Decoding Supermarket Beef Labels

ku-mediumEveryone would love to have a beef dish for dinner particularly the roasted one. Aside from its taste that keeps it special, we might as well want to consider its quality. One thing a consumer would want to look into in buying beef is—if it is being nurtured naturally. This is the reason that most beef lovers would directly purchase wholesale beef in the native rancher. In this way, they can see how it is taken care of and its feeding as well. How about those who want to buy retail, say a kilo of beef? How can they be sure of its safety to their health? This is the very task of the label that can be seen in its packaging. Of course it will not end there as many of the consumers are not familiar with the terms used in the label. It depends on how you decode the labels in the beef packaging. Some will be confused of its meaning due to unclear definitions. Obviously, companies want to sell their products; therefore, positive characteristics are the only thing shown in the label. As we all know, the beef that is very healthy to eat are those without antibiotics and growth hormones. Just expect that these characteristics that you are looking for a beef is in every label of any brand. What you must notice is the symbols that are added to the label for example the asterisks. For you to be guided in choosing beef in the supermarket here are some details for effective decoding of the labels.

There are 5 classifications that were studied from 6 different certifications by the label decoder.

The first one is the allowable nourishment. Cattles are born in wide grassland. They spend most of their life in a clean environment. As they get older, they are transferred to a place called CAFO-Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation wherein they will be in a diet to add weight or fattened up. This thorough diet will somehow lead to complications on the cattles health as they will be fed atypical intake such as corn, grains and silage. That is somehow far from the food they have in the grasslands which is the grasses around them. This process will somehow have an effect on their meat because their nutritional profile is modified.

The second classification is the access to grassland. There are labels which don’t indicate clear meaning to “access”. Sometimes, an animal which has little exposure to the grassland and the animal that stays at his stall all the time has the same tag as “access to grassland”. Better choose the brand which has clear meaning to “access to grassland”.

The third classification is the antibiotics. Normally, cattle are served with stream of antibiotics gradually even when in healthy condition. The purpose of this is to strengthen antibiotic which is resistant to bacteria. The distinction in terms of labelling is that some producers still serve antibiotic to ill cattle while others with treated animals are strictly cancelled from the certification program.

beef-decoderThe fourth classification is the growth hormones. Around 66% of the cattle coming from the U.S. are treated with growth hormones. This not only affects the meat product but as well as the environment through contamination of waterways and others.

Animal welfare is another classification. There are labels which have indefinite standards concerning animal welfare and others possess the opposite, which has strict standards.

The certification labels that were studied are USDA Certified Organic- which signifies that the cattle are fed 100% organic grass, corn and grain. They require access to grassland, but have not defined clearly. Ill animals treated with antibiotics are cancelled from the program. Growth hormones are forbidden and animal welfare criteria is unclear. American Grassfed Association complies with each classification strictly except to one which is unclear—the animal welfare criteria. USDA Certified Grassfed on the other hand, is somehow lenient as they allow growth hormones and antibiotics.

The other classifications are more or less unclear. Certified Humane

Raised & Handled are concerned with the animal welfare. They don’t allow growth hormones and only those ill animals are given antibiotics. Access to grassland is not obligatory. Food Alliance Certified permitted grass, corn and grain as food. Antibiotics only given to the ill animals and growth hormones are not allowed. They are also concerned with the animal welfare. Animal Welfare Approved pretty much advocate natural growth for cattle as they don’t allow growth hormones and only gives antibiotic to sick animals. Access to grassland is obligatory and animal welfare is monitored. Grass, corn and grain are allowable.

The above classification and certification will certainly be your guide in choosing a good healthy beef for your stake. Appreciations to the National Geographic’s Green Guide for having this study as substantial as it is.