Grass-Fed Beef Nutritional Analysis for Consumer Education and Labeling

Project Overview

FNC13-912
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $22,260.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Kristine Jepsen
Grass Run Farm, Inc

Annual Reports

Information Products

Commodities

  • Animals: bovine

Practices

  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Farm Business Management: marketing management, value added

    Summary:

    In 2013, in partnership with the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, Grass Run Farms and its collaborating cattle producers coordinated laboratory analysis of grass-fed beef primals to provide more authentic information to the retail consumer and put actual numbers to the discussion of grass-fed beef’s nutritional variation from conventional grain-finished beef. 

    This grant concluded in May 2014, one year from the design and implementation of the project. Samples were taken in June and July 2013, and nutritional analysis data were received in December 2013. Synthesis of the raw data (namely the creation of Nutrition Facts panels that are recognizable to the consumer) and promotion of the project began in January 2014.

    Introduction:

    Effective January 1, 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires vendors of raw beef muscle meats to make nutritional labeling available to the consumer at the point of sale, either as a poster displayed near the meat case in your grocery store, or on the package label.

    Previously, such labeling was required only on multi-ingredient meat products such as hot dogs, or products claiming a certain meat-to-fat ratio, such as ground beef.

     

    The problem is that the only nutrition data widely available for this type of labeling comes from the USDA's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference and represents a wide-ranging compilation of conventional beef analysis, with a few data points for grass-fed beef mixed in. Results have been added over time, as they are produced by large academic studies, often introducing confusion over the exact specifications and method by which cuts of meat are sampled.

     

    This poses two critical issues for producers of grass-fed beef: 

    1. The available data doesn't actually represent grass-fed beef production, widely understood to affect the fatty acid profile of livestock, thereby misleading the consumer.
       
    2. The scattershot nature of the database and lack of grass-fed beef data points doesn't accurately represent the evolution of grass-fed beef production, which has expanded to meet consumer demand and now produces much more consistently finished product with intermuscular fat and a mature fatty acid profile.

    Project objectives:

    Our goals were simple:

    1. Collect good samples
    2. Synthesize the data resulting from laboratory analysis
    3. Broadcast the results to our marketplace

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.