Don’t be misled by “Natural” labeling—learn about the big differences between organic and “natural” meat.
As pioneers of organic meat, we take pride in going above and beyond the USDA Organic standards. Learn what separates American Farmers Network from the rest.
How is American Farmers Network Beef Different from Other Beef?
American Farmers Network’s Meadow Organics brand of beef is the best you can buy, nutritionally, environmentally, and sustainability. Yes, every pound of beef is 100% certified organic and 100% grass-fed. In addition the animals in this program go beyond these two sets of standards in important ways, bringing you, our valued customer, a nutritious product and a superior eating experience. Here are the foundational principles around which we are established.
- Nutritionally Superior
- USDA Certified Organic
- 100% Grass Fed
- Beef from Beef Cattle Breeds
- Raised Humanely
- Dedicated Animal Care
- Caring Animal Transport
- Superior Food Safety
- Healthier Smoked Meats
1. Nutritionally Superior
Not only is American Farmers Network’s Meadow Organics beef free of antibiotics, hormones, animal byproducts and chemicals in feed, as described below, it is leaner and higher in beneficial fats and lower in calories and cholesterol. Because our beef is 100% grass-fed, it is far superior in its Omega-6 to Omegat-3 fatty acid ratios at 2:1 or less. This compares with grain-fed ratios of 5:1 and higher. Health professionals recommend a ratio of 4:1 or less. Studies also show that grass-fed meat is much higher in Conjugated Linoleic Acid and vitamin A. These nutritional properties increase resistance to disease and help in the maintenance of a healthy weight.
2. USDA 100% Certified Organic
Every farmer or rancher who raises animals and markets them through American Farmers Network complies with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program’s standards for 100% Certified Organic beef. Cattle in this program are raised without growth hormones, antibiotics or other medicines and are fed a diet free of animal byproducts, pesticides, herbicides and any other added chemicals. Additionally, as with all Certified Organic products, our wholesome organic meats are raised without any genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Once legislation to set national standards for organic food was passed in 1990, a committee of farmers, ranchers, consumers, scientists, manufacturers and food retailers worked for more than a decade to establish a set of comprehensive standards that ensured consumers got what they thought they were getting when they purchased organic foods. A committee continues to oversee revisions to the program’s standards. These standards are the most stringently regulated claim that exists in our country today.
Certified Organic means American Farmer’s Network Meadow Organics beef is:
Not fed animal byproducts
Feeding the leftovers or byproducts from slaughtered animals to live animals has been a common practice of large-scale feeding operations, often referred to as factory farms, because this is a cheap source of protein. This has included chicken litter (spilled grain, bedding and feces) swept from the floors of big poultry operations, as well as reconstituted and rendered feeds made from things like feathers, blood, bone and other residual leftovers from slaughter houses. When the Mad Cow epidemic hit Europe in the 1990s, U.S. regulations prohibiting the feeding of “ruminants to ruminants” were enacted. This meant that byproducts from ruminants cannot be fed to live ruminant animals. It is believed that Mad Cow disease and the similar prion diseases contracted by other ruminant species are contracted when ruminant animals eat the brain tissue and/or spinal cord of an infected animal. This ban remains in effect today, but ruminant animals in feedlots are routinely fed blood meal, bone meal or fish meal—whatever is cheapest and most accessible—from non-ruminants.
Because of our farmers’ strict adherence to National Organic Standards (and because we are strictly 100% grass-fed), our beef will NEVER come from animals that have eaten any animal product unless they happen to ingest an insect while grazing.
Fed a GMO-free diet
Over the last several decades, genetic science has developed a way to make specific genetic changes to a plant or animal by inserting genes from one species into the genes of a completely different species. Many people, including scientists, are concerned that genetically-modified organisms or GMOs are detrimental to personal health and harmful to the environment. GMO corn, soybeans and alfalfa are commonly used by farmers, and these products are among the most common animal feeds. This means that if you eat supermarket meat, you are eating GMOs. Meadow Organics beef, because it is 100% Certified Organic, comes from animals fed a diet that is GMO free.
Never treated with hormones
Another common practice of feedlots is to inject growth hormones or steroids (synthetic hormones) into cattle to cause them to grow faster. This very common practice causes animals to grow faster and bigger than they normally would. Many consumers are very concerned that these hormones have a harmful impact on people when we eat the meat from these animals. Meadow Organics beef is NEVER, EVER treated with added hormones or steroids. Animals are allowed to grow at their natural pace.
Never administered antibiotics
The discovery of antibiotics to treat infection in the early part of the 20th century has been a life-saving development for both human health and livestock health. Now, the ability of antibiotics to fight infection is being threatened by the severe over-use of these drugs. Some contend that doctors over prescribe antibiotics to their patients, but without a doubt the most extensive over-use of antibiotics is in the high capacity animal feeding operations.
Feedlots crowd animals from many different farms or ranches into relatively small areas, and the cattle eat large amounts of grain, which is a change to their digestive systems. They are unable to move as they normally would when grazing, and when it rains or snows, they can be standing in a foot or more of manure. All this contributes to an assault on the immune system of the cattle. Rather than watch for sick cattle and treat them with antibiotics, managers have learned that it is cheaper from a labor point-of-view to mix antibiotics into the feed. We call this feeding antibiotics sub-therapeutically or below the level needed to treat disease..
The animal welfare issues aside, feeding of sub-therapeutic antibiotics has greatly increased antibiotics resistance. And, if used improperly, antibiotic residues can remain in the meat after the animals are harvested.. Additionally, feedlot managers have learned that constant low dosage antibiotics in the feed have a similar effect on cattle, pigs, and poultry as adding growth hormones. Simply put, the treated livestock grow quicker and add more lean muscle mass than those that are not treated with sub-therapeutic antibiotics.
American Farmers Network producers do NOT feed antibiotics to their animals sub-therapeutically. They go a step beyond this. If an animal is sick enough to need to be treated with antibiotics, it is removed from the program and sold into the general meat market as conventional meat. Buyers of American Farmers Network’s Meadow Organics beef will never eat beef treated with antibiotics, sub-therapeutically or otherwise.
American Farmers Network beef is 100% Certified Organic, which means it is from cattle fed chemical-free diets that also are free of animal byproducts and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Our animals are never administered hormones or antibiotics. However, 100% Certified Organic does not prohibit animals from eating grain. This is the reason we do not think it is enough to stop with organic certification. We want more, and so should you.
3. 100% Grass-fed
Unlike the organic definition, which is highly regulated and specifically defined, the definition of grass-fed varies greatly.. When we say 100% grass-fed, we mean that our animals never eat grain. All ruminant animals, which includes cattle, sheep and bison, eat grass and/or hay, so it is disingenuous to call ruminants fed grass and grain “grass-fed.” With the exception of mother’s milk until an animal is weaned and a mineral supplement, all of our animals eat pasture grasses or hay, which is really dried grass, and nothing else. They are raised free range on grass pastures. They are not fattened in feedlots or confinement operations.
“Supermarket beef” is from animals that may start out on pasture as calves, but these animals are weaned and moved into crowded feedlots where they are bunched closely with other calves, fed a diet high in corn and other grains and given growth hormones to speed up their growth rates. Not only can feedlots be filthy, especially when it rains or snows, feedlot animals have little shelter and very limited opportunities to move as nature intended. Typically, the diet fed to feedlot cattle contains sub-therapeutic or small doses of antibiotics to prevent serious illness, which could be prevalent under these conditions without the daily dosage of antibiotics.
You might be surprised to learn that all of the above production practices, except feeding grain, are allowable under the USDA’s grass-fed affidavit program. However, raising cattle in feedlots and administering hormones and antibiotics is not acceptable to the farmers and ranchers of the American Farmers Network. Meat from animals raised exclusively on grass is healthier for people, and grass-fed production is more humane for the animals and better for the environment.
Cattle raised by American Farmers Network’s farmers and ranchers are 100% Certified Organic and 100% grass-fed. Our cattle eat only grass or hay once weaned, have year-round access to pasture, and are never administered hormones or antibiotics. Even this is not enough for our customers.
4. Beef from Beef Cattle Breeds
The farmers and ranchers of the American Farmers Network raise beef cattle, which are developed for meat. The breed that is most commonly raised by our producers is Angus. Angus and Angus crossbred cattle are known throughout the world for their superior beef quality, being more tender, juicy and full flavored. The reason this is important is because much of the organic beef sold in the United States comes from cull dairy cows. Cull is the word farmers and ranchers use to indicate the time when an animal’s annual breeding productivity tapers off and becomes insufficient. Cull cattle from organic dairies are harvested and sold as organic meat.
While there is nothing wrong with this meat from a food safety or nutrition standpoint, meat from older dairy cows just isn’t as flavorful or tender as meat from younger beef animals raised specifically to produce the best beef.
The American Farmers Network wants the best possible taste, flavor and texture, so we go to the added cost of using only young cattle raised specifically for beef. Our farmers and ranchers spend many years, sometimes spanning from one generation to the next, breeding animals that will have superior meat. Not only is this meat good for you, it tastes fantastic!
5. Born, Raised and Harvested in the United States
The next time you visit a supermarket, take a look at the meat case. You will find labels on each package of meat that say things like: "Product of USA, Canada, Mexico and Other Countries." This country-of-origin labeling (COOL) is now required by law on all single-ingredient beef, pork, and chicken. Not a problem since you are headed to the organic section of the meat counter, right? Well, no. Meat labeled organic or grass-fed is not necessarily from farms and ranches in the United States. These products may even have a USDA inspection sticker on them, but that does not mean they are U.S. product. It is common amongst the large retail grocery chains of America to import organic and/or grass-fed beef from Australia or Uruguay, the two largest export countries in the world for grass-fed beef. It’s important to read the label, so you know you’re supporting the American farm family and local economies.
USDA-inspected meat processing plants have an inspector on site each time an animal is harvested for sale to the public. Plants in foreign countries are rarely inspected by the USDA. Sometimes paperwork alone is required to determine that the foreign facility is “equivalent” to a USDA-inspected processing plant, even plants in countries with overall lower standards of health and hygiene.
6. Raised by Independent Family Farmers
Our family farmers take their job seriously. They not only believe in raising nutritionally, environmentally, and sustainably superior animals, they are continuously looking to improve their breeding stock and production practices, which will result in even better products for you. When you buy meat from animals born, raised and harvested in the United States, you support U.S. farmers and ranchers. More than any other industry, it is important for national security, environmental diversity and consumer health to ensure that we maintain a thriving network of family farms and ranches.
The meat marketed by the American Farmers Network is superior in health attributes, taste and quality. Buying from us also supports family farmers and rural communities.
7. Raised Humanely
The cattle raised by American Farmers Network’s farmers and ranchers spend the majority of their day grazing or in winter months feeding on grass hay, alfalfa hay or other dry forages in spacious paddocks, still with pasture access. They are never squeezed into a feedlot like the vast majority of U.S. beef cattle. They are humanely harvested at a local processing facility. Our farmers care deeply about the animals they raise. Many herds are passed down from one generation to the next, with the goal of ongoing improvement and environment sustainability foremost in the minds and hearts of American Farmers Network’s farmers and ranchers.
8. Dedicated Animal Care
Most of our dedicated farmers have been on their farms for generations. Compassionate animal care is a value passed from one generation to the next, often with grandparents setting the right example for both their children and grandchildren. We know that treating our livestock with respect andcompassion, and giving them ample freedom to move and express natural behaviors cuts down on illness and stress; which in turn improves meat quality. Additionally all our organic farmers and ranchers have at least one annual audit by an independent third party organic certification agency to verify our high standards of animal care are met.
Humane harvest completes our compassionate animal care commitment. This is assured by the teachings of world renowned animal care expert Temple Grandin, whose facility design and animal handling practices have greatly impacted how our animals are treated. You can rest assured that respect of the animal is honored throughout our network of family farmers and family run meat processing facilities.
9. Animal Transportation
Transportation of livestock is a critical control point for Meadow Organics. We know that this can be stressful on our organic livestock and therefore do not truck our livestock halfway across the country for harvest. Often times, the harvest facility is within the same state. Truck drivers who transport our animals learn and pass industry-developed quality assurance care guidelines and tests.
10. Superior Food Safety
Food safety is of paramount concern to us. All of our meat processing facilities are USDA inspected plants with multiple third party validation oversight. This includes audits by an organic certification agency as well as audits by Silliker Food Safety Systems or a similar organization. Every facility has a product recall plan and implements systematic Good Manufacturing Practices and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures. Unlike conventional plants who use industrial solvents for cleaning and sanitation, our facilities use approved organic citric acid, steam pasteurization, UV light, steam vacuuming and other safe, wholesome methods for meat processing.
11. All Added Ingredients Are 100% Certified Organic
American Farmers Network’s Meadow Organics smoked products, such as our beef hot dogs and the bacon we use, is made with some of our value-added products. All added products are made in the healthiest way possible and according to National Organic Standards. Our hot dogs, smoked sausages and bacon are smoked using the naturally occurring nitrates in celery juice, stimulated with a lactic acid starter culture. Unlike traditionally cured meats which use added chemical nitrates/nitrites, this culture does not remain after the process is completed.
Why we do this
Our foundational principles drive every decision we make. We adhere to these principles because it’s the right thing to do, and we believe in providing the best possible meat to you and your family. We do this because we care about the health of our livestock, the health of the family farmers and ranchers, the health of our environment, and most importantly, the health of you, our valued customer. We know we are what we eat. We know we all have to pay at some point for all health decisions we make. We would rather invest in our health on the front side with safer, more nutritious food than later with higher healthcare costs. We do this because organic farming produces happier healthier livestock, which results in leaner, tenderer, more wholesome, and high quality meat.