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No antibiotics or growth hormones in organic meat

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- Natural and organic beef market share has been increasing in the past few decades. In 2010, the natural and organic beef market share was at 1.6 percent. In April 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Servi...

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- Natural and organic beef market share has been increasing in the past few decades.

In 2010, the natural and organic beef market share was at 1.6 percent. In April 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service indicated organic sales accounted for more than 4 percent of U.S. food sales.

Focusing on the organic and natural beef share of the total beef dollar, the National Cattlemen's Beef Board reported that natural and organic beef had a 6.3 percent share for the fourth quarter of 2014, with conventional beef market share at 93.7 percent.

What is the difference between organic and natural programs?

"Organic production requires producers to manage livestock to meet both animal health and welfare standards," explains Julie Walker, South Dakota State University Extension beef specialist and SDSU associate professor.

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While vaccinations are allowed, Walker says antibiotics or growth hormones are not permitted.

"Animals should be fed only 100 percent organic feedstuffs and should be allowed access to the outdoors," she says.

Organic producers work with certifying agents who ensure USDA organic products meet or exceed all organic standards.

The USDA definition of natural is focused on the beef product, and says natural beef should contain no artificial ingredients or added colors and can only be minimally processed.

"There are other voluntary programs related to how the animal is raised, such as 'naturally raised.' These programs may have animal management requirements including no antibiotics, no growth promotants, no animal byproducts, and third-party verification of management practices," says Amanda Blair, SDSU Extension meat science specialist and SDSU associate professor.

What's driving consumers?

Purchase drivers for selecting organic foods can be divided in two categories: healthier choice and socially conscious reasons.

A 3-ounce lean beef serving provides 51 percent of the daily value (DV) for protein, 37 percent DV for vitamin B12, 38 percent DV for zinc and 14 percent DV for iron.

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"The production system whether conventional or organic, does not change the nutrients contained in a 3-ounce beef serving," Walker says.

She explains that conventionally produced beef might have been implanted with growth promotants, however, according to numerous research studies, beef from non implanted steers had 5 nanograms per 500 grams of estrogenic activity, compared with implanted steers which had 7 nanograms per 500 grams. For reference, one pound equals 454 grams.

"Consumers may prefer a specific production system for the beef they want to consume," she says. "However, it is important to remember that all production systems provide consumers with safe product selections, and that the nutrient content of beef is similar across the different production systems organic, natural or conventional," Walker says. "It is important to remember, that regardless of the production system, consumers are assured a safe wholesome product with similar nutrient content."

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