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Organic, Natural or Grass-Fed: what’s the difference?

When it comes to choosing meat for your family, you usually want the best you can get at the price you can afford. But, what do those labels really mean? Let’s explore…

Organic – Organically raised livestock must be in compliance with the National Organic program rules beginning in the last 1/3 of gestation .They must be fed only organic feed and allowed to graze only organically-managed pastures. They are not to be given hormones or any other growth-promoting agents and only allowed to be administered vaccines when they are not sick. Additionally, they must be allowed access to the outdoors. All of these regulations are certified by agencies accredited through the USDA. In order to place the organic sticker on the label of a product, it must be made with 95% or greater organic ingredients. Typically, meat labeled “organic” is much more expensive because its more expensive to produce.

Natural – A lot of people think that natural and organic and natural are the same…they’re not. Natural labeled products must be…a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that he product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients or minimally processed”.)

So, natural is fairly open-ended, usually accompanying a claim like “no antibiotics added or maybe grass-fed.” Keep in mind, if the label doesn’t say “grass fed” or “no antibiotics”, chances are they’re not.

Grass-Fed – Most cattle producers feed their cattle grain for the last 3-4 months of their life. This is an efficient way to fatten the cattle to the point where consumers like to eat beef. Grass-fed beef is usually leaner and with a stronger flavor than grain-fed beef. Grass-feeding take longer to get the cattle large enough to slaughter, producing not as much meat, resulting in higher cost.

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