Friday, November 25, 2011

What do USDA beef labels mean?


As you walk through your grocery store's meat department, you will come across some very enticing, yet misleading labeling.  You might look at a beef label that says "All Natural" and think it sounds pretty good.  However, even though the meat is labeled "All Natural", producers can still give their animals Growth Hormones, Antibiotics and raise the animals in crowded feedlots on an unnatural grain-based diet. 
The "All Natural" label may be used on any meat that has been minimally processed and containing no artificial ingredients.  This simply means that no chemicals can be added to the meat during or after processing. So, sadly, under these guidelines, most commercial beef and chicken sold raw in the grocery store qualifies for this label.

1.  All Natural As defined by the USDA, “natural” or “all-natural” means the meat has been minimally processed and contains no preservatives or artificial ingredients. This simply means that no chemicals can be added to the meat during or after processing (although using a chemical disinfectant bath during process to try to reduce E. coli on the carcass is allowed) .  Since virtually all fresh beef conforms to these standards, the term has no real significance. The "natural" label does not exclude meats raised using feed-grade antibiotics or hormone implants, nor does it exclude animals raised in a feedlot.  The USDA does not even regulate this term on labels, meaning that meat labeled as such is not given any additional inspection.Beef bearing the USDA's "Natural" label can be grown, fed and handled in the same way as other common cattle. 
2.  Organic — Beef that carries the USDA organic logo has met the department’s standards, which prohibit the use of growth hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified feed, and animal byproducts. However, the standards do not require a grass-only diet; the animal can still be fed an unnatural and unhealthy grain based diet.

3.  Pasture Finished—means a producer can feed his animals a “grain-based diet” as long as animals have access to pasture.  The problem is that merely opening a gate from the feedlot into an adjacent “small” pasture qualifies as Pasture Finished.  Unfortunately, cattle are similar to humans and prefer sweet foods like grain and corn to grass.  They will, therefore, spend the majority of their time at the feed trough and a minority of time eating grass…if there is grass to eat.

4.  Grass-fed—according to the USDA, "grass-fed" means an animal must have “access” to grass and pasture during its life, and the animal must get the majority of its nutrients from grass.  However, there is no restriction on the use of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides, and the program is voluntary, which means a producer may use “grass-fed” on its labels without verification.  True grass-fed beef should be pasture raised from beginning to end.  It is not enough to feed the animals 100% grass and hay, but not raise them in pasture. Unfortunately, the USDA's current voluntary labeling guidelines do not strictly enforce this concept.  So just because it says "grass-fed" on the label does not mean the animal was grass-fed and pasture raised from beginning to end.
It has been well documented that the magic of grass fed beef occurs only when the animal is pasture raised AND grass fed from beginning to end.  

For more information about grass fed beef go to:

Grass fed beef vs regular beef

Ok, so I have to admit. 
I never knew there was a certain way to feed a cow.  
Really, I didn't. 
Never thought about it.  
Never heard of grass fed beef.
But then....I was..

on what grain does to a cow's digestive system.


Here are some facts you might not have known either.  
It will change the way you look at beef.
You most likely will never be able to buy "regular" beef again.

A little history first.....

The evolution of a corn-fed cattle industry

Several decades ago, the cattle industry began feeding cattle a diet based on grain, particularly corn. During World War II, farmers were producing more grain than the American population could consume, so they started feeding the surplus to cattle. They found that a grain-fed diet allowed them to fatten up cows faster for slaughter. Seventy-five years ago, it took a cow 4 or 5 years to reach a weight of 1,200 pounds. Today, says John Robbins, author of author ofThe Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World,cattle can be slaughtered at just 14-16 months of age, thanks to massive amounts of corn, protein supplements, antibiotics, and growth hormones,

Unhealthy cows mean unhealthy meat

Switching cows from grass to grain puts more money in the beef industry’s pockets and cheaper meat on the supermarket shelves. But at what price? The stomachs of cows are naturally pH neutral. A corn-based diet, however, creates an acidic environment that contributes to a host of health problems. Corn-fed cattle are prone to serious health conditions such as bloat, diarrhea, ulcers, liver disease, and a weakened immune system. To combat these health problems, cattle are continually fed antibiotics, which leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that increasingly render modern medicine ineffective.

1.  The diets of factory-raised animals are hard on the animals. 

Ruminants (i.e., cud-chewing animals such as cattle) are built to eat and digest cellulose-based products such as grasses, plants and shrubs. When you feed them corn, it can cause serious intestinal disorders, such as “feedlot bloat” (a condition that causes trapped gas to accumulate in the rumen, causing the rumen to press against the lungs (if left untreated, the animal can actually suffocate); and “subacute acidosis” (a condition similar to heartburn, which causes animals to pant and salivate, kick at their bellies and eat dirt). If left untreated it can lead to diarrhea, ulcers, liver abscesses and even death.

Take home message....God did not design cows to eat ANYTHING other than grass.

2.  Do you know what factory-fed animals are eating?

 As the industry continually seeks less to lower feed costs, truly astonishing materials are finding their way into our food chain. According to Sapkota, et al, (2007) “In 2003, the U.S. rendering industry produced > 8 million metric tons of rendered animal products, including meat and bone meal, poultry by-product meal, blood meal and feather meal. Most of these products were incorporated into animal feed.” Since the advent of “mad cow” disease, the U.S. has banned the feeding of protein sources from ruminants to other ruminants. 

However, under current law, pigs, chickens, and turkeys that have been fed rendered cattle can be rendered and fed back to cattle—a loophole that may allow mad cow agents to infect healthy cattle. Other legally permitted ingredients include rendered road kill, dead horse, euthanized dogs and cats, animal waste, antibiotics, byproducts of drug manufacture, arsenicals, copper compounds, urea, ammonium chloride and ammonium sulfate, enzymes, preservatives, nutraceuticals, and plastics.

Take home message....they are fed 
dead animals?  


And this is legal?


3.  Factory-raised animals are given antibiotics and growth hormones. 

In an effort to manage the effects of grain-based feeds in ruminants and to protect against the potential spread of disease, CAFO operators tend to administer antibiotics – including penicillin, erythromycin, and streptomycin — routinely. Robinson reports that 

“an estimated 70 percent of all the antibiotics used in the U.S. are now being given to healthy animals to improve their growth and performance.”? Moreover, cattle CAFO operators use growth hormones or steroids to help the animals gain the maximum amount of weight on the least amount of time; in fact, nine out of 10 U.S. calves are given growth hormones, including estrogens, progesterone, testosterone and others.

Take home message.....these antibiotics and hormones are going right into your body when you eat this meat.  (Antibiotics are made of what? case you forgot.)

4.  Grain-fed animals may be promoting food-borne diseases. 

A study by Cornell University determined that
 grain-fed animals have approximately 300 times
 more E. coli than grass-fed animals. This
 proliferation may be due to the fact that when cattle 
are grain fed, their digestive tracts become acidic, 
which promotes E. coli growth. 

E. coli 0157:H7, a strain first isolated in the 1980s, is now found in the intestines of most U. S. feedlot cattle. In the U.S., this bacteria is estimated to cause infection in more than 70,000 people a year. In October of 2007, it sparked the second largest food recall in the history of the U.S., when nearly 22 million pounds of frozen beef patties were recalled due to E. coli concerns. Other bacteria are also causing alarm. In a 2003 study of food-borne pathogens, Australian researchers found that campylobacter – a bacteria that can cause nausea, vomiting fever, headache, muscle pain and potentially serious long-term effects — is carried by 58 percent of cattle raised in feed lots versus only 2 percent of cattle raised and finished in pastures.

Take home message.....grain fed cows get sick. This is passed along to you, the consumer.

5.  Corn is a grain.
Grain feed cows eat lots of corn. It makes them nice and fat.  It's cheap. 

However.... Corn has been universally contaminated with a fungus that can not be killed.
For more information about corn and mycotoxins read this article:
Corn and Mycotoxins
Take home regular corn....put fungus and mycotoxins in your body. 
That simple.  

6.  The label must say "100% Grass fed beef".  

Many cattle companies will feed their cows grass up until a certain point.  Then they will grain feed them to "finish" them off and fatten them up for sale.  

Take home message....the label must say 100% grass 
fed beef.  
You can find it at Trader Joe's, Whole  Foods, and Earth Fare.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Almond meal chocolate brownies

I wanted to come up with a "thicker" almond meal product that my family and I could either snack on or pick up and take with us for "on the go" mornings.  Here is what I came up with:

Ingredients: (Same as basic almond meal cookies)
2 cups of almond meal flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
8 TBSP melted butter (or 1/2 cut olive oil)
1 tsp Stevia (Trader Joe's brand is what I use-the little bottle)
1 TBSP vanilla (Trader Joe's brand- no alcohol)

 1. Preheat oven to 350
With unsweetened cocoa powder
2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl well
3.  Put 1/4 cup mix in brownie pan (only makes about 6)
4.  Bake for 15-25 minutes(start lower and keep checking it until fork comes out clean)

Add-ins or variations:
1.  1 block melted unsweetened chocolate
With unsweetened chocolate
2.  1 cup chocolate chips(unsweetened)
3.  cinnamon (1-2 TBSP) to the mix and on top when baking
4.  Unsweetened cocoa powder (1-2TBSP)
5. combo of any of the above!
6.  Add a dollop of heavy whipping cream on it...yummy

Basic almond meal cookies

I have ruined quite a few batches of cookies trying to get this right!  But I think I have finally come up with a "base" recipe for cookies that the kids will eat. 

I use Trader Joe's Stevia extract in the little bottle.
I use Trader Joe's vanilla - no alcohol

2 cups almond flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
8 TBSP melted butter (or 1/2 cup olive oil)
1 tsp Stevia
2 eggs
1 TBSP vanilla

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Combine all ingredients and mix well
3.  Place spoonful of batter on greased cookie sheet
4.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until fork or tooth pick is clean

1.  Add 1 cup unsweetened chocolate chips (yummy!  Best one!)
2.  Add 1 TBSP cinnamon
3.  Add 1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
4.  Any variation of the above!

Egg waffles

This is such an easy "different" way to cook eggs for breakfast.  

The kids don't even need any silverware!

1.  Mix eggs and salt in a bowl. (I sometimes add little heavy whipping cream)
2. Pour about 1/4 cup (or less) in waffle iron 
(Only put enough to cover the bottom of the waffle maker or you will have a huge mess as it cooks up!)
3.  Cook!

Variations: 1.  add cooked bacon, sausage, or ham
                     2.  add spinach or other vegetable