One of the most common questions we get on our Double R Ranch beef is “Is it natural?” A simple enough question, right? The issue is that with all of the labels and misinformation that exists in our business, everyone has a different perception of what natural means. Some think natural means grass fed; some think natural means no hormones or antibiotics, some think it covers all of the above.
How does USDA define natural?
USDA defines natural as "A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed." Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”).
Knowing that this disconnect exists, we believe the Natural label is misleading and choose not to use it.
Unfortunately, this is only a small piece of the labeling puzzle. When you start looking into labels such as grass-fed, naturally raised, pasture raised, and organic things start to get confusing. For example, did you know that grass fed beef can be raised in a feed yard? If you want to understand where your food is coming from, you need to dig a little deeper than just the buzz words on a label.
A good place to start is just looking a little more closely at the label.
Most of the terms listed above will have an asterisk with the term, and if you read the small print, they will explain what the term means in that instance. For example, one of the most common is “Naturally Raised*” which is accompanied with “*Raised without added hormones, antibiotic residue free.” But does antibiotic residue free mean no antibiotics were used when raising that animal? No.
There is a bright side to the situation. Companies like Agri Beef and many others are very aware of our customer’s desire to understand where their food comes from. There is a lot of information you can find just by visiting the website. It is now easier than ever to find companies that share your values; you just need to look beyond the label.