “Grass-fed Beef”?
The AGA (American Grass-fed Association) outlines four major areas of production to meet the requirements.
- First, is that of diet, all animals to be considered “grass-fed” are fed only grass and must forage for their food from the time they wean off their mother to the time of slaughter.
- Second, is about confinement, all grass-fed livestock are raised solely on pasture. These animals never see feedlot cages.
- Third, is an issue of hormones and antibiotics. All cattle to be certified as grass-fed can never be treated with such drugs.
- Fourth, all animals must be born and raised on American farms.
What Are The Health Benefits of Eating Either Grass-fed Or Organic Beef?
Consumers can rest assured that when they are eating either grass-fed or organic beef, they do not have to worry about ingesting any added hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, etc.
However, there is a difference in nutritional value between the two. Organically raised beef is not solely fed grass. At some point, these animals are fed grains too such as corn.
The problem with feeding large amounts of grain to the cattle is that they fatten up more than grass-fed. This generally means that these grain-fed cows produce a meat that is higher in fat content and not the good kind.
On the other hand, grass-fed beef is never fed grain. This diet made up solely of grass means that the meat these animals produce has a lower percentage of bad fats and a higher percentage of good fat.
In fact, grass-fed beef has more omega-3 fatty acids and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). CLA, in particular, has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Also, grass-fed beef is also said to contain more antioxidants and vitamin D.
What’s The Problem With Using Antibiotics On Livestock?
The chief concern with the excessive use of antibiotics on animals meant for meat production is that the idea that these drugs are passed on to the consumer via consumption. One of the big questions here is whether or not this could be contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs and the overall decreased effectiveness of life-saving antibiotics.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Truthfully there is still a lot of research to be done to determine the absolute validity of organic livestock farming. However, you can see from the data currently available there are some real benefits to the practices. Even without hard empirical evidence, one might conclude that simply reducing the number of synthetic drugs and chemicals being introduced into the environment is a step in the right direction.