Friday, February 29, 2008

Breaking News for Producers

A few weeks ago I added a sidebar column to my blog called Breaking News for Producers. Since then, I've realized that folks who subscribe to my postings via email have no way of knowing when I put up new information. Consequently, I have decided to publish the information in postings (instead of the sidebar). That way, everyone will see it.

I'm playing a bit of catch up here, but here goes....

Announcing New Listserve for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farms
Dennis Lamm, sustainable ag coordinator at CSU, manages a email listserv at CSU "". The listserv supplies information and networking potential for Colorado CSA farms and those folks who interested in supporting them. It currently has ~30 subscribers. The listserv is unmoderated, meaning that anyone subscribed can send to the listserv. This makes for a powerful networking tool for disseminating CSA related info and for organizing CSA gatherings. Email to subscribe.

CSU Now Taking Applications for 2008 Volunteer Master Food Safety Advisor Program -- Larimer Country registration due March 15th
Boulder, El Paso County Also Contemplating Training
CSU Extension offers 30 hours of intensive training on methods of canning, pickling, freezing, dehydrating, food safety and prevention of foodborne illness. Training is scheduled in the spring. The cost of the training is $75 with a commitment of 40 hours of volunteer service or $150 if you choose not to volunteer.For application information, contact:

El Paso County
Sheila Barry, Extension Agent
Telephone: (719) 575-8944

Larimer County
Edie McSherry, Extension Agent
Telephone: (970) 498-6008

Routt County
Karen Massey, Extension Agent
Telephone: (970) 879-0825

Mesa County (Tri River Area)
Rhonda Follman, Extension Agent
Telephone: (970) 244-1834

Main Campus Contact:
Marisa Bunning, Extension Specialist-food safety
Telephone: (970) 491-7180

Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program for Economic Development - Application Deadline: March 31, 2008.
The Rural Business-Cooperative Service, an Agency within the Rural Development mission area, announces the availability of grants of up to $50,000 per application from the Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG) program for fiscal year (FY) 2008, to be competitively awarded. For multi-state projects, grant funds of up to $150,000 will be available on a competitive basis. The primary objective of the program is to improve the economic conditions of rural areas. Assistance provided to rural areas under this program may include technical assistance for business development and economic development planning.

USDA Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program for Economically Developing Rural Areas -- Application Deadlines: Third Quarter, March 31, 2008; Fourth Quarter, June 30, 2008.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Business-Cooperative Service announces the availability of approximately $33.077 million of loan funds under the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program for fiscal year 2008. The primary objective of the program is to promote rural economic development and job creation projects. Assistance provided to rural areas, as defined, under this program may include business startup costs, business expansion, business incubators, technical assistance feasibility studies, advanced telecommunications services and computer networks for medical, educational, and job training services and community facilities projects for economic development.

Value-Added-Producer Grants Available
Application Deadline March 31
The RFP for the Value added producer grants has been released.Grants may be used for planning activities and for working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy. Eligible applicants are independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, agricultural producer groups, and majority-controlled producer-based business ventures. Applications are now being accepted for 2008. The deadline is March 31, 2008. Visit the USDA Rural Development Website for details and application information.

Grants for Food Stamp Terminals at Farmers' Markets
Rolling Deadline....
The Colorado Farmers' Market Association has received USDA grant funds to purchase terminals for farmer's markets so that they can process the electronic food stamp debit cards. For more information, please contact Sally Haines at 303-887-5971 or Click here to visit their website.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Restaurant Spotlight: The Mercury Cafe, Part II

The Mercury Cafe
2199 California Street
Denver, Colorado 80205

Information: 303-294-9281
Reservations: 303-294-9258
Dinner, Tues. - Sun., 5:30 - 11:00 p.m.
Brunch, Sat. & Sun., 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Last December, I did a posting on the Mercury Cafe praising their sustainable environmental practices and promising a follow-up on their food. Since then, I have visited the Mercury Cafe a number of times, and every time I go there I like it better.

Walking into the Mercury Cafe is like stepping into the warm, beating heart of the '60s. The red walls, adorned with oversized painted roses; the red and white twinkling lights; the plants; the exotic lamps; the wait staff and clientele -- they all take you back to those heady, optimistic days when we all wanted to change the world.

While other restaurants are trading on current trends toward conspicuous consumption and wanting to see and be seen, the Mercury Cafe has remained true to those "change-the-world" roots.

You're not going to find any Waygu/Kobe beef here.

What you will find is a menu that represents a laundry list of local producers, including Monroe Organic Farm, Rockhill Dairy, Grower's Organic Rainbow, Haystack Cheese, Organic Valley, Federal Devries Chocolate, Colorado Elk and Game, Campbell Hansmire Sheep, Alvarez Chili, Redbird, Alamosa Striped Bass, Cline Trout, Wynkoop Brewery, Jackrabbit Hill Winery, Peak Spirits and others. Their elk and lamb have only been fed their mother's milk, the grass on the mountain and forest forage. Their "Goat" Artisan Vodka is handmade by Rory Donovan in Palisade and their organic gin, brandies and grappas are distilled by Lance and Anna Hanson in the Gunnison North Fork Valley. They serve organic eggs, butter and dairy. And they offer a wide variety of vegetarian options.

Believe me, it's all good!

I have sampled a number of dishes there. Here are some epicurean highlights:

  • They make all of their own breads and pastries using whole grains, natural sweeteners,and cold pressed oils. When you first sit down, they bring you a basket of whole wheat bread that is chewy, dense and nutritious -- just like your grandmother used to make. Add some sweet organic butter, and you're off to a great start.

  • Their breakfast sausage, made by local producer Roy'L, is especially spicy and good.

  • Their grilled elk is mighty tasty, offering a healthy alternative to conventional meats.

  • Their Durango Poached Eggs are served on a bed of steamed greens and creamy melted Haystack cheese -- and believe me -- these are to die for!

They also offer a full schedule of events in the upstairs ballroom/theater -- from belly dancing to swing dancing lessons, from music performances to theater productions, and from documentary films to open-mike poetry readings. You can access the events calendar here.

As a side note, you're probably not going to find customers talking about their latest botox or detox. Whenever I've visited in the past few months, people have been meeting there to tackle big issues, such as world hunger, political campaigns, food justice, Darfur -- you name it.

Good food -- for the brain and the body.

Now that's nourishment!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Seeking Producers to Participate in Direct Marketing Survey

Attention local producers! Your assistance is needed!

Beth Coop, from CSU, is seeking local producers who will participate in a direct marketing survey in collaboration with the Colorado Institute of Public Policy, the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and the Colorado Organic Producers Association.

The survey is designed to assess the opportunities, barriers and interest levels of producers using various direct marketing strategies including the use of food directory listings and the involvement with various agricultural related organizations. The survey will also assess alternative marketing outlets, such as farmer's markets, K-12 schools, and other institutions.

The multiple choice and short answer survey should take roughly 15 minutes to complete. You will be directed to certain questions based upon your response. If you are not a Colorado food producer, please disregard it.

Your participation is voluntary. While there are no direct benefits to taking the survey, we hope participants will learn more about direct marketing opportunities. Your responses are crucial in helping to inform policy and address areas where marketing assistance is needed.

The study is anonymous. That means that no one, not even the members of the research team, will know that the information you give comes from you. Your name will be connected with the returned survey in any way. Also, there is no cost to taking the survey.

You can access the online survey here. We ask that you complete the survey by April 1. Whether or not you choose to complete the survey, you can receive a copy of the results by contacting:

Here's your chance to speak up. And please know that your participation will be greatly appreciated!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Restaurant Spotlight: ...and the "Bum Steer" Award Goes to....Elway's

Since the Oscars are coming up, I thought I'd start an award of my own: The Bum Steer Award. And it's going to the new Elway's downtown.

Designed to appeal to an upscale crowd, including "people living downtown, people traveling, and a heavy convention crowd at night," Elway's Downtown offers "100% USDA Prime Beef steaks, hand-cut on the premises, by the piece seafood raw bar, great wines at great prices, and a comfortable, memorable and attentive dining experience."

The Denver Post's Bill Husted reports that: "prices at Elway's Ritz-Carlton are about $1-$2 more than the same dishes in Cherry Creek. But breakfast at Elway R-C starts with one egg, any style, for $9. Kobe beef tasting is $65 for four ounces. . . ."

Wait. Did I hear Kobe beef?

Kobe beef comes from Wagyu cattle, which are genetically predisposed to intense marbling and (supposedly) superior taste. According to Wikipedia, "The meat from Wagyu cattle is known worldwide for its marbling characteristics, increased eating quality through a naturally enhanced flavor, tenderness and juiciness, and thus a high market value."

Wikipedia also outlines the health benefits associated with Kobe beef: "Because of the Wagyu cattle's genetic predisposition and special diet including beer and sake, wagyu yields a beef that contains a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than typical beef. The increased marbling also improves the ratio of monounsaturated fats to saturated fats."

Various website promoting Kobe beef also praise the producers of these animals for raising them in luxury. Here's some marketing language from The Allen Brothers Website (purveyors of "Great Steakhouse Steaks.") "Wagyu cattle gain their tenderness from the exceptional way in which they are cared for. Wagyu are traditionally fed beer to maintain their fat content, and enjoy frequent massages and Sake rubs, where the fine rice wine is actually brushed into their coats to keep them supple. The resulting meat is nothing short of incredible."

Now, before you take out a second mortgage and go rushing down to Elway's for a sample, you should check out an article by Barry Estabrook in the December 2007 issue of Gourmet Magazine entitled Raising the Steaks. In it, he quotes Raymond Blanc, one of the few Western chefs to have visited a Japanese Kobe beef farm, and David Blackmore, an Australian cattle rancher who has made multiple visits to Japanese farms and agricultural centers over the years.

They paint a much different picture.

According to Blanc, "The animals were kept in some kind of crate, so there could be very little movement. They were very dirty from their own manure. It was disgusting, such a contradiction from what I'd read."

According to Blackmore, "From the time they are a week old until they are three and a half years old, these steers are commonly kept in a lean-to behind someone's house where they get bored and go off their feed. Their gut stops working. The best way to get their gut working again is to give them a bottle of beer. The steers have been lying in their own manure. The farmers are proud of their cattle, and the first thing they do is grab a bit of straw and rub the manure off. That could be seen as being massaged. Wagyu can also get a lot of joint swelling. I can imagine that farmers would be massaging joints so they could get the animals off to market."

According to Charles Gaskins, a Wagyu expert at Washington State University, "The steers grow so big and heavy, they get arthritic. It's a matter of keeping the animals going until they are ready to be harvested."

Elway's offers three different kinds of Wagyu beef on its tasting menu, including Kobe Kaishiki Farm Beef, Australian River Ranch Beef, and Clear Creek Farm American Beef. Just for kicks I checked out the Clear Creek Farm Website to see what they said about their beef, and I was pleased to find a web page devoted to animal health. However, when I clicked on it, there was no meaningful content on that page. Hmmm. I wonder why?

Now, I don't want to diss John Elway; anyone with a pulse in Denver has to remember the glory days of the Superbowl(s). He's active in charitable causes and you've got to love that.

Nor do I want to diss Elway's restaurant. In my previous Corporate life, I had a couple of work-related dinners there that were pretty darn good.

But I do want to sugest that he's missing an opportunity. What could be better than offering Colorado-raised, grass-fed beef and other meats to all those Convention Center tourists? Good for the customers, good for the cattle, good for local ranchers and good for Colorado.

Come on, John. Help us get the local foods movement over the goal line.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Dangers of Factory Beef - Part Two

Today the UDSA announced that Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co., Chino, Ca., is recalling approximately 143,383,823 pounds of raw and frozen beef products that USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has determined to be unfit for human food because the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection. According to the USDA: "Through evidence obtained by FSIS, the establishment did not consistently contact the FSIS public health veterinarian in situations in which cattle became non-ambulatory after passing ante-mortem inspection, which is not compliant with FSIS regulations." (Author's note: That's one way to put it. To get the full picture, see my previous posting: The Dangers of Factory Beef - Caught on Tape!)

They went on to say: "Such circumstances require that an FSIS public health veterinarian reassess the non-ambulatory cattle which are either condemned and prohibited from the food supply, or tagged as suspect. Suspect cattle receive a more thorough inspection after slaughter than is customary. This noncompliant activity occurred occasionally over the past two years and therefore all beef product produced during the period of time for which evidence indicates such activity occurred has been determined by FSIS to be unfit for human consumption, and is, therefore, adulterated."

All products subject to recall bear the establishment number "EST. 336" inside the USDA mark of inspection. The products were produced on various dates from Feb. 1, 2006 to Feb. 2, 2008. Fortunately, the products subject to this recall were sent to wholesale distributors nationwide in bulk packages and are not available for direct purchase by consumers.

You can view the entire press release by clicking here.

This should provide some added incentive to find and build a relationship with a trusted, local producer. Sooner versus later.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

In Search of Grass-fed Meats - Direct

Cattle and beef production represent the largest single segment of American agriculture. In fact the USDA says more farms (35 percent) are classified as beef cattle operations than any other type of farm.[1] In 2006, there were 97.1 million cattle in the U.S.; 33.7 million were harvested (that’s 648,000 every week!), and 26 billion pounds of beef were produced.[2]

In Colorado, there are more than 13,000 beef producers and 2.6 million head of cattle. It’s an important industry; nearly one-third of Colorado’s counties are classified as either economically dependent on the cattle industry, or having the cattle industry serve an important role in their economies.[3]

The vast majority of beef produced today (about 85 percent
[4]) is raised conventionally; that is, calves are born and started on pasture, but once the cattle reach 12 to 18 months of age, they are taken to a feedlot or concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). There, they typically are given growth hormones, and they spend the next four to six months getting fat on a questionable mixture of corn and “other stuff.” (See my previous post: The Great Corn vs. Grass Debate.) They are also often given vitamin supplements, vaccinations, antibiotics and parasite treatments to protect their health. Once they reach a weight of 1,100 – 1,250 pounds, they are transported to meat packing plants to be slaughtered.[5] The top five beef companies (Tyson, Excel, Swift, Farmland, and Smithfield) control 89 percent of steer and heifer slaughter. [6]

Fortunately, there are more and more local, artisan producers, who raise their cattle on pasture, treat them humanely, eschew growth hormones and antibiotics, and feed and finish them on grass. According to the American Grassfed Associations, grass-fed beef now accounts for only about three percent of the U.S. market, but that figure is expected to reach 10 percent over the next decade.

As I understand it, local ranchers who raise their beef on grass can have their meat processed in two ways:

  • Custom/State Exempt – These are local butchers/processing facilities that must comply with basic sanitation rules. There is no USDA inspector on-site; however, plants are inspected via periodic, unannounced visits from the USDA. The meat from the animal being processed can only be consumed by the "owner". It cannot be re-sold or used in a retail environment. If you sign up with a local rancher for part-ownership in a cow, you can get custom-processed grass-fed beef from these facilities. This allows producers/owners to get the cuts they want and also allow for appropriate aging of beef – which contributes to the taste and tenderness of grass-fed meats.

  • Federal Inspected Facilities – These facilities have a USDA inspector onsite at all times. They range from small, local processors -- owned by individual meat companies that process their own beef (and do it for others as well) -- to huge industrial-scale facilities that can process up to 400 head of cattle an hour[7]. The meat processed in these facilities can be sold locally, interstate and internationally.

Most of the cuts of grass-fed beef you buy at chain groceries and big box stores are processed in large meat processing plants, and could be imported from almost anywhere (barring a ban related to concerns of mad cow disease or other potential pathogens). Note: there may be some exceptions; beef from The Lasater Ranch comes to mind. If you want grass-fed beef from Colorado, you should check out the following producers. Depending on how and where their meat is processed, they provide beef whole, in halves, quarters or one-eighths, specialty packs, or individual cuts. Those that sell whole or split animals generally take orders throughout the year and process the meat in the spring and/or fall. Frozen cuts may be available online (or in ranch stores) year-round.

This is not an exhaustive list, and I can’t guarantee the accuracy of the information, so feel free to add information in the comments section. For the sake of convenience, I have also included producers of grass-fed elk, lamb, goats, pastured chickens and free range eggs (as I ran across them).

Here you go – have fun and bon apetite!

Co-ops and Buying Clubs

Eastern Plains Natural Foods Co-op, Bennett
The Eastern Plains Natural Food Cooperative is a collaboration of private individuals interested in purchasing all natural meat and poultry, and local area farms raising livestock under pasture-based, non-intensive, chemical free conditions. 2008 memberships available now!

Fresh & Wyld, North Fork Valley
Sources products from local ranchers. Offers grass-finished beef, buffalo, elk, lamb and farm fresh eggs. Order online.

Tallgrass Beef, Sedan, Kansas

Offers various cuts of grass-fed beef, some sourced from Colorado ranchers. Also offers free-range chickens. Order online.


Ancient Harvest Ranch, Mancos
Offers grass-fed beef, cut, wrapped and frozen. Halves, splits and 20# packages. Order by phone or email.

Ante Grande Elk Ranch, Del Norte
19612 West Hwy 160
719-657-0942, or 1-888-338-4581
Provides elk meat derived from grass-fed animals with never a hint of steroids or animal by-products. Offers whole, half or split-quarter elk and a variety of frozen cuts. Order online.

Arriola Sunshine Farms, Delores

We raise grass-fed beef, heritage turkey, hay, free-range chicken eggs, ducks, Navajo Churro Sheep and organically grown vegetables for the Cortez Farmers Market, local restaurants and groceries.

Back Country Beef, Cotopaxi

Oswald Cattle Company
Offers grass-fed beef in halves, splits and variety packs; order online.

B Bar S Ranch, Nederland
282 Twin Sisters Road
Offers grass-fed beef, whole cows, halves and splits. Order form available online. Cows are delivered mid-to-late September.

Black Forest Bison Company, Colorado Springs

1234 E. Woodmen Road, Suite 120
We offer 100% grass fed, pasture raised, no antibiotics, no hormones, no steroids Bison. They never go to a fed lot and are never fed grain, so they are from start and finish on grass. We offer frozen cuts of our bison, in our store in Colorado Spring or by mail order. We have all the cuts you would expect to find, from steaks to roasts to ribs and or ground. We also make, in our shop award winning all natural bison jerky, sausage and bratwurst. All our meat comes from our own ranch, located on highway 83 just north of Colorado Springs. We are open 7 days a week, M-Sat 9 - 6, Sun 11 - 4. Our store is located at 1234 E. Woodmen Road, Suite 120, between I-25 and Academy. Our phone number is (719) 488-3898, also check out or website for prices, recipes and online ordering of our jerky. If you have any more questions please do not hesitate to send me another email or call. Thanks for thinking of us!

Blue Mountain Bison, Lyons

Offers whole, halves and quarters of bison. For more information contact our Business Manager, Katherine Jonjak at, or call 303-823-0640.

Chico Basin Ranch, Colorado Springs
Raises grass-fed beef sold through The Lasater Ranch (see below). Contact the ranch for more information or place an order online at

Closer to Heaven Farms, Hotchkiss
12130 Payune Siding Rd.
Dairy goats and goat milk shares; goats are primarily grass-fed (grain supplemented only when being milked.) Also offer farm fresh eggs and roasting hens (grain-fed).

Crazy Horse Bison Ranch, Briggsdale
970-396-6746, 720-289-0826
Grass-fed bison available from the ranch, various cuts available. Call for information and to order.

Critterhaven, Pueblo

Offers frozen grass-fed lamb, no hormones, no antibiotics; order online

Cure Organic Farm, Boulder
Produces grass-fed lamb and pork as well as pastured, free-range hens and eggs. Products are sold through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. 2008 CSA season runs for 20 weeks from June 4th to October 15th; Fruit Shares still available.

Desert Weyr, Paonia

"We are now able to offer our Black Welsh MountainTM brand meat products by the piece. We have packages of frozen mutton chops, steaks, whole leg and shoulder roasts, shanks, ground meat and stew available for pickup at the farm or delivery in Paonia. Whole sheep and all lamb cuts must be special ordered. Sorry, we do not ship meat. We welcome your visits; we are open whenever our Delta County Farm Tour flag is up or by appointment."

Diamond F. Brand Beef/McNeil Ranch, Monte Vista

Members can order frozen grass-fed beef products online. Unless otherwise requested, all orders are shipped by UPS Ground at no charge.

Edmunson Ranch, Walsenburg
Offers whole grass-fed beef, free of growth hormones, steroids, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, grains and animal by-product feeds. Beef is available seasonally; cows can be reserved year-round and tagged for your family, but butchering time, unless otherwise specified, will be in October.

Fox Fire Farms, Ignacio
Offers frozen organic grass-fed lamb, goat, beef, and organic free-range eggs. Order online.

GrassRoots Meats, Pagosa Springs
Offers all natural grass-finished beef and lamb, raised without added hormones or antibiotics. USDA inspected. Available year-round online in a variety of retail cuts and packages, as well as wholes, halves, and quarters. Wholesale also available to restaurants, health food stores and food co-ops.

GreenPlace Ranch, Olathe
The ’08 harvest currently has available 5 – 2 year olds for order. Expected time of harvest is from the end of March through 'til the end of April. Orders will be taken until mid-April. Call or e-mail to make arrangements for your order. Other animals come to maturity throughout the season. We are also pleased to announce that we will now take orders for our USDA label quantity retail Beef Paks (an assortment of steaks, roasts and hamburger) in the $250 to $500 range + shipping. Give us a call to reserve your order. Plan on a pick-up date for the halves or wholes after two weeks of aging.Also, we are constructing the first of 6 large greenhouses for the purpose of growing untainted produce and we are also going to be raising turkeys and providing eggs and chickens this year.

High Wire Ranch, Hotchkiss
We raise 100% grass fed bison and elk, never any grain. Our pastures are herbicide and pesticide free and our animals are not given hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics. All our meat is USDA inspected, professionally processed, and vacuum packaged with no added nitrates. We have steaks, roasts, ground, sausages, organ meat, dog food and jerky. We ship frozen meat in a foam lined box with dry ice via 2nd day FedEx on Tuesdays. Colorado orders are shipped FedEx ground. To place an order call us at 970.835.7600. In the summer we are at the following farmers' markets: Aspen, Boulder, Carbondale, Ridgway, and Telluride. For a current list of the health food stores and restaurants carrying our meat please go to our web site. We will be hosting a Wine and Buffalo Feast on May 17, 2008 at the ranch. Dinner will feature locally raised foods prepared by Chef Yvon Gros of the Leroux Creek Inn. Attendance will be limited to a 100. Tickets are $45 each and will only be sold in advance. Wines from Leroux Creek Winery will be available at a cash bar. Contact Sue Whittlesey at 835-7600 to purchase your ticket.
Hi Ho Sheep Farm, Fort Collins

Offers pasture-raised, grain supplemented lamb. Now taking orders for 2008 lambs. Until the 2008 lambs are ready to harvest, we have a very limited supply of individual cuts that include riblets, snack sticks, and boneless loin chops. Meat orders of $50 or more are delivered at no charge to the Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley, and Windsor areas. Orders can be placed via phone 970.215.3449

Hines Ranch Beef, Kit Carson
Hines Ranch Beef comes from animals raised exclusively on grass and forages such as alfalfa, sorghum, cornstalks, and wheat pasture. The animals are not treated with synthetic hormones, chemical fly spray, or feed antibiotics. The beef is dry-aged for 12–14 days to improve tenderness and flavor. Quarters, halves, and whole carcasses are available. Contact the ranch to order.

Hollingsworth Land and Cattle, Indian Hills
Offers grass-fed beef without added hormones, no steroids, no antibiotics of any kind, no animal byproducts, no farmed or synthetic feeds, and no salts or water added. Our meat is hand trimmed and flash frozen in portion controlled cuts that are vacuum cryovac packaged and delivered straight to you from the ranch. Contact the ranch for information.

Homestead Market, Paonia

Grass-fed animals are available mid-august thru September. Call or visit the website for additional information.

Indian Ridge Farm & Bakery, Norwood
Offers grass-fed pastured poultry, layer hens, hogs, turkeys, beef cattle, lamb and goats. The farm markets its products via direct sales to customers in Norwood, Telluride and the surrounding region, and through farmer’s markets. The farm is also offering 25-35 CSA memberships this season.

James Ranch, Durango
33800 Hwy. 550
Offers grass-finished beef, whey-good pork and artisan cheeses. Available at their road side stand (hours vary; call first) or by special order (form available on-line.)

Javernick Family Farms, Canon City
545 S. Lincoln Ave.
Free-range chicken eggs, grass-finished beef and pastured lamb.

Johnson Ranch, Hesperus

Produces grass-fed beef, with no antibiotics, growth hormones, vaccinations, animal by-products, or confined feeding. Beef is available by advance order in whole, half, split half, and eighth. USDA inspected lean ground beef is available on demand.

Jupille Ranch, Montrose

Offers beef shares, pig shares and lamb shares, with 1 beef share = 1/8 beef, 1 pig share = 1/4 pig and 1 lamb share = 1/2 lamb. Now taking orders for May grass-finished beef and May special reserve.

Kinikin Heights Natural Foods, Montrose
Offers grass-fed beef, lamb, and grass-fed grain finished chickens and turkeys. Our meats are available by the pound, quarter or halves. All meat is USDA inspected and flash frozen unless otherwise requested.

Kinnett Ranch, Maybell
Offers goats for butcher and lamb and beef. All are raised on pasture & hay—no grain, no excessive chemicals, no hormones. Contact the ranch directly for information.

KW Farms, Alamosa
Note: I couldn’t reach these guys to get their details. Call them directly for information.

Landmark Harvest, Buena Vista
719-395-81 57
Grass-fed beef, no growth hormones, no antibiotics, no chemical pesticides, not confined. Offers split quarters, which may be reserved at any time of the year with a deposit. Please call for the next availability of beef, current pricing, and other details.

Larga Vista Ranch, Boone

Offers grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork in whole beef/hog, half beef/hog, special 40-pound mixed boxes, or individual supermarket-style cuts. Contact the ranch for more detailed pricing, processing, and delivery information on the larger quantities of meat.

Lasater's Grasslands Beef, Matheson
100 percent grass-fed beef, no hormones, no antibiotics, no pesticide use. Beef is dry aged 14 to 21 days. Multiple cuts and packages available; order online

Lazy P Ranch, Pierce
Offers grass-fed beef; working toward organic certification. You can order whole or half animals, generally ready in six months. Call the ranch for detailed information.

Lazy R/Z Ranch, Delores
15509 Hwy 145
All natural grass -ed beef available for sale by the pound. All beef is individually packaged, frozen and priced accordingly. Cuts vary from our premium ground beef, a variety of roasts, and most steak cuts. All our beef is processed and inspected in a USDA approved facility without harmful chemical baths commonly used by larger operations. Our beef is available for sale at our home office at the ranch between Cortez and Dolores. Due to the nature of our line of work we do not have business hours, so calling ahead is recommended. We also sell at the farmers markets in Cortez and Dolores during the summer months.

Maytag Mountain Ranch, Hillside
Offers whole, halves and quarter splits of grass-fed beef, no hormones, no antibiotics, no chemical fertilizers offered in halves and quarter splits. Beef is usually available starting in June and running through October. Call the ranch for additional information.

Milagro Ranch, Carbondale
Offer grass-fed beef in halves, quarters and eighths, individual prime cuts may be available. Contact the ranch directly to order.

New Moon Farms, Boulder
Free range chickens and eggs

Northern Colorado Poultry LLC, Grover
Free-range chickens

Observatory Rock Bison Ranch, Jefferson
Our animals are pasture raised on lush & native grasses. We never use grains, antibiotics, growth hormones or pesticides of any kind. Available in one quarter or one-eighth packages. For information, call or email

Prairie Gold Natural Beef, Simla
303-513-7700, or 719-541-2185
Grass-fed, grass-finished, pasture raised beef; whole animals offered. Contact the ranch for details.

Princess Beef, Hotchkiss
Offers grass-fed beef, no antibiotics and no hormones. Offering whole, half and split quarters, as well as a standard package. Beef is limited with most of the supply ready October – November. Order form available on their website.

Quintana Farms, San Pablo
Offers grass-fed beef and lamb in a variety of cuts. USDA inspected. Call ranch for information.

R Patch O Heaven, Eaton
Offers shares in raw cow and goat milk available from the farm or thru other share holders in Loveland and Erie Co.

Rainbow Run Bison, Fort Lupton
Note: I couldn’t reach these guys to get their details. Call them directly for information.

Reverse K Bar Ranch LP, Collbran

14523 57 Rd.
Offers grass-fed beef by the cut or whole/half animal. To order, view product pricing online and e-mail

Salazar Natural Meats, Manassa

719-843-5264 or 719-580-5264
Pasture-raised, in open meadows and other hay pastures, no hormones, no antibiotics, no animal by-products in feed, non-confined. Offers whole steers, beef packaged in one-eighth, one-quarter, one-half or whole beef packs under the Salazar Natural Beef Label, as well as steak or ground beef under the Salazar Natural Beef Label. Call the ranch directly to order.

Scenic Mesa Ranch, Hotchkiss

Offers grass-finished buffalo, no hormones. Various cuts available through their online store at

Shady Springs Ranch, Franktown

Pasture-raised, grain supplemented turkeys; order online

Stillroven Farm, Berthoud
Offers grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, and pheasants -- available at the farm on Wednesdays and Fridays during the spring and summer, and on weekends during the winter. Call for times.

Sun Prairie Natural Beef, Denver
We sell 25lb or 50lb box of frozen, varied grass-fed beef cuts from cattle raised primarily on 1300 acres of native prairie grass 15 miles south of Yuma. Our product is seasonal. We offer a Denver Metro delivery in May and in October/November. We are targeting May 3rd for our Spring delivery. Check back in mid-March to place your order.

Sustainable Settings, Carbondale
6107 Highway 133
Offers 100 percent grass-fed beef, lamb and yak; available at the Sustainable Settings Ranch Store; please call for hours/availability.

Triple M. Bar, Co., Manzanola
Note: I couldn’t reach these guys to get their details. Call them directly for information.

Western Spirit Ranch, Parker

Offers humanely raised, completely natural, antibiotic-growth-hormone-GMO-free, grass and range fed livestock, including Colorado lamb, Bershire pork and Heritage poultry. We take orders all year long for our fall Colorado Lamb harvest and periodic availability of Pure Berkshire Pork. We encourage buyers to place their orders as early in the year as possible. For 2008, we will again deliver free to customers along Colorado’s Front Range. All other shipments will be via overnight express [Colorado] or express delivery service for out-of-state. Call or visit the website for detailed information.

West's Best Beef, LLC , Jarosos
Offers grass-fed beef in various cuts, USDA inspected. Call the ranch for information.

Windkist Ranch, Hartsel
2400 Fourmile Creek Rd.
All natural grass-fed, grass-finished yak, goat and lamb. Available cuts listed on website; order by phone or email.

Windsor Dairy, Windsor

6427 WCR 68.5

A certified organic dairy farm that offers raw milk (via cow shares), farmstead cheese, organic grass-fed beef, organic grass-fed pork, pastured chicken and eggs raised on the farm and USDA inspected. Open 1-5PM on Fridays and Saturdays.

[1] Fact Sheet: The Cattle Industry, Who We Are, from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Associations, Updated 10/2006
[2] Beef Market At A Glance, from the National Beef Cattlemen’s Association,
[3] Colorado Cattle, Colorado Beef Production, as accessed 2/1/2008
[4] Conventional Beef, produced by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
[5] Pasture-to-Plate, Stages in beef Production,, as accessed 2/2/2008
[6] SIC 2011 Meat Packing Plants, from the Encyclopedia of American industries, as accessed 2/13/2008
[7] Olson, Karen, The Shame of Meatpacking, August 29, 2002 as published in The Nation. as accessed 2/13/2008

Saturday, February 9, 2008

In Search of Grass-fed Beef - Retail

When I started looking around for grass-fed beef a couple of months ago, it was nowhere to be found. I finally checked out my local Vitamin Cottage and found a frozen brick of grass-fed ground beef from The Lasater Ranch. I brought it home and made a dandy little meatloaf. The flavor was good; the texture was fine, and I could feel my body tingling from all those healthy Omega 3s and CLAs.

Suddenly, I'm seeing grass-fed beef everywhere! Safeway has started carrying grass-fed beef from Maverick Ranch, and now -- believe it or not -- even Target carries it!

This week, we picked up a couple of grass-fed sirloin steaks, and if the weather holds, they're going on the grill tonight.

As promised, here's a starter list of retail grocers where you can buy grass-fed beef. This is a compilation of best available information from the following sources:

It's not comprehensive, by any means, so if you know of other sources, please add them to the comments section. In addition, I can't vouch for the veracity of any of the listings; nor am I recommending any vendors. Finally, keep in mind that you still need to read labels (or talk to your grocer) to find up what's really up with packaged beef. (Check out my previous post on Beef Labels 101.) A lot of the grass-fed beef offered in chain grocers and big box stores is imported from who-knows-where, and just because a cow is grass-fed doesn't mean it's free of hormones, steroids and/or antibiotics -- or wasn't confined in a factory farm feedlot. Your best bet is to look for grass-fed, pasture-raised, non-confined, no antibiotics, no added hormones beef.

Better yet, once you've tried a couple of cuts, you may want to order grass-fed beef (or other meats) directly from a Colorado rancher. I'll share everything I've learned about that process in my next post. In the meantime, here's a list to get you started....

Alpine Natural Foods, Frisco
310 W Main Street
Beef: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non-confined, pasture-raised

Back to the Basics, Colorado Springs
2332 Vickers Dr.
719-590-9143 Beef: 100 percent vegetarian feed, cage free, no added hormones, no antibiotic use
Bison: Grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use

Bamboo Markets Health Foods, Steamboat Springs

1110 Yampa Street, Ste. 100

B&F Mountain Market, Nederland
60 Lakeview Drive

Black Canyon Organics, Olathe

5476 5700 Road
“We carry an assortment of natural and organic grocery items. We offer home delivery to Crested Butte, Gunnison, Telluride, Delta, Montrose and Olathe. We will be producers of some specific items in the next year. Here's what we carry that meets your request:
* Organic Lamb - grass fed, Colorado raised
* Organic Beef - grass fed, Colorado raised
* Natural Yak (a member of the bovine family) - grass fed, Colorado raised
* Natural Elk - grass fed, Colorado raised

Black Forest Bison, Colorado Springs

1234 E. Woodmen Rd.
“We offer 100% grass fed, pasture raised, no antibiotics, hormones, steroids Bison. They never go to a fed lot and are never fed grain, so they are from start and finish on grass. We offer frozen cuts of our bison, in our store in Colorado Spring or by mail order. We have all the cuts you would expect to find, from steaks to roasts to ribs and or ground. We also make, in our shop award winning all natural bison jerky, sausage and bratwurst. All our meat comes from our own ranch, located on highway 83 just north of Colorado Springs. We are open 7 days a week, M-Sat 9 - 6, Sun 11 - 4.”

Clark’s Norwood Market, Norwood
1435 East Grand Ave.

Clark’s Market, Aspen
300 N. Mill Street
Beef: 100 percent vegetarian feed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non-confined, pasture-raised
Bison: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed/grain supplemented, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non-confined, pasture-raised

Clarks Market, Telluride
700 W. Colorado Ave.

The Colorado Cupboard, Longmont
2001 N. Main St.

Durango Natural Foods, Durango
Eighth Ave. & College Drive
“We carry the following:
* Beef - grass-fed, grass-finished, many cuts available (in store we have ground, stew, sirloin steak, and chuck roast), from James Ranch in Durango * Buffalo - grass-fed, grass-finished, many cuts available (in store we have ground, kabobs or stew, and steaks, currently sirloin, tenderloin, and New York, from Scenic Mesa Buffalo in Hotchkiss. We also carry Italian sausage, which contains some grass-fed pork, origin unknown.
* Lamb - grass-fed, grass-finished, certified organic, many cuts available (in store we have ground, kabobs or stew, usually loin chops, usually boneless legs) from Foxfire Farms in Durango
* Elk - grass-fed, grass-finished, many cuts available (in store we carry ground and stew), from Colorado Elk & Game in Montrose.

Fort Collins Food Co-op, Fort Collins
205 E. Mountain Ave.

Good Health Natural Grocers, Glenwood Springs
722 Cooper Ave.
Bison: Grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use

Gunnison Vitamin and Health Food, Gunnison
722 N. Main Street
Carries local, grass-fed beef from Lasater Ranch

Hardin’s Natural Foods, Hotchkiss
31424 HWY 92
Beef: grass fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non confined, pasture raised
Bison: pasture raised, non confined, no antibiotic use, no added hormones, grass fed, 100 percent vegetarian feed

Healthy Solutions Community Market & Deli, Steamboat Springs
335 Lincoln Ave.
Beef: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed/grain supplemented, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, pasture-raised Bison: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, organic, pasture-raised

Highland Health Foods, Montrose
16367 S. Townsend
Bison: grass fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non confined, pasture raised
Great selection of locally raised meats, including certified organic Yak

Joy’s Natural Foods, Pagosa Springs
117 Navaho Trail Dr., Suite T
Beef: Grass-fed, No Added Hormones, No Antibiotic Use
Bison: Grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use

Love-R-Health Foods, LaJunta
220 W 3rd Street
Bison: Grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use

Lucky’s Market, Boulder
3960 Broadway
Beef and Bison: 100 percent vegetarian feed, free range/roaming, grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non-confined, pasture raised (beef is also organic).

Manitou Natural, Manitou Springs
56 Park Avenue
Carries local, grass-fed beef from Lasater Ranch

Manna Natural Foods, Cedaredge
195 W. Main St.
Beef: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non confined, pasture raised
Bison: pasture raised, non confined, no antibiotic use, no added hormones, grass fed, 100 percent vegetarian feed

Marczyk Fine Foods, Denver

1770 East 17th Avenue, 303-894-9499
Bison: Grass-fed

Michelle’s Ambrosia Market, Pueblo
112 Colorado Ave.
Beef: No added hormones, no antibiotic use, organic, pasture-raised
Bison: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed/grain supplemented, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, pasture-raised

Mountain Earth Natural Goods, Crested Butte
405 4th Street
Beef: 100 percent vegetarian feed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, pasture raised Bison: pasture raised, no antibiotic use, no added hormones, grass fed and grain supplement, 100 percent vegetarian feed.

Mountain Harmony Natural Foods, Walsenburg
110 6th St.
Bison: pasture raised, no antibiotic use, no added hormones, grass fed and grain supplement, 100 percent vegetarian feed.

Mountain Mama Natural Foods, Colorado Springs, CO
1625-A W. Uintah Street
Carries local, grass-fed beef from Lasater Ranch

Mountain Naturals, Aspen
316 Aspen Airport Business center, Suite B
Beef: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed/grain supplemented, no added hormones, no antibiotic use
Bison: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non-confined, pasture-raised

Mountain People’s Co-op, Nederland
30 East First Street
(303) 258-7500
Bison: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass fed/grain supplemented, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non-confined, pasture-raised.

Mother Nature’s Health Foods, Canon City
915 Main St.
Beef: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed/grain supplemented, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, organic
Bison: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non-confined, pasture-raised

Mountain Earth Natural Goods, Crested Butte
405 4th Street
Beef: 100 percent vegetarian feed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, pasture-raised
Bison: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed/grain supplemented, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, pasture-raised

The Natural Market, Montrose
1541 Oxbow Drive #1450

Nature’s Oasis, Durango
1123 Camino del Rio
Carries James Ranch grass-finished beef

Naturally Yours, Pagosa Springs
162 N. Pagosa Blvd.

Nature’s Pantry, Buena Vista
545 N. Hwy 24
Beef: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non-confined, pasture-raised
Bison: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non-confined, pasture-raised

Neighborhood Natural Goods, Salida
320 W. 7th St.
Beef: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non-confined, organic, pasture-raised
Bison: no added hormones, no antibiotic use

Old River Trading Post, Paonia
15495 Black Bridge Road
Beef: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non confined, organic, pasture raised
Bison: organic, non confined, 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass fed, pasture raised, no antibiotic use, no added hormones

Rainbow Co-op, Ridgeway
(Buying club with no storefront)

Rocky Mountain Natural Store, Colorado Springs
1502 W. Colorado Ave.

Rocky Plains, Erie/Dacono
4022 WCR 11
Grass-finished bison

Rocky Plains, Loveland
207 S. Washington Ave.
Grass-finished bison

Sammy’s Organics, Colorado Springs
1801 S. 8th Street

Season’s Harvest, Ridgeway Natural Foods, Ridgeway
521 Clinton Street

Simple Foods Market, Salida
1548 G Street #4
We offer grass-fed and finished beef from Landmark Harvest Meats of Buena Vista and grass-fed and finished lamb from GrassRoots Meats of Pagosa Springs. All of these meats are sold frozen. Most cuts are available, though not always in stock due to space limitations.

Sunnyside Farms Market, Durango
1135 S. Camino Del Rio
Carries grass finished beef from James Ranch

Sunshine Markets Natural Foods, Salida
233 F Street
Beef: 100 percent vegetarian feed, grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non-confined, pasture-raised

The Market at Mountain Village, Mountain Village
455 Mountain Village Blvd.

TR’s Country Store, Rye
6154 Boulder Ave.
Beef: Free-range/roaming, grass-fed, no added hormones, no antibiotic use, non-confined, organic, pasture-raised

Vitamin Cottage, Multiple Locations Offers local grass-fed beef from the Lasater Ranch (frozen ground beef). May vary from store to store; call first to check.

Wild Oats/Whole Foods Markets, Multiple Locations
According to Whole Foods’ Rocky Mountain Meat Coordinator, grass-fed beef can be purchased at any Rocky Mountain store (fresh, all cuts available). Local grass-fed beef from the Lasater Ranch can be purchased from the Colorado Springs store (fresh, all cuts available).

Winter Park Organic Market, Winter Park
78336 U.S. Hwy 40
"Due to the size of my small health food store, I can only carry frozen beef products. I carry the following:
* Greener Pastures Ranch Beef products- Grass-raised from Steamboat Springs. Finished frozen, ground beef, sirloin and beef strip. My inventory changes according to what they have to harvest from.
* Gosar Ranch- Ground beef from Monte Vista, CO. Finished frozen, fed either grass or alfalfa.
The Buffalo Guys- ground buffalo from Elk Mountain, WY. Finished frozen. The label doesn’t specify what the animals are fed.

Yauk Specialty Meats, Windsor
220 Main Street

Zuma Natural Foods, Mancos
560 Menefee
Carries James Ranch beef

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Dangers of Factory Beef - Caught On Tape!

They say ignorance is bliss. And they were right!

When I started this blog, it was out of curiosity, fueled by a passionate belief in supporting a sustainable local/regional food system. I hate to admit it, but before I got into this, I was one of those happy, mindless consumers who filled up the grocery cart without giving a thought to where my food comes from. Now, as I turn over rocks on the road from farm to grocer, it seems as though there's a scorpion under every stone!

Yesterday, it was reported that public school districts across the Denver metro area (including Denver, Cherry Creek and Jefferson and Douglas counties) have temporarily stopped serving beef in their cafeterias. That's because earlier this week, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released videotape findings of its investigation of the Hallmark Meat Packing Company in Chino, California -- the nation's No. 2 supplier of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program. The video presents shocking images of the appalling mistreatment of "downed" dairy cows — those who are too sick or injured to walk. These downer cows present an increased risk of spreading mad cow disease and other harmful foodborne pathogens that can jeopardize human health.

You can view the entire video -- and take action to help prevent these abuses in the future -- here, at the HSUS website, but be warned. These images are graphic and disturbing. You may never eat factory hamburger again!

As awareness of the video spread, the USDA took action. According to a statement from the USDA released yesterday, "the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) suspended inspection at Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company based on the establishment's clear violation of Federal regulations and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. This Notice of Suspension is a regulatory course of action available when FSIS finds egregious violations of humane handling regulations."

The USDA suspension will remain in effect and the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company will not be allowed to operate until written corrective actions are submitted and verified by FSIS to ensure that animals are humanely handled.

The USDA also suspended indefinitely the eligibility of Westland Meat Packing Company to participate as a supplier to Federal food and nutrition programs, specifically the National School Lunch Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

On the plus side, this story got me motivated. I've been trying to put together a directory of retail and producer locations where you can buy locally raised, grass-fed beef and it's not easy. It's taking me longer than I thought.

This was the shot in the arm I needed to keep soldiering on....

Monday, February 4, 2008

Beef Labeling 101

So you’re looking for grass-fed beef. You find some fresh ground beef at the local grocer labeled as “grass fed” and you think you’re home free. In reality, that cow could have spent the last three to four months of its life in a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), been implanted with growth hormones and shot up with sub-therapeutic and therapeutic antibiotics, and, until recently -- fed any unimaginable combination of “legally approved foods.”


Is that what you thought you were getting?

If not, it’s time to take a minute to understand what all the various meat labels really mean.

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Grass Fed —Last October, the USDA issued a voluntary standard for grass (forage) fed marketing claims. The grass fed standard states that “grass and/or forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. The diet shall be derived solely from forage and animals cannot be fed grain or grain by-products and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.” Notice that the term “access to pasture” is open to interpretation, and that the definition doesn’t include any requirements about hormone use, antibiotic use, how it’s raised, whether or not it was fed an organic diet, or whether or not it has ever been confined to a feedlot.

  • Organic -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has established a set of national standards that food labeled "organic" must meet, whether it is grown in the United States or imported from other countries. After October 21, 2002, when you buy food labeled "organic," you can be sure that it was produced using organic production and handling standards. The organic label means that the animal (1) has undergone no genetic modification; (2) was fed grass or grain that was 100 percent organic, and (3) was not treated with antibiotics, growth hormones, or chemical pesticides. In addition, all organically raised animals must have access to the outdoors, including access to pasture for ruminants. They may be temporarily confined only for reasons of health, safety, the animal's stage of production, or to protect soil or water quality. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier completes an inspection to make sure the farmer/producer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. The USDA Organic seal also tells you that a product is at least 95 percent organic.

  • Natural – As the USDA puts it: "All fresh meat qualifies as natural." The natural label refers to a product that contains no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product.) The label must explain the use of the term natural (such as - no added colorings or artificial ingredients; minimally processed.) Notice that there are no requirements pertaining to how an animal is raised, what it’s fed, whether or not it’s given hormones or antibiotics, or how it’s treated. Because there is no government certification program for natural food products, many companies use the term “natural” in their product branding or labeling -- and research tells us that consumers are often confused about what “natural” really means. A national poll conducted by Consumer Reports in 2007 found that nine out of ten consumers expect “natural” meat to come from animals that were raised on a diet without drugs, chemicals or other artificial ingredients.”[1]

  • Certified -- The term "certified" implies that the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Agriculture Marketing Service have officially evaluated a meat product for class, grade, or other quality characteristics (e.g., "Certified Angus Beef"). When used under other circumstances, the term must be closely associated with the name of the organization responsible for the "certification" process, e.g., "XYZ Company's Certified Beef".

  • No Hormones -- The term "no hormones administered" may be approved for use on the label of beef products if sufficient documentation is provided to the USDA by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals.

  • No Antibiotics -- The terms "no antibiotics added" may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the USDA demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.

  • No Animal Byproducts, Never Confined to a Feedlot — Not defined or recognized by the USDA, these marketing claims attest that no animal byproducts were used in the feed of the cow(s) and that the animals were never confined to a feedlot.

  • Irradiation — Meat that has been irradiated to reduce bacteria levels must be labeled "Treated by Irradiation" or "Treated with Radiation."

  • Halal and Zabiah Halal -- Products prepared by federally inspected meat packing plants identified with labels bearing references to "Halal" or "Zabiah Halal" must be handled according to Islamic law and under Islamic authority.

  • Kosher -- "Kosher" may be used only on the labels of meat and poultry products prepared under Rabbinical supervision.

  • Prime, Choice, and Select — These USDA grades are a subjective measure of quality and imply nothing about how the cow was raised. Grading is based on several factors but is primarily determined by the amount of marbling – or how much fat is distributed throughout. Prime cuts have the most marbling, Choice cuts are next and Select cuts have the least amount of marbling.

  • Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is still under debate. COOL labeling became mandatory Oct. 1, 2004. However, in 2005 beef producers were granted additional time to ready their systems, and implementation was delayed until Sept. 30, 2008. On July 27, 2007, the House of Representatives passed its version of the 2007 Farm Bill, which kept intact provisions for mandatory country-of-origin labeling, and on Dec. 14, 2007, the Senate passed its version, which also included mandatory labeling. COOL labeling will help you determine if your grass-fed beef was imported from Argentina or Brazil, or raised in the USA.

That’s a quick overview of the labeling quagmire. If you care about the quality and healthfulness of your food (and the sustainability of your food system), your best bet is to get to know the retailers and ranchers who raise and sell it.

Stay tuned: we’ll be directing you to local retail outlets and local producers of grass-fed beef in upcoming posts.

[1] Consumer Reports food-labelling pollshows consumers want to know where their food comes from and expect higher label standards., as accessed 02/04/08