Natural Driving Forces

US - The driving force for the natural beef programme in the US is a consumer perception that hormones and antibiotics are wrong for growing cattle.
calendar icon 7 February 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

Photo: StockXchange

This was one of the main messages delivered to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association annual convention in a session for Creating Value with Your Cattle.

Cattle producer Bob Harrell Jnr from the Harrell Hereford Ranch in Eastern Oregon and who is on the management team for the Country Natural Beef said that the natural programme was one to stay and grow in the US.

He said it is filling a niche and people want to see it and want the assurance.

He said that the most difficult thing in aligning to the natural programme was to get the pricing correct to offset the raised costs in production.

However, cattle trader from Texas, Leslie Callahan, warned that there could be confusion because of the number of different schemes that hold the name natural.

"There is no USDA standard for natural, and the problem is we don't know what natural really means," he told the education session. However, he said that standards will come.

Larry Corah, vice president of Certified Angus Beef, outlined three major criteria for products to be called Natural. "There is about a zillion ways of doing things," he said.

He said that what the consumer wants to know is that there have been no hormones or implants used not just at the calf stage but throughout the rearing of the animal. He also said that similar criteria had to be enforced for the use of antibiotics and that the consumer does not want the use of animal products in beef production.

Mr Harrell, however, said that having a natural programme means more than just the breeding and rearing of the animals. He said that it also brings into question the use of a sustainable programme.

"We try to take care of the land. We try to be sustainable," he said.

He added that his whole production system also looks into carbon credits to try to find other areas to increase income. "You have to have the consumer in mind," he said.

"We want to differentiate ourselves from other natural programmes."

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