Why are cattle given hormones? Are cattle handled humanely? Answers to your greatest questions–so you can also make selections which might be proper for your loved ones.
Thank you to the Ohio Beef Council for sponsoring this put up. All opinions are my very own.
As a dietitian who provides recommendation about feeding households, I’ve made it my aim to hunt out first-hand expertise and information about the place meals comes from. I wish to offer you as a lot data as doable so you can also make the choices that really feel proper for your loved ones.
So through the years, I’ve taken alternatives to go to every kind of farms: natural and standard farms, livestock and fruit farms, small household cattle farms and huge hog operations. And I all the time attempt to maintain an open thoughts and ask numerous questions–together with the exhausting ones.
Part of this work has been a partnership with the Ohio Beef Council, which represents 17,000 beef farming households right here in Ohio on each standard and natural farms. They’ve given me the prospect to go to beef cattle farms round Ohio, in addition to in Colorado, and discuss to farmers in depth about cattle farming and beef manufacturing.
I’ve requested what YOU wish to find out about beef and beef manufacturing, then gone straight to the sources and finished my very own analysis to convey you solutions. I hope this helps you’re feeling extra knowledgeable!
What’s the distinction between natural and standard cattle farming? Is there a distinction within the beef?
Organic beef comes from cattle which have by no means obtained antibiotics or growth-promoting hormones. They could also be both grass-finished or grain-finished (you need to verify the label), however no matter they eat should be 100% natural, which implies the meals has been grown with out the usage of artificial pesticides and fertilizers. If the natural beef is grain-finished, the cattle might have hung out in a feedyard (aka feedlot), however the grain they’re fed was natural. Organically raised cattle should even have entry to the outside, shade, train areas, contemporary air, and direct daylight, in line with the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (for what it’s value, standard cattle had been saved outside in daylight within the very massive feedyard I noticed in Colorado).
Both natural and standard beef have the identical fundamental dietary stats. They’re each nice sources of protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and different necessary B nutritional vitamins.
Keep in thoughts that when you see labels for “naturally raised” beef, it means the cattle haven’t been given antibiotics or hormones–however the feed was not natural except specified on the label.
What is floor beef made out of–and what’s added to it?
Ground beef is made out of beef trim that’s minimize from steaks and roasts throughout processing, and it can’t comprise any water, phosphates, extenders, binders, preservatives, or coloring. According to the USDA, floor beef seems shiny crimson on the skin as a result of oxygen from the air reacts with pigments within the meat (the meat on the within might look grayish-brown as a result of oxygen doesn’t penetrate beneath the floor).
How does beef manufacturing have an effect on greenhouse fuel emissions?
Cattle farming requires vitality and water and does contribute to the manufacturing of greenhouse fuel (gases that trigger warmth to be trapped within the environment), thanks largely to methane launched when cows belch.
So if you wish to reduce on consuming meat to assist the surroundings, that’s okay. But think about this as nicely: According to new analysis from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, beef manufacturing contributes simply 3.Three p.c of all U.S. greenhouse fuel emissions (and U.S. beef producers are working on a regular basis to be much more environment friendly). Agriculture normally contributes about 9 p.c. Transportation and electrical energy technology collectively make up 56 p.c of emissions. So consuming much less meat can scale back your private carbon footprint, however utilizing your automotive much less–and lowering electrical energy use–will scale back it far more.
Some extra issues to contemplate: In the U.S., particularly west of the Mississippi, many cattle graze on land that will in any other case be unusable, changing grass on that unusable land into protein (that’s referred to as “upcycling”). The manure they produce goes onto crops like soy and corn as a pure fertilizer.
Cattle farming within the U.S. additionally helps numerous household farms. In truth, 97% of beef farms are household owned and operated.
Why are hormones given to cattle?
Hormones are given to cattle to assist them use the meals they eat extra effectively to shortly placed on extra muscle (meat). That’s particularly useful for castrated male cows (apart from bulls used for mating, male cows are castrated on cattle farms as a result of bulls are so aggressive) as a result of castrating reduces the quantity of pure hormones that assist the cattle develop. Extra hormones assist make up for that.
The hormones are given within the type of a really small implant that’s positioned underneath the pores and skin behind the cow’s ear. The hormones are sometimes estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, and the quantities are tiny, measured in nanograms.
Keep in thoughts which you can purchase beef with “no added hormones”, which implies the cattle aren’t given supplemental hormones. But you possibly can’t purchase “hormone-free beef” (or “hormone-free” milk for that matter) as a result of all animal meals comprise pure hormones. Hormone ranges aren’t considerably completely different in standard and natural meat (or milk). But the alternatives can be found.
When and why do beef cattle get antibiotics?
Cattle on standard farms obtain antibiotics once they’re sick with sicknesses like pneumonia. Antibiotics may be added to feed to deal with a bigger group of cows which have been uncovered to sickness, or to assist stop it. All farmers should work with a veterinarian on any remedy use.
When an antibiotic is used, the farmer can’t ship that animal to reap (aka slaughter) till the medication has cleared from the physique. Carcasses are randomly examined for antibiotic residue at processing amenities, and people who take a look at constructive will not be allowed into the meals provide. Farmers who ship cattle with antibiotic residue can face steep fines from the USDA, so it’s not of their greatest curiosity to cheat the system.
Antibiotics are additionally used judiciously as a result of they’re so costly. During a farm go to right here in Ohio, a farmer confirmed me a small bottle of the antibiotics they use to deal with sick cows. The small bottle prices $1500, and his revenue on every steer is simply $100, so it doesn’t make monetary sense to make use of extra remedy than wanted.
Are cows handled humanely on cattle farms?
There are unhealthy apples in each trade. But most farmers actually care about their animals–in the event that they didn’t, they wouldn’t be within the enterprise. As one farmer instructed me: The cattle must be cared for even when it’s Christmas, calves must be birthed even when it’s 3am on a winter night time, and farm households usually don’t eat dinner till after their animals do.
There’s additionally a singular incentive to deal with animals nicely: Cattle which might be confused received’t develop correctly, they usually’ll launch hormones that have an effect on the meat’s taste–so it’s in farmers’ greatest curiosity to deal with them nicely. Having cattle which might be snug, nicely fed, and stress free is just extra economical for farmers.
What’s the distinction between grass-fed and common beef?
It’s necessary to know that each one cattle eat grass. For the primary seven months of life, they graze on grass and spend numerous time in pasture (all the images proven right here of cattle in pasture had been taken by me on standard farms). It’s solely once they’re transferred from the pasture to the feedlot that they’re fed a eating regimen that’s larger in grain for the least 6-Eight months of their lives. The feed is about 65-70 p.c corn however nonetheless incorporates some hay and different forages.
If you’re in search of beef from cattle which have spent their whole lives consuming solely grass, you’ll wish to search for 100% grass-fed beef, typically referred to as “grass completed”. Those cattle will need to have entry to pasture their whole lives and be solely pasture- and forage-fed (with no grain).
Grass fed beef is commonly cited for being richer in wholesome fat. It’s true that cattle raised solely on grass do produce meat that’s larger in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a fats that’s been studied for doable coronary heart well being advantages. But remember the fact that CLA is basically present in fats, and many individuals trim that off. CLA can be discovered within the fats that’s marbled all through the meat, however grass-fed beef tends to be leaner, with much less marbling general than standard beef.
Another necessary level: The query of whether or not grass-fed beef is extra sustainable just isn’t clear-cut as a result of it takes far more land and time to lift a totally grass-fed cow. For instance, right here in Ohio, every cow wants 1.5-2 acres of grass for grazing in the summertime months. You may also like: What is Grass Fed Beef
Is there such a factor as “free-range” beef?
All beef graze on grass for the primary a number of months of life. I’ve visited very small farms right here in Ohio and really massive farms in Colorado and in each locations, younger cattle roam in pasture, grazing on grass. But solely “grass-finished” beef spend their complete lives consuming grass and don’t go to feedyards (aka feedlots) to be fed grain.
What is a “Factory Farm”?
Large farms, particularly feedyards, are typically known as “manufacturing unit farms”. It’s a time period that rubs farmers the mistaken means–I do know, as a result of I’ve requested! But as one farmer instructed me, it doesn’t matter when you have ten cattle or ten thousand, you continue to must take care of these animals and deal with them nicely otherwise you received’t be productive. And right here’s one thing which may shock you: Of the greater than 700,000 cattle farms and ranches within the United States, the typical herd dimension is simply 40 cattle.
I visited what some would possibly name a “manufacturing unit farm” in Colorado, a feedlot that housed greater than 30,000 cattle (I took the above picture there). Yes, it was startling to see that many cattle in a single place. But it wasn’t a chilly, company operation. It was nonetheless a household operation with employees out and in of the pens monitoring the cattle’s well being and caring for the animals.
And the very fact is, if you need to have the ability to stroll right into a grocery retailer and purchase an inexpensive steak, massive farms and feedyards with as much as tens of hundreds of cattle are a needed truth of life. If you’d fairly know your meat got here from cattle on a smaller farm and also you’re keen to pay extra, you should purchase beef at a farmer’s market or direct from the farmer. Bottom line is that it’s good to have decisions. You may also like: All About Buying Beef In Bulk
Is the fats in beef unhealthy for us?
Beef incorporates each saturated and unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats is the type of fats in olive oil and avocados. Saturated fats is the sort that has the status for being unhealthy, although there may be rising debate about whether or not we have to worry it a lot.
Beef contributes solely about ten p.c or much less of saturated fats (and complete fats) to the American eating regimen. And a few of that saturated fats in beef is a sort referred to as stearic acid, which has been proven in some analysis to have a impartial impact on levels of cholesterol.
But if you wish to restrict saturated fats general, you possibly can select leaner cuts similar to these with “loin” or “spherical” within the title. Some examples of lean cuts are:
- Strip steak
- Sirloin steak
- Top spherical
- Bottom spherical roast
- 95% lean floor beef
Have extra questions on beef and cattle farming? Let me know within the feedback!