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A trip through the grocery store can be so confusing! So many labels anymore, on everything, but what do those labels really mean? Is the product really better or safer if it has a particular label? The next few weeks I’m going to go over the different labels found in the store and break them down for you.
Keep in mind any extra label requires extra documentation. This translates into an increased cost for the consumer. I highly recommend finding a local producer for whatever you wish to buy and ask questions. Find one that aligns with your values and purchase directly from them if possible. First up, Meat.
Grass-fed – This is primarily a beef or lamb label. It means the animal has not been fed grain or grain byproducts and had continuous access to pasture during growing season. They are permitted to consume hay during the months grass is not growing (winter). This label is a challenge for many producers as the amount of grass (and land) required to raise such an animal is high. Is it more nutritious than grain finished? Debatable, that discussion is for another time. The fatty acid profile of the meat is changed, which does give the meat a different flavor.
Natural – This label means the food product is minimally processed, and contains no preservatives, or artificial ingredients. Most meats are sold this way, whether the label says it or not. It is mostly a marketing tool. As always you can read the labels to tell for sure if anything is added to the meat.
No Antibiotics – This label requires extra documentation that the animal has never been given antibiotics, ever. If an animal gets sick and needs antibiotics, they are kicked off the program. Again, this label you will pay a premium for, because many producers are not willing to do the extra paperwork and keeping all calves 100% healthy is difficult (kind of like keeping kids healthy).
No Hormones or No Hormones Added – This label means the animal has not been given growth hormones (implants) and the producer must submit the extra paperwork. All meat has hormones naturally. Some producers give an implant to help promote more muscle growth. Are there differences in the end product? Some, but it is a very small amount. Again, a discussion for another time.
Organic – Means no growth hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified (GM) crops, or animal by-products were fed ever. So basically, the No Antibiotic label + the No Hormones Added label + only non-GM feeds. These are most likely your highest priced meats in the store. Why? Sourcing and cost of the feed is expensive. Plus, the documentation required to sell the animals as such. Many producers are not willing to do the extra paperwork, for such a small increase in profit.
Again, if you really want to know about your meat, find a producer that matches your values and buy directly from them. Many producers are doing direct sales now and can be found online. Our family has started selling both locally and online. You can find our farm at www.76cattlecompany.com
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