Florida is a proud ranching state, and in fact South Florida is home more than 40% of the beef cattle population in Florida. The ranchers of this state take great care and pride in their animals and heritage. They want that message to come through in their product…beef. In this article we will discuss the various ways beef cattle are raised and how that translates into various marketing strategies.
There are different marketing options present in the grocery store such as “Grass Fed”, “Grain Finished,” “All Natural,” or “Organic”. There are certain qualifications the animal must meet to be considered in some of the categories. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has determined those qualifications and monitored them, to ensure they are accurate. So, let us define these categories. Grass fed means the animal spent most of its life eating mainly grass which can be in the form of hay, forage, or silage. Grain finished means the animal completed its life being fed a balanced diet of grains, such as corn, soybeans, or other local feed ingredients combined with forages. An organic animal product has never received any artificial hormones or antibiotics. These animals may be fed either grains or grass, but the feed has to be certified organic before being fed.
Not all grass-ﬁnished beef is organic. In order to be organic the beef product must meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program regulations. Included in the requirements is that the animal grazes exclusively on certiﬁed organic pastures. Grain-ﬁnished beef actually has a lower carbon footprint than grass-ﬁnished beef. Cattle fed grain produce less methane and reach market weight more quickly. This finishing option uses fewer natural resources, such as feed and water. A grain-ﬁnished ration may include a variety of local feedstuﬀs, including corn silage and by-products such as distillers grains and orange peels.
All natural beef is a product that cannot contain any artificial flavors or flavorings, chemical preservatives, or other artificial ingredients. All natural products are to be minimally processed, meaning it has no added ingredients nor has it been tenderized. Some all natural brands do promote their products as not having any added antibiotics or hormones. Studies have shown there is no nutritional or safety differences between the various methods of raising cattle and how they are labeled in your local meat counter.
Other product labels you may see in the store are called “Branded Beef”. One of the original branded products you are probably most familiar with is Certified Angus Beef. It started when a group of ranchers decided they could produce a product of consistent quality meeting the consumer demands for tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. The cuts of beef being sold under any branded name meet certain criteria set by the management of the brand. Some of those attributes may include breed, documented health protocols, grade after harvest, organically raised, or source verified.
While cattle ranchers are proud of the culture in which they raise cattle, they also want the consumer to be happy with the taste and quality of the outcome. Today’s rancher wear’s many hats, cowboy, environmentalist, animal caretaker, and marketer. The last characteristic is one they work towards everyday and hope that their efforts are appreciated.