Discerning consumers looking for alternatives to conventional commercially raised beef have two options; organic or natural meat.
Unlike producers of natural meat products, which use minimal processing and must keep their products free of preservatives and additives, organic producers must be certified annually for compliance with organic standards to raise, feed and process their livestock.
Organically raised cattle must be tracked from birth to consumption and organic regulations, implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2002, ban antibiotics, growth hormones, steroids and animal bi-products from use in cattle feed. In addition, certified organic cattle are raised on land that remains in its natural state without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers and have unrestricted outdoor access, receive humane treatment and are not raised in a feedlot.
All Natural Beef
The USDA’s definition of the word “natural” must appear in some form on the packaging of products making this claim. It is as follows:
“Minimally processed. No artificial ingredients. USDA permits no preservatives in this product.”
Additionally, the USDA permits production claims, which indicate how the beef was raised and/or how it was produced and monitored.
According to the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), all fresh meat qualifies as “natural,” but those labeled “natural” cannot contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient; and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed (ground, frozen or smoked, for example). Some companies promote their beef as “natural” because cattle were not exposed to antibiotics or hormones and were totally raised on a range instead of being “finished” in a feedlot.