The holidays are here, and we want to help you find the best flavors for your table. Beef is often the centerpiece for a delicious holiday feast, so we’ve created this guide to help you understand the different beef labels you might find in-store and online.
Want to know what beef tasted like 70 years ago? Consider trying grass-fed beef. Today, most cows are fed a combination of grain and grass, but pasture-grazed cows are raised in their most natural environment with year-round access to grass for food and freedom to roam, just like the old days.
Is one better than the other?
The nutritional differences in beef depend on many factors, including the amount of exercise the cow gets and the nutrient density of its diet. Cows that move around more tend to be leaner. But is dry, nutrient-depleted grass-fed beef better than beef from cows fed a quality, nutrient-rich blend of grains and grass? The truth is, it can be hard to tell and depends on many factors.
In addition, finding truly grass-fed beef can be tricky. Because the USDA no longer provides a grass-fed label claim, it is up to farmers to create their own standards for grass-fed beef.
If you are interested in trying grass-fed beef for yourself, look for year-round pasture-raised, 100% grass-fed or the American Grassfed Association label as a start.
Antibiotics are used with cows to both prevent and treat common illnesses, and occasionally they are used to promote a leaner beef product. But what does that have to do with your burger?
Well, the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in meat is troubling because it can reduce the effectiveness of important medications on humans that eat the meat. The FDA is working with the industry to reduce these complications and recommends a reduction in certain antibiotic usage with livestock.
If you’re concerned about the use of antibiotics in animals, look for beef labeled “no antibiotics added” or “raised without the use of antibiotics.” This label is used when ranchers can prove that the animals were not given antibiotics for growth-promoting benefits or to prevent common diseases affecting cows raised in feedlots.
When you buy organic beef, you are also buying beef fed a diet free-from GMOs, hormones, and antibiotics. And although organic does not indicate grass-fed, beef labeled as such must meet many animal welfare guidelines. Organic livestock must be raised with year-round access to the outdoors – except during bad weather – and provided shelter from the hot sun or cold with fresh air, clean drinking water, and space for exercise.
If buying meat that came from animals who were raised according to their natural lifestyle and with their optimal health in mind is important to you, consider buying more organic beef.
Buying beef raised by local ranchers can be a sustainable and affordable option due to reduced fuel and travel time. Buying local also ensures you are supporting community businesses and the local economy. In addition, when your food is produced nearby, the distribution costs are typically translated into a cheaper product for you! If supporting local ranchers and environmental sustainability is important to you, opt to shop for more locally-raised beef.
Want to learn all about chicken? Read our chicken buying guide now!