May 26, 2020
As beef continues to garner positive perceptions from consumers for its taste, value and nutritional benefits, the category also provides several options when it comes production claim labels to highlight how cattle are raised and processed. First and foremost, the vast majority (over 98%) of beef is raised conventionally, meaning the cattle are raised on grass and finished on grain. The balance of beef produced each year (less than 2%) is sourced from cattle who spend their entire lives eating grass, noted at Grass Fed in the chart below. While this is a very small percentage of the total, it does provide consumers that option if they choose.
When looking deeper into the different types of beef consumers have access to, it is important to consider the various label claims available for purchase at retail. While all beef is USDA inspected and most receives a USDA quality grade, there are also unique production programs that producers can choose to participate in, including, for example, beef raised with no antibiotics and beef raised certified organic. About 4% of all beef produced is marketed with some type of label claim. It is important to note that while much of the claims-specific beef falls within the grass fed category (the 1.82% of 2019 retail volume in the chart above), some conventionally produced beef also contains a production claim label.
Finally, when looking at the roughly 220 million pounds of beef labeled with a claim in 2019, the majority (71.4%) of claims are for beef raised with no antibiotics. Another 50 million pounds or so is labeled as certified organic, while a much smaller percentage falls into the other category including beef produced Halal, Kosher or Kobe-Style.
While the volume of beef available with these labeling claims may represent a small portion of all beef sold, it is clear that if consumers express a desire to purchase beef raised with certain production-focused label claims, the beef industry is willing and able to meet that need.