Does Your Organic Beef Make the Grade?

organic beef grade

If you’re buying organic beef, the certified organic label might seem like a simple either/or proposition: either the product is certified organic, or it isn’t. In reality, beef bearing the certified organic label can be produced under a wide variety of circumstances, and both ranchers and buyers can benefit by learning more about the details.

A free report from the Cornucopia Institute aims to deliver that knowledge. Value Meal: The Benefits of Organic Beef Production “uncovers the latest research in certified organic beef production, with takeaways for anyone interested in shifting their beef buying habits to prioritize quality,” according to the organization.

The report reviews the letter of the organic regulations, and then covers some of the main ways that certified organic production practices vary from one operation to the next: the degree of confinement, the amount of grass in the diet, and animal welfare practices. It also explores the impacts of these factors on human health, climate, and ecosystem health.

The report comes with an organic beef scorecard that rates certified organic brands by the degree to which they go “above and beyond” the minimum set by the USDA organic standards. Scoring criteria include supply source (single farmstead vs. integrated purchases from multiple ranches), commitment to organics (strictly organic vs. split operations), additional labels, finishing (feedlot vs. pasture), and more. The organic beef report card includes nearly 200 different certified organic brands in a searchable online database.

Both the report and the scorecard are valuable to beef customers as a way of making more informed choices about the meat they purchase, and to producers as a way of tracking trends in the organic beef industry and assessing which practices are the best fit for their production and marketing circumstances.

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