Natural vs Organic

Natural vs Organic Certified Beef Cattle Classification

Many people use the terms natural and organic interchangeably. In reality, there are stark differences between natural and organic certified beef cattle which will be highlighted here.

Organic Certification

Organic beef comes from cattle which are fed organic foods (foods that not genetically modified and are free from antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides) and must be certified by the USDA. The pasture where the cattle graze must also be certified organic. However, organic cattle may still be confined and fed grain diets. This is not natural considering that cattle typically feed on grasses, hay, legumes, and silage.

The standards for organic certification are quite stringent. These farms must be re-certified every year.

Natural Beef Cattle

The standards for natural beef are less rigid. The USDA defines natural beef as beef that is raised without additives and is processed minimally. While many natural farmers choose not to confine their livestock, beef can be labeled natural even if the cattle come from feedlots or confined housing. Thankfully, many farmers choose to let their cattle graze in pastures and on hills. Hormones and antibiotics are not considered additives under these guidelines so it is left to the discretion of the individual farmers.

Advantages, compared

Mad cow disease was one of the reasons why many farms switched to organic. Mad cow disease arose when cattle, which are vegetarian, were fed food that included meat byproducts. Because organic beef can only come from cattle which are fed organic grass or grain, mad cow disease is no longer an issue. Organic beef, especially that which comes from grass fed cattle, is leaner and contains higher protein levels. For those with specialized diets, organic beef is a must due to these reasons.

Natural beef is a step above conventional beef. However, natural beef may still contain hormones or antibiotics. When purchasing natural beef, be sure that the label states that it is clear of either of these items. Beef free of hormones and antibiotics is much healthier for humans and the environment. Natural beef, because of its less stringent standards, is much easier for farmers to raise and sell. Although more expensive than conventional beef, it is still cheaper than organic beef.

Disadvantages, compared

Organic cattle take approximately two years to fully grow before they are ready to be processed. This explains why it is much more expensive than conventional or natural beef. Natural beef is cheaper than organic beef but its more flexible standards may allow for meat that is has less nutritional value compared to organic beef. Sometimes, beef producers simply use the term in order to charge a premium for the beef, even though it may not be much better than the conventional beef they sell. It is best to do some research to see which natural beef brands are the healthiest.

Factors to consider

While either natural or organic beef are far healthier for humans and the environment than conventional beef, it must be reiterated that there are vast differences between the two. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture points out that "natural beef programs are largely defined and regulated by the company that owns the brand [while] producers and processing companies [of organic beef] must be certified by the USDA, which requires much time, effort, and documentation." It is truly up to the consumer to research the quality of natural beef products.

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Waseda Farms 

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