What is 100% Grass-fed Beef?
Wisconsin Meadows beef is “100% grass-fed” which also means 100% grass-finished. The cattle on our cooperative farms are fed only grass and other pasture plants like clover (or stored forages like hay) for their entire lifetime. Some brands who use the term “grass-fed” may be grass-fed in the beginning of the animals’ lives, but perhaps not towards the end, when some farms finish their animals with corn or other grains to fatten up before sending them to be processed. Our members work hard to maintain high-quality pastures to be able to fatten and finish on forages alone.
What about Pastured or Pasture-raised Beef?
This term has no official standards, but is usually indicating where the cattle are kept, not necessarily how much of their diet is from green, growing plants. It may not have the health benefits you are seeking from 100% grass-fed AND 100% grass-finished.
As part of our raising protocol our animals have access to pasture and the outdoors at all times. They must also be moved regularly to fresh paddocks, and have enough forage to meet their nutritional needs.
What is Natural and Certified Organic Beef?
The claim “Natural” has been over-used in recently years and can mean many things. The term, as used by farmers at your local farmer’s market, implies that their produce or meat is grown or raised without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, or sub-therapeutic antibiotics. Many small farmers who have not gone through the certification process required by the USDA to be “certified organic” but still follow the practices of organic farming, use the term “natural” to describe their farming practices. However, many large food producers have begun to use the term “natural” loosely, and therefore, its significance has become less meaningful.
The USDA defines NATURAL: as “a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.” Minimal processing means that the 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; minimally processed”).
“Certified Organic” is an official designation for farms that have been certified by the USDA. All products sold as “organic” must be certified which includes annual submission of an organic system plan and inspection of farm fields and processing facilities. Inspectors verify that organic practices such as long-term soil management, buffering between organic farms and neighboring conventional farms, and record keeping are being followed. Certified organic requires the rejection of synthetic agrochemicals, irradiation and genetically engineered foods or ingredients. For more, see the USDA National Organic Program, which accredits organic certifying agencies, and oversees the regulatory process. www.ams.usda.gov/nop.
Neither “natural” nor “certified organic” dictates whether the animal was pasture-raised, grass-fed, or 100% grass fed – nor does it mean humane treatment! While many practices overlap between organic and grass-fed its best to know what each label means so you know what you are buying. You can examine the Wisconsin Meadows beef or pork protocol here. All our meats come from our member farms who sign an affidavit that their animals have been raised to these standards. Plus, you know our meats are local and the co-op is farmer-owned!