A Glossary of Beef Finishing
All-Natural: This term sounds great, but may be the most confusing of all.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a ‘natural’
or ‘all-natural’ labeling on meat means that it has been “minimally processed
and contains no artificial ingredients.” However, a natural label does not
prohibit the use of growth-promoting hormones or antibiotics.
Grain-fed/Corn-fed: Most meat found in supermarkets and restaurants
across the country are fed a diet of specially formulated feed, based on corn
or other grains. This diet is typical in large scale beef production and speeds
up the growth and fat distribution (marbling) of the beef. Cows are grasseaters
by nature, and an intense grain diet can be difficult on their digestive
systems, often requiring antibiotics to be administered on a large scale.
Grass-fed: According to the American Grassfed Association (AGA)’s 100%
Grass-fed Ruminant Program, a grass-fed cow must eat only herbaceous
plants and/or mother’s milk during its entire life cycle. The natural diet of
cattle, grass is lower in saturated fats and higher in essential nutrients, like
omega 3-fatty acids and vitamin E, creating a healthier, leaner product.
Grassfed beef tends to have a meatier flavor and a cleaner finish. To be
certified by the AGA, animals must not be given any antibiotics or hormones.
Grain-finished: This term refers to feeding pastured animals a grain diet
before slaughter to provide a more marbled finish in the end.