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Grass fed masquerading as "Organic?"

by (20787)
Updated November 27, 2014 at 3:05 AM
Created October 18, 2010 at 2:20 AM

I've recently been improving my understanding of meat marketing. Not long ago, Trader Joe's had a giant sign that said grass fed beef. Looking at the product itself, ground beef, I saw that the the main advertising was for 'organic' and you had to look hard for the words '100% grassfed.' If Trader Joe's had not posted that big sign (which is now gone btw), I would not have realized that meat was grassfed. So then I started asking at Henry's (another local health food market) if they had grassfed, and they did, from Pacific Pastures. Again, tiny little writing for the grassfed part. Most of the marketing was for organic. Next, I visited Jimbo's (another local health food market) and asked for grassfed, and they said they had it, this time from Eel River, but they did not have any signage at all that said it was grassfed. It only said 'organic.' But checking, I see that Eel River sells 100% grassfed organic. Maybe it's hard to do organic unless the cows eat their natural diet and thus remain healthy? The most interesting thing about this is I realize that all my local health food grocery stores are now selling grassfed, for how long I don't know. Anyone else noticed a similar thing with all the marketing skewed towards organic?

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2520 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

That's very true in Australia as well - if it's meat labeled organic, it's most likely fed organic grain, since farmers can't claim their natural pastures are organic unless they rip up the land and plant organically certified crops! Stoopid - and that's why I buy directly from farmers who use the land as it is without adulterating the animals with chemicals. Much better than supporting the organic grain crops.

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12174 · April 19, 2011 at 12:20 AM

@ Eva: *snort* heh heh..."grill"... :-)

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5136 · April 19, 2011 at 12:07 AM

This a really important point!! Look for GRASS FINISHED aka 100% grass fed beef. Finishing on grain removes most of the health benefits of grass feeding, particularly in terms of fat ratios! Sometimes "grass fed" can mean grain finished, ask your meat guy/gals!

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4764 · April 18, 2011 at 11:37 PM

The costco organic ground beef tastes like most grassfed beef does so I believe their statement that it's mostly made from the grass fed Aussie beef.

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1160 · October 21, 2010 at 8:49 PM

Are you sure? According to their website - http://www.verdefarms.com/resources/faq.php - the Costco organic beef is "a blend of Australian organic grass-fed, pasture-raised beef with US or Canadian organic beef most likely finished on organic grains." They do say that it's mostly the Aussie stuff and that they hope to make it 100% grass fed. Maybe the site hasn't updated?

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22913 · October 18, 2010 at 5:28 PM

Verde Farms at Costco is a grassfed labeled Organic

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1997 · October 18, 2010 at 5:20 PM

Heh I ran into the same thing at Trader Joe's... hubby bought ground beef and apologized for not being able to find the grass fed, but I pointed out the teeeensy letters on it.

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20787 · October 18, 2010 at 3:02 AM

Bummers for you! I was worried about that myself which is why I had to sorta 'grill' the butchers at those stores and even got the name of their source so that I could research it myself.

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165 · October 18, 2010 at 2:48 AM

Its a good thing to ask, because not all organic brands are grass-fed. I asked a local store if their organic meat was grass-fed, and I was proudly informed that the cows are fed a grain-based organic diet for at least 6 months and then tested for foreign chemicals before slaughter. Some companies, such as that one, find it easier to stay certified organic if they used a grain diet as long as the grains are organic. As a matter of fact, I would think that this type of organic meat isn't much better than traditional stuff. I've found this style of organic to be more common in my area than grass-fed.

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2520 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

That's very true in Australia as well - if it's meat labeled organic, it's most likely fed organic grain, since farmers can't claim their natural pastures are organic unless they rip up the land and plant organically certified crops! Stoopid - and that's why I buy directly from farmers who use the land as it is without adulterating the animals with chemicals. Much better than supporting the organic grain crops.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3
20787 · October 18, 2010 at 3:02 AM

Bummers for you! I was worried about that myself which is why I had to sorta 'grill' the butchers at those stores and even got the name of their source so that I could research it myself.

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12174 · April 19, 2011 at 12:20 AM

@ Eva: *snort* heh heh..."grill"... :-)

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2261 · October 21, 2010 at 8:35 PM

My beef are 100% grassfed & finished. They graze on certified organic grass. It is a small herd and but they are not "certified" organic, as this would be another certification to obtain. I think it is important not just the labeling of a product which is market driven, but knowing the farmer and his practices. A lot of consumer's do not know about grass fed or have heard of it. Organics is the big buzz word these days for labels. I would rather have a local product than an Organic product shipped from over seas.

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20 · October 21, 2010 at 7:37 PM

100% Grass Fed > Organic

Organic is just an EXPENSIVE label (lots of paperwork involved) that sells well, but means that everything has been inspected/certified including the feed, living conditions etc. Usually organic cows are still fed grain but without the antibiotics and growth hormones which is better than non-organic.

Most small farmers that have actual grass fed cows cannot afford to go through the organic certification process.

Anyways I found the basic benefits of eating grass fed here: http://www.originalmeatcompany.com/why_grass_fed.html

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20 · October 18, 2010 at 2:16 PM

I am a 100% grass fed beef producer. I am glad you are checking up on some of these beef marketers. All calves eat grass, the question is whether they are then finished on grass or corn in a feedlot. It's really hard to finish an animal well on grass, it takes the right genetics, the right grass, the right management, and more time. I get frustrated when people are tricked out of the health benefits of 100% grass fed beef when marketers mislabel beef from animals that ate grass early in life but were then finished on corn. Keep up the good work!!!

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5136 · April 19, 2011 at 12:07 AM

This a really important point!! Look for GRASS FINISHED aka 100% grass fed beef. Finishing on grain removes most of the health benefits of grass feeding, particularly in terms of fat ratios! Sometimes "grass fed" can mean grain finished, ask your meat guy/gals!

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668 · October 18, 2010 at 2:33 AM

Organics is the new buzz word is advertising. News stations are not going major pieces of the benefits of grass fed meats but everyone knows that eating organic food is better for you than non-organic food. Therefore, the theory goes that if cows or pigs are fed organic food, they are better off than being fed non-organic food, which is true. But because most people don't understand how important feeding a cow their natural diet is, the grass fed portion of the label is relegated to small print. "Grass fed" labeling is not going to reach out for as many impulse buys as "organic" will. In five years, if the general public is informed on how important grass fed is, you can bet that "Grass fed" will be plastered all over the label and signage.

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15976 · September 07, 2013 at 12:44 AM

The two terms: "organic" and "grass-fed" have nothing necessarily to do with eachother. They are not linked in any way, necessarily. Witness my admittedly limited experience on the farm:

(i realize this may well have changed since with an ever changing market) about 4-5 years ago i helped out on a 100% grass-fed cow ranch for 3 months. This farmer actually told me that truly grass-fed cows are almost NEVER labeled on the package in the store as "organic" because getting the "organic" certification for grasses growing on a large field is quite difficult and expensive for the farmer. Makes sense; big, varied fields sprawling around the property, not always in rows etc like those for grain-growing, etc.

Now think about what is perhaps a representative of organic beef. There certainly are tons and tons of organic grains both in the commercial-consumer market and the farmer-feed market that the farmer could choose to feed his animals and then get the right to label his steaks as "organic." Does that mean that those animals ate grass? Absolutely not. Not mutually exclusive either but not linked at all.

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4764 · April 18, 2011 at 11:38 PM

Key point: any beef from Australia or Uruguay is grass fed.

Interestingly, McDonalds, years ago, got most of their beef from Uruguay as it was the cheapest availble. Oh, the irony...McDonalds hamburgers were made from pastured beef for probably 20 or so years.

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678 · October 18, 2010 at 4:28 PM

100% grassfed > orgainc imo

i have two sources of grassfed beef - a small health food store near me that sometimes carries local grassfed beef and the grocery store that carries grassfed beef from Uruguay. i buy the local one when i can because i want to support american grassfed beef producers. but imo either of these is better than cattle finished on grain.

if forced by necessity i will buy the orgainc beef, since at least it isn't being fed a ton of gmo corn.

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2399 · October 18, 2010 at 9:49 AM

Check you state laws about what do the labels (organic) mean and if they even exist outside the marketing realm (grass feed). Talk is cheap, certificate is where it's at ;)

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