If you read my post last week about USDA meat labeling, you may or may not have noticed a surprising comment left by the CEO of Nolan Ryan Beef. There were too many points to cover in a single blog comment reply, so I offered some thoughts yesterday in Part One. Here’s part two:
We don’t own a single feedyard and none of our cattle are in “mega” feedyards but instead we are feeding cattle in relatively small feed yards in South Texas.
~ Charlie Bradbury, CEO of Nolan Ryan Beef
Response: I’m a little confused with the terminology here. My original post states that “Nolan Ryan owns no fewer than four mega-large ‘feedlots’ in Texas.” Your comment used the term “feedyards” instead of “feedlots.” Nolan Ryan’s beef website stated in 2010 that you “only work with licensed feedlots.” So, are you saying that you feed your cattle in small feedlots in Texas but you don’t own the feedlots? How do you define “relatively small?”
The claim that you own feedlots was taken from information that is a few years old. Based on your statement I’m guessing that things have changed since then. Once I understand better what you are saying I will change the original post so that it is accurate.
For Example, USDA defines “All Natural” as any beef that is “minimally processed with no artificial ingredients added” There is nothing in that definition about how the cattle are raised. Beef that has been “enhanced” meaning it is pumped with a sodium phosphate solution such as that sold at Wal-Mart, does not meet this definition, Nolan Ryan Beef does meet this definition and hence we can put it on our label, we are not trying to decieve anyone, just following the regulations.
~ Charlie Bradbury, CEO of Nolan Ryan Beef
Response: It is to the advantage of feedlot operations that the government regulates beef labeling*. Representatives from CAFO’s, Big Beef, or whatever-you-want-to-call-them spend millions of dollars annually lobbing Congress to write regulations that favor their interests.
Concern #1: Antibiotics and Growth Hormones
While still meeting the requirements of “All-Natural” labeling, it is my understanding that a calf can be implanted with a growth hormone several times from birth to weaning, several times after weaning and until they are shipped to the feedlot. They can also be given antibiotics via medicated feeds, protein licks, tubs, etc. Also, feedlots routinely implant animals with additional growth hormones upon arrival at their operation.
I have also been told that implanting an animal with growth hormones less than 100 days before slaughter is wasted money. Apparently there is not enough time for the drugs to bulk up the animal enough to justify the expense so it simply isn’t done. What frustrates me is how “All-Natural” labels often say “No antibiotics or hormones” when it really should say “No antibiotics or hormones in the last 100 days.“
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I am not claiming that Nolan Ryan Beef is intentionally trying to deceive anyone, but I do think somewhere along the lines someone was trying to pull the wool over consumers eyes. The “All-Natural” label is confusing for the consumer. That was the point of my original post.
Concern #2: Genetically Modified Corn
An extremely high percentage (maybe 90+%) of all the corn grown in American is Genetically Modified (GMO) grain. Feedlot cows eat a lot of grain. According to Expert Jeffrey M. Smith, author of “Seeds of Deception”, studies link GMO’s with adverse reactions such as: allergies, infertility, infant mortality, immune system dysfunction, stunted growth, accelerated aging, and death.
We are different species, but we are not that different. If GMO products can cause harm to humans, then it logically follows that they will compromise the health of cattle as well. Especially since corn is not even a part of a cows natural diet.
It disturbs me that beef can be labeled natural that has been fed GMO’s. It just doesn’t make sense. GMO is the antithesis of natural. And if “you are what you eat” holds true, then what the heck?
Concern #3: Cloning
I don’t know the answer to this, so I’m hoping someone can tell me: Can a cloned animal qualify as “All-Natural?” I know that cloned beef is not required to be labeled as such, so I am curious.
The free market system in the U.S. will reward those who provide a superior product at a competitive price. I believe grass-fed beef is a superior product relative to its health benefits, its environmental benefits and its flavor profile. Competitive pricing is a different story. Grass-fed beef is not cheaper than feedlot beef. But, that is not a bad thing.
The U.S. average household spends LESS of its budget on food than any other industrialized country in the world. The U.S. average household spends MORE of its budget on healthcare than any other industrialized country in the world. Does anyone see the correlation here? I would venture that families who eat healthy, locally and as organically as possible spend less on healthcare than those who do not. Where do you want to spend your money, on good food, or on visits to your doctor, hospital, and pharmacist?
* This is my opinion, not a statement of absolute truth!