Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner

Most expect to make choices when going to the grocery store as to what brand, how much and what size; however, so long are the days when making a simple choice between a roast that weighs five pounds versus six pounds. Customers are confused on a daily basis with products labeled natural, organic, grass-fed and grain-finished; it’s no wonder shoppers throw their hands up in disarray. The meat case is just one example, and it is important to get the facts in making a sound decision when choosing your meat.

Beef is a great lean protein source filled with nutrients many American’s are lacking, including zinc, iron and B vitamins. A 3 ounce serving of lean beef has about 150 calories on average and is a good or excellent source of 10 essential nutrients like zinc, iron and B vitamins. (USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23, 2010) Let’s take a look at a few differences to help eliminate some confusion while making choices in the supermarket.

All beef is grass-fed and most spend the majority of their lives eating grass on a pasture. Beef is a powerhouse of protein, a source of 10 essential nutrients, and most beef does not contain any additives nor is not more than minimally processed.

Grain-finished beef…

  • Are fed a healthy balanced diet of grains such as corn, wheat or soybeans
  • Spend most of their lives grazing on pasture, then spend 4-6 months in a feed yard
  • May be given vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Have access to clean water and room to grow and roam
  • May be given FDA- approved antibiotics or growth promoting hormones

Grass-finished beef…

  • Spend their entire life span grazing on pasture
  • May be given FDA- approved antibiotics or growth promoting hormones
  • May be given vitamin and mineral supplements

Naturally raised beef…

  • Can be grain-finished or grass-finished
  • Have never received antibiotics or growth promoting hormones
  • May be given vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Must be certified by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service

Certified organic beef…

  • Can be grain-finished or grass-finished, as long as the feed is 100% organic
  • Have never received antibiotics or growth promoting hormones
  • May be given vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Must be certified by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, look for the official label

Now that you have the facts, whichever choice of beef you decide to purchase, be sure you select one that is firm to the touch and has a bright cherry-red color. For more information on cuts of beef and cooking techniques visit www.txbeef.org.

By Meghan Windham, MPH, RD, LD

References: Texas Beef Council Confident Cooking with Beef educational materials

 

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