Natural, but not Organic
By Lisa Schmidt
“We don’t use hormones or antibiotics or added supplements, but we are not certified organic,”says Marlene Groves, president of the American Grass-fed Association.
A Land of Grass Ranch - Conrad, Montana Grass Fed Beef
Despite promising studies, there is much more to learn about the nutritional benefits of grass-fed meats.
“Research into the benefits of grass-fed is increasing slowly. It is insignificant compared to other, mainstream research, but it is gaining momentum.”
Tami and Scott Bowen benefit from that research when they talk to their customers.
The Bowens sell grass-fed beef at a farmer’s market and through word of mouth from their Hooper, Utah, family ranch near Ogden.
“We just fell into it (selling grass-fed). We were doing it for ourselves. I started researching it and found out it is healthy for my family. Then people started calling us, asking if they could get some of our beef,” Tami says.
Now, Scott raises the cattle and Tami deals with the people.
“I talk to a lot of women who want our meat for their family. Vegetarians want it. And now our trimmings are going to people’s dogs for food,” Tami says.
Although most grass-fed producers raise their animals naturally – with no hormones and no antibiotics – many are not certified as organic producers.
“Organic means no chemicals or pesticides, but it does not mean ‘no grain.’ The nutritional value is different,” says Tilak Dhiman, animal nutritionist at Utah State University.
Organic certification can be costly and producers of natural meat can expect a premium price without the expense of certification. While supermarket ground beef sells for $1.49 to $2.49 per pound, grass-fed ground beef can demand $4 to $5 per pound.
“We don’t use hormones or antibiotics or added supplements, but we are not certified organic,”says Marlene Groves, president of the American Grass-fed Association. “Still we manage our animals so they are in tune with the grass. My husband spends more time managing the grass than the animals. Buffalo stay in the pasture if they have food and water. We’ve never had an animal leave our ranch. We have had other buffalo break in, though.”
Bowens, too, raise their cattle naturally, but not organically.
“We spread fertilizer periodically and we give an 8-way vaccine when we wean. We don’t feed antibiotics or give them hormones. We are not certified and I make that clear to our customers,” Tami says.
Grass-fed customers tend to have higher standards for the way their meat is packaged than those who purchase meat from the grocery meat counter.
That’s where a producer’s relationship with a packer becomes critical.
“Your relationship with your packer is the most important thing you can get because he’s the one who makes things look good. We’ve been really lucky. We have a great relationship. We couldn’t ask for a better packer,” Tami says.