Today we got a call from a customer who noticed a well known organic free range beef supplier is now claiming to sell grass fed beef with some minor grain feeding. This “grass fed beef” was being featured in a large health food grocery store chain.
Curious to learn what practices they had changed for this new offering of “grass fed beef”, we decided to take a visit to their website. It was an eye opening experience in marketing double talk.
First we learned that this company has two corporate entities . . . one for a “natural beef” and one “certified organic.” They started out a totally organic company and the public perceives them as an organic company . . . now they have two different products which are easily confused especially in a fresh meat counter.
How do you recognize their certified organic beef vs. their “natural” beef? A slight change in color of their standard label and the words “certified organic” on the label. A huge distinction which goes unnoticed by the average consumer.
Guess who certifies their organically certified beef? Their own “natural beef” company. How convenient when one corporation they own says they are certified by a completely separate corporate entity.
What are the standards for their certified organic beef? Their website states that they have grown so large that they have to buy beef from hundreds of other ranches. They try their best to find certified organic suppliers but their demand can’t always be supplied from certified organic sources so they have a standard protocol for raising beef. Maybe we are being too skeptical but we find it hard to believe that these hundreds of ranches are totally honest about their practices when large sums of money are involved.
So these cattle that are roaming “free range” and “grass fed” at one time in their life are according to their website finished in feedlots. In feedlots their certified organic cows are fed ONLY certified organic feeds “subject to availability.” What does “subject to availability” mean . . . 1%, 5%, 20% or 99.9% of the time? The answer is left up to our imagination.
No wonder the USDA is trying to establish true organic certification standards. With corporations certifying their own beef and allowing even their own standards to be broken at their convenience . . . their organic standard doesn’t mean much.
As far as their “grass fed beef”, it is our contention that beef fed grain in a feedlot is not grass fed beef by any stretch of the imagination. Grain feeding in feedlots quickly destroys the health benefits of grass fed beef but quickly brings cattle to market weight . . . that is the very reason feedlots are used.
Proper finishing is one of the most important elements of bringing healthy grass fed beef to market. Finishing in a feedlot turns any “grass fed” cow OR “free range” cow into a feedlot cow. Well over 90% of the beef in the United States is feedlot beef and almost 100% of our nations’ cows were raised on the range or in pastures at some point in their life.
We feel so strongly about finishing our cows properly that at American Grass Fed Beef, we even go to the extreme of providing special lush finishing pastures to bring our cattle to their peak health and consistent quality. This extra step in finishing sets us apart from the majority of grass farms and miles apart from feedlot finished cows.
As “grass fed beef” gains popularity, you will see more large corporations jumping on the bandwagon and playing these word games. This company is not the first nor the last to claim that they sell “grass fed beef.” One blade of grass fed to a cow would qualify as “grass fed beef” to some corporations.
This company’s website reminds us of the commercial where two scientists study a credit card agreement under their microscope and are appalled by the charges. In the beef industry, beware . . . the fine print can be hazardous to your health.
Mark Whisnant &
Dr. Patricia Whisnant
Grass Farmers & Veterinarian
P.S. Click here to read Does Your Grass Fed Beef Pass the Test? Our test will help you determine if your grass fed beef contains the documented benefits of grass fed beef or if your supplier is just playing word games with their customers.