We serve a diverse audience of readers engaged
in regenerative, organic and sustainable agriculture
at many levels for many reasons. We want to hear
from you about the issues that are important to
your life and work, and your vision for agriculture
that builds a strong future.
We run selected comments from readers in this
space. Please tell us who you are, with name,
address and phone number for verification. Sending
correspondence to us conveys a right to us to
publish it as is, or in a form edited for length
and/or style. Opinions expressed in this space
do not necessarily represent the perspective of
The New Farm® or The Rodale Institute®.
If you have something important to say about
agriculture in a sustainable global food system,
please -- speak
June 2, 2005: We have finally approached
a time when organic food is in high demand and sustainable
agriculture is a growing practice in America’s heartland.
This was needed years ago, before we contaminated our food
supplies to the point that we can’t guarantee purity
under any circumstance. It was mentioned a few times in passing
conversations that the Midwest model is not a good candidate
for producing organic grass-fed beef products because of cross-contamination
issues and industrial production practices. The fact is that
small farmers in the Midwest are in a better position to produce
beef organically, and the young farmers replacing the aging
ones seem to have a stronger sense of environmental stewardship.
Physicians and researchers now publicize and promote the benefits
of a healthy diet, free from chemicals, drugs, preservatives,
antibiotics and synthetic additives. Many consumers shopping
for healthier foods are falsely led to think that the all-natural
beef at the local supermarket is the answer to healthy red
meat. But there is a huge difference between the all-natural
beef at the grocery store and organic beef and other choices
available within the organic meat market.
All-natural grain-fed beef does not have a quality verification
system in place to ensure the purity of the meat. If the mother
cow is treated, the chemical or medicinal substances pass
right through to the calf fetus or through the milk to the
nursing calf. Then when the calf gets older, it could be fed
a GMO grain like Round-Up Ready or BT Rootworm corn. If the
corn is resistant to being sprayed with the Round-Up herbicide
and not affected, one can’t imagine what happens during
the digestion of this corn in the ruminant system of a calf.
A typical grain-fed animal is finished hard on grain (usually
corn) the last 180 days before slaughter to fatten them up.
This means the consumer is getting a hardy dose of whatever
was last fed to that “fat” calf through residual
amounts found in the meat.
All-Natural grass-fed beef has proven to be lower in calories,
fat, and loaded with vitamins and minerals. It is great choice
for a healthier lifestyle and eliminates the chances of by-products
in the feed. However, animals are still susceptible to illness,
worms, and lice because pest and disease resistance has not
been bred into the herd. There is no guarantee that the pastures
are chemical free and the cattle are free from insecticides
like Pour-on, which soak into the skin, enter the bloodstream,
and permeate through the meat.
The highest standards for meat purity in the U.S. are guaranteed
through the National Organic Program. There two types of organic
beef – grass-fed and grain-fed. Grain-fed organic beef
is finished on grain, is more expensive (due to high feed
costs) and has a lower overall vitamin nutrient value compared
to grass-fed. However, it only takes 16 months on average
to get an animal to slaughter weight. Nobody can guarantee
cross-contamination has not occurred from carryover from adjacent
farms in organic crop production for grain-feed, even with
25 foot buffers in place. Some organic farms have mixed operations—both
organic and conventional. Poor handling could result in cross-contamination
of feed. As a solution to this, grain-fed organic beef producers
are transitioning to 100 percent organic, improving feed storage
facilities, enlarging feedlots, adding pasture, shortening
the finishing process and harvesting their own seeds and hay.
Organic grass-fed beef is the most time-consuming and difficult
system to put in place because it take years for a farmer
to produce animals that convert grass to energy for good weight
gain combined with disease and pest resistance. In addition,
the organically allowed weed-control process is largely a
creative and manually intensive one. Cattle have to be rotated,
inspected, and monitored frequently in the pasture for parasite
load and illness. Culling rates are much higher due to animals
falling prey to illness, parasites and poor gain. Farmers
are also faced with having to produce tender, tasty, marbled
cuts of meat as quickly as possible on a forage-only diet
which take up to 30 months; much longer than grain-fed livestock.
Producers who take the time to implement this type of system
are widely supported for offering the greatest benefits for
sustainable agriculture, the environment and the health of
the consumer. Organic grass-fed beef systems are promoted
through the newly formed Organic Grass-fed Beef Coalition.
The Organic Grass-fed Beef Coalition is a new group of northern
plain’s producers who are working on a system that offers
a “real” premium to the organic grass-fed beef
producer, promotes grassland and pasture preservation, educates
the supply chain, and conducts research for building a valuable
U.S. organic grass-fed beef product through a “collaborative
learning” team approach. The grassfed beef industry,
as a whole, is competitive. But, for most part, organic producers
work together well and support each other regardless of their
production model. For more information, visit www.organicgrassfedbeef.org
or call Angela at 712-568-3433.