We regularly have the great pleasure of getting into extended phone conversations with folks about raising standards, animal diets, nutrition and labeling. If there has been a significant, common thread over the past 20+ years in this business it’s that there are major misconceptions and misunderstandings in the quagmire of terminology in the animal protein world. Good marketing has almost debilitated folks from making an educated decision on their own. How many terms are used is very deceptive and difficult for consumers to decipher and understand. Whether you buy from Northstar, a local grocer or a farm down the road, make sure the next time you’re about to place a package of healthful protein in your cart, it is what you think it is.
Most shoppers rightfully glance at a label and are satisfied with their purchase when they see it says “Certified Organic”. Organic is an excellent filter to use for fruits and vegetables but is fairly meaningless in the animal protein world. True, while it will be free from pesticides, herbicides, GMO feeds, artificial hormones and antibiotics, it is also likely free of critical nutrients such as healthy fats, CLA, vitamins and minerals due to it’s diet. Science says animals that eat lots of grass and grow slower are nutritionally superior. Nearly all certified Organic meats are raised in a small lot on an organically certified grain diet. This production model produces a “premium” meat at a low cost, similar to the conventional steer-stuffer system, but with an added “halo” to capture a better price point. Some marketers will take full advantage of “the letter of the law” which almost always has loop holes and opportunities to capture the upside without the actual production cost in doing so. It’s good for profits therefore it’s good for business and besides, most consumers will probably never know the difference anyway.
"All Natural", aka “grain-fed”, merely means that the animal was living and breathing, not a robot. "Anything goes" on the farm under the term "All Natural". This term does exclude food coloring and other additives from the post-harvest processing side (yes, many companies will add food coloring or certain gasses to the meat to enhance the color profile). Take a drive through parts of Kansas or Nebraska to get a good look at “All Natural”. You’ll want to cry.
Grass-fed, like anything good, can also be used deceptively. Sly marketers are willing to be “half-true” to capture the greatest price point possible without the cost because “the customer will probably never find out anyway.” The term “Grass-fed” alone leaves room for “Well, it ate a blade of grass that one time a few months back so yeah it’s grass-fed.” Focus on 100% Grass-fed on the product package itself. The label on the product is very important because product labels need to be “approved” by the FSIS so any claims on the package must be verified. Make sure 100% grass-fed isn’t just implied with other marketing tools. If it is truly 100% grass-fed, it will be on the label because marketers know it’s what consumers are looking for.). 100% grass-fed means just that; grass-fed, 100% of the time.
100% Grass Fed is the only protein any consumer would ever want to eat. Nutritionally, it is the richest protein on the planet. Environmentally, it actually heals land and sustains small farms and rural communities. While feedlots cram thousands of head into tight quarters, creating staggering amounts of pollution, and using massive amounts of machinery and fossil fuels to till, plant, harvest, haul and feed those animals all to provide an artery-clogging, disease-causing, fattening product. 100% grass-fed, holistically managed animals are the antithesis of the feedlot production model. Everything that is inherently destructive about feedlots, is inherently regenerative and positive in a 100% grass-fed, holistically managed, pasture-based model. At Northstar, 100% grass-fed is foraging on native plants, invigorating the land to benefit other forms of life both above and below the soil surface, improving water quality & holding capacity, all while building flavorful, highly nutrient-dense protein to nourish consumers. 100% grass-fed animals grow at a slower pace which, in turn, are much healthier due to their low-stress, nature-paced lifestyle which creates a healthier, more nutritious, better tasting protein. Small communities also benefit under a pasture-based production model. It takes stockman to manage animals and the land as compared to equipment and computers in that confinement, steer-stuffer system.
How your food is raised is just as important to us as the nutritional qualities it carries.
Rest assured, your money is well spent purchasing 100% grass-fed proteins.
Who cares? You do.
Your vote matters. So does your health.
Live well and enjoy your weekend,
Sean and the Northstar Tribe