What’s the beef with beef? Sometimes it seems like beef takes a bad wrap from consumers for being the “unhealthy” meat choice. So, how can you, the individual, help combat that notion and keep the future of your farm secure?
John Kleiboeker, Executive Director of the Missouri Beef Industry Council, has some interesting viewpoints on the future of the beef industry in the United States, and how we can all work to keep beef farming relevant to consumers’ needs and keep our farms healthy in the process.
What Consumers Want
According to Kleiboeker’s research, consumers in today’s market are consistently reporting eating more chicken and less beef than they did a year ago, with more and more citing health reasons as their primary motive for eating less beef.
“The good beef/bad beef marketing claim creates consumer confusion and decreased confidence in some types of beef,” said Kleiboeker. “All choices of beef are safe, wholesome, nutritious, and sustainable.” That is a certainty beef farmers must continue to propagate. Beef can be a nutritious part of a well-balanced diet—we all know that. But how well do the people who aren’t raising beef know that?
“It’s important that we relay to consumers that beef can be a healthy choice. The protein in beef is a powerful nutrient that strengthens and sustains bodies, helping people maintain a healthy weight, build muscle and fuel physical activity.” The Cattlemen's Beef Board and National Cattlemen's Beef Association said, “In the American diet, beef is the number one contributor of protein, zinc and vitamin B12, number two of vitamin B6, and number three of iron and niacin.”
In addition, beef farmers must keep in touch with today’s consumer buzz-words. What do chefs want? “Chefs want locally grown produce, organic produce, and grass-fed meats,” said Kleiboeker.
Organic, Natural or
There are a number of items that the USDA requires for beef to be certified as “organic.” History must be collected on every animal, and all cattle must meet the following criteria:
-Born and raised on certified organic pasture
-Never receive antibiotics
-Never receive growth-promoting hormones
-Are fed only certified organic grains and grasses
-Must have unrestricted outdoor access
-Must receive humane treatment
The USDA defines “natural” beef as all meats raised for human consumption without additives and minimally processed. Natural Beef producers may choose not to use antibiotics or growth-promoting hormones, but there is no third-party verification system required by the USDA.
The USDA calls for a “grass-fed” meat product to come from a ruminant animal that has been fed only grass and forage during its lifetime, thus producing a leaner beef.
With the future of beef contingent upon the wants of American consumers, it is important that producers work together to educate consumers, while continuing to produce quality livestock for consumption.