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Why are cattle given hormones? Are cattle handled humanely? Solutions to your largest questions–so you can also make choices which are proper for your loved ones.

Thanks to the Ohio Beef Council for sponsoring this publish. All opinions are my very own.

 As a dietitian who offers recommendation about feeding households, I’ve made it my objective to hunt out first-hand expertise and data about the place meals comes from. I need to offer you as a lot data as attainable so you can also make the selections that really feel proper for your loved ones.

So over time, I’ve taken alternatives to go to every kind of farms: natural and traditional farms, livestock and fruit farms, small household cattle farms and huge hog operations. And I at all times attempt to hold an open thoughts and ask quite a lot of questions–together with the laborious ones.

A 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 need to learn about beef and beef manufacturing, then gone straight to the sources and carried out my very own analysis to convey you solutions. I hope this helps you are feeling extra knowledgeable!

Cows eating at a feedlot

What’s the distinction between natural and traditional cattle farming? Is there a distinction within the beef?

 Natural beef comes from cattle which have by no means acquired antibiotics or growth-promoting hormones. They might be both grass-finished or grain-finished (you need to test 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 frolicked 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, recent air, and direct daylight, based on the Agricultural Advertising Useful resource Heart (for what it’s price, standard cattle had been stored open air in daylight within the very massive feedyard I noticed in Colorado).

Each natural and traditional beef have the identical primary dietary stats. They’re each nice sources of protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and different vital B nutritional vitamins.

Needless to say in the event you see labels for “naturally raised” beef, it means the cattle haven’t been given antibiotics or hormones–however the feed was not natural until specified on the label.

What is a factory farm? Why are cattle given antibiotics? Your questions answered!Click to Tweet

What’s floor beef comprised of–and what’s added to it?

Floor beef is comprised of beef trim that’s reduce from steaks and roasts throughout processing, and it can’t comprise any water, phosphates, extenders, binders, preservatives, or coloring. Based on the USDA, floor beef seems vivid pink 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 under the floor).

Beef cattle

How does beef manufacturing have an effect on greenhouse gasoline emissions?

Cattle farming requires power and water and does contribute to the manufacturing of greenhouse gasoline (gases that trigger warmth to be trapped within the environment), thanks largely to methane launched when cows belch.

So if you wish to in the reduction of on consuming meat to assist the atmosphere, that’s okay. However take into account this as properly: Based on new analysis from the USDA’s Agricultural Analysis Service, beef manufacturing contributes simply 3.Three p.c of all U.S. greenhouse gasoline emissions (and U.S. beef producers are working on a regular basis to be much more environment friendly). Agriculture usually contributes about 9 p.c. Transportation and electrical energy era collectively make up 56 p.c of emissions. So consuming much less meat can scale back your private carbon footprint, however utilizing your automobile much less–and lowering electrical energy use–will scale back it far more.

Some extra issues to think about: Within 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 known 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 (except for 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. Further hormones assist make up for that.

The hormones are given within the type of a really small implant that’s positioned beneath the pores and skin behind the cow’s ear. The hormones are usually estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, and the quantities are tiny, measured in nanograms.

Needless to say you should buy beef with “no added hormones”, which implies the cattle aren’t given supplemental hormones. However 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 totally different in standard and natural meat (or milk). However the decisions can be found. 

beef cattle farm in Ohio

When and why do beef cattle get antibiotics?

 Cattle on standard farms obtain antibiotics after they’re sick with diseases like pneumonia. Antibiotics might also be added to feed to deal with a bigger group of cows which were 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 those who take a look at optimistic should not 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. Throughout 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. However 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 should be cared for even when it’s Christmas, calves must be birthed even when it’s 3am on a winter evening, and farm households typically don’t eat dinner till after their animals do.

There’s additionally a novel incentive to deal with animals properly: Cattle which are pressured received’t develop correctly, and so they’ll launch hormones that have an effect on the meat’s taste–so it’s in farmers’ greatest curiosity to deal with them properly. Having cattle which are comfy, properly fed, and stress free is just extra economical for farmers.

cattle farm in Ohio

What’s the distinction between grass-fed and common beef?

It’s vital to know that each one cattle eat grass. For the primary seven months of life, they graze on grass and spend quite a lot of time in pasture (the entire photographs proven right here of cattle in pasture had been taken by me on standard farms). It’s solely after they’re transferred from the pasture to the feedlot that they’re fed a diet that’s increased 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.

Should you’re in search of beef from cattle which have spent their complete lives consuming solely grass, you’ll need to search for 100% grass-fed beef, generally known as “grass completed”. These cattle should have entry to pasture their complete 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 increased in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a fats that’s been studied for attainable coronary heart well being advantages. However remember 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 total than standard beef.

One other vital level: The query of whether or not grass-fed beef is extra sustainable shouldn’t be clear-cut as a result of it takes far more land and time to boost a very 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 additionally like: What’s 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. However solely “grass-finished” beef spend their entire lives consuming grass and don’t go to feedyards (aka feedlots) to be fed grain.

Feedlot in Colorado

What’s a “Manufacturing unit Farm”?

Giant farms, particularly feedyards, are generally known as “manufacturing unit farms”. It’s a time period that rubs farmers the flawed manner–I do know, as a result of I’ve requested! However as one farmer instructed me, it doesn’t matter in case you have ten cattle or ten thousand, you continue to should look after these animals and deal with them properly 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 in the US, the common 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 photograph there). Sure, it was startling to see that many cattle in a single place. Nevertheless it wasn’t a chilly, company operation. It was nonetheless a household operation with staff out and in of the pens monitoring the cattle’s well being and caring for the animals.

And the very fact is, if you would like to have the ability to stroll right into a grocery retailer and purchase an reasonably priced steak, massive farms and feedyards with as much as tens of hundreds of cattle are a obligatory truth of life. Should you’d reasonably know your meat got here from cattle on a smaller farm and also you’re prepared to pay extra, you should buy beef at a farmer’s market or direct from the farmer. Backside line is that it’s good to have decisions. You may additionally like: All About Shopping for Beef In Bulk

bulk meat in freezer bin

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 type that has the fame for being unhealthy, although there’s 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 whole fats) to the American diet. And a few of that saturated fats in beef is a kind known as stearic acid, which has been proven in some analysis to have a impartial impact on levels of cholesterol.

However if you wish to restrict saturated fats total, you possibly can select leaner cuts similar to these with “loin” or “spherical” within the identify. Some examples of lean cuts are:

  • Tenderloin
  • Strip steak
  • Sirloin steak
  • High spherical
  • Backside spherical roast
  • 95% lean floor beef

Have extra questions on beef and cattle farming? Let me know within the feedback!