YOUR QUICK GUIDE TO MEAT LABELS

We could talk on and on about labels, but we’ll spare you the soapbox speech!

Here’s the short & sweet (but not comprehensive) guide to making sense of labeling claims…

Number One

The Face Behind the Label

What the labels says is pointless if you don’t trust who it is that’s speaking. While most labeling claims have some government restrictions on the use of them, we all know that regulatory rules are subject to interpretation and bending. There are packages of “all-natural grassfed beef jerky” that came directly from the JBS concentrated-animal feedlots, and there’s packages of ordinary “ground beef” that are fresh from the healthiest animals in the state.

Why it Matters: When we are truly interested in where our food has come from, how it was raised, and what it has been treated with, we just ought to find a farmer, butcher, or grocer we trust to tell us the full story, then we can decide if it meets our standards for our family.

Number Two

All-Natural

This is a much-abused labeling claim, but at its heart it’s still a good thing. All-Natural simply means non-synthetic. No artificial flavors, or colorings, or preservatives. That means the fake stuff has all been replaced with plant (or insect!) based alternatives. All-Natural doesn’t mean that its in its native or raw state, however. They can still be highly-processed and confinement or feedlot raised.

Why it Matters: We gotta start improving our food somewhere! The best place to start is by kicking all the fake stuff out! But just because there’s a beautiful photo on the label of animals on a sunny hillside does NOT mean that this animal has ever felt a ray of sunshine…

Joanna Bauman, in 2015 at the age of 14, helps with the harvest.
Number Three

Non-GMO

It’s not organic, but it’s halfway there.
Genetic modification occurs commercially in plants, not animals.

Why it Matters: For the Baumans, we disregarded all the controversial and conflicting science and just went with what we could see: Genetically-modified crops enables glyphosate to be sprayed on growing crops which contributes to increased levels of glyphosate in our foods. (and we don’t like what that stuff does to our bodies!) The routine use of this chemical also results in glyphosate-resistant super weeds. (and we don’t like what that does to our land!) For these reasons, we have chosen to raise and feed only non-GMO grains to our animals. (Plus, the animals actually prefer the taste of GMO-free grains!)

Number Four

Organic

Organic production doesn’t allow harmful or synthetic chemicals and have adequate-space requirements for animals. Organic certified meats, however, aren’t required to have access to grass or pasture, so it is possible that an organic-certified chicken can come from a bird that’s indoors all his life..

Why it Matters: For those looking to avoid 100% harmful chemicals due to severe sensitivity, the organic label is the best bet, but still not Harmful Chemical Free. HCF testing & certification of foods is becoming more accessible, and the Baumans are researching this emerging certification for future implementation. Although our grasses and meat processing could be certified organic, the certification paperwork is erroneous and we have chosen to not take that step at this point.

John Bauman and the real free-range chickens (aka pastured poultry).
Number Five

Free Range

Synonymous with “Cage Free”, this simply means the birds weren’t confined to cages their entire life. (That’s a very good thing!) However, it doesn’t mean that they were happily stretching their wings in a sunny pasture, as the photos often indicate! Most poultry raised under this claim are housed within large barns. While some may be granted outdoor access, it’s not a large green pasture but small porches or dirt lots.

Why it Matters: I’ve been in caged layer houses, and even though I’m a butcher with a strong stomach, I almost lost my lunch. It’s very important to our family that we have a farm operation that is beautiful, and sad animals just don’t make you smile. But neither do dusty buildings holding thousands of birds…

Number Six

Pasture-Raised

The best thing about this labeling claim is that it’s nearly impossible for big corporations to fake or impersonate! Pasture-raised is exactly what you think it is! Pork and chicken out on real grass under the actual sun. Because they are mono-gastrics, their digestive systems aren’t designed to squeeze all of the nutrients out of grass like a cow. Therefore, they must be supplemented with grains and vitamins. And yes, contrary to what our neighbors think: hogs and chickens DO eat grass!

Why it Matters: Umm, what’s not to love about our animals having fresh salads topped with crunchy insects? This definitely has a positive impact on the flavor and texture of the meat, while those live plants they are munching increases the nutrient density of the meat and eggs! Although birds on pasture are exposed to occasional elemental or predator stressors, this is much less taxing on the poultry than the continual pressure of living in a crowded and polluted environment.

Our family prefers the sweeter, leaner taste of 100% grassfed meat, and those additional omega 3s, and other vitamins are a great bonus!
Number Seven

Grassfed vs. Grass-finished

Applied chiefly to beef, lamb & goats, this is a very important label that can be extremely misleading. ALL cattle in the USA qualify for the grass-fed claim as baby calves are born in a grass pasture and typically kept there until the last 90 days of their life. The difference comes in if the beef has been 100% grassfed, or grass-finished instead of grain-finished.

Why it Matters: Beef, lamb, & goats are ruminants; that is, their digestive systems are specially created to thrive on an herbaceous diet. Their digestive systems can’t sustain an all-grain diet and confining them to it typically means they have to be propped up with medications or supplements to counter-act this false diet. Our family prefers the sweeter, leaner taste of 100% grassfed meat, and those additional omega 3s, and other vitamins are a great bonus!

Was this too brief for you?

Come by our booth at the downtown Overland Park or Olathe Blackbob Park farmers market and ask us more about it!
We’ll be glad to share our experiences and what things look like to us from our farmer’s worldview.

Or better yet, come by our farm! Our annual BBQ and Farm Tour is June 22, 2019 from 4:30 to 8pm!