Where you get your beef, how it’s raised and, ultimately, the way it is prepared make all the difference in how it affects your health and the environment. Source matters — greatly — and part of that includes knowing where your beef was raised. You’d probably assume that beef labeled “Product of the USA” was a product of the U.S., but this isn’t necessarily the case.
As it stands there is no USDA requirement that beef or pork be labeled to let consumers know what country it came from, despite the fact that Americans overwhelmingly want to know. A Consumers Union poll found that 93 percent of those who responded said they favored country-of-origin labeling. And why wouldn’t they? It’s one more way for you to know where your food comes from, providing once commonplace information that has disappeared in the industrial food arena.
By removing COOL, multinational companies are allowed to pass off imported meat as U.S.-raised, while U.S. farmers suffer. AGA noted, “Evidence submitted by the groups indicate that U.S. cattle producers received higher prices for their cattle when the origins of foreign beef was distinguished in the marketplace.” AGA president Will Harris continued:
“The American Grassfed Family Farmer suffers financially, from this intentional anonymity, more than any other segment of the meat industry. Thank you R-Calf for bringing this injustice to light. Some American Consumers make the decision to pay a premium for beef that is produced in a humane and regenerative manner.
They do this, in part, to positively impact lands, animals and farm communities in the United States. Hiding the National Origin of products from these consumers is a travesty. It should not be tolerated.”
When in search of the best beef for your health and the environment, it’s not only the country of origin that matters but also the conditions in which it’s raised. Grass fed is the clear winner. For starters, it’s better for you, with beneficial conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) levels increasing by two- to threefold when cattle are grass finished as opposed to grain finished.13 This is a significant benefit, as CLA is associated with a lower risk of cancer and heart disease and optimized cholesterol levels.
The ratio of dietary fats is also healthier in grass fed beef, and it is also higher in antioxidants like vitamins E and A, along with the enzymes superoxide dismutase and catalase, which mop up free radicals that could otherwise hasten oxidation and spoilage.