Extension and Ag Research News


Make Natural Beef Decisions Soon

Beef cattle producers have new incentives to raise their animals the natural way.

North Dakota cattle producers have some new incentives to raise their calves the natural way, according to a North Dakota State University livestock expert.

One of those incentives is the increasing consumer demand for beef from cattle that haven’t been treated with antibiotics or hormones, says Karl Hoppe, NDSU Extension Service livestock specialist at the Carrington Research Extension Center.

Another incentive is a beef processing plant opening in Fargo soon, he says. North Dakota Natural Beef LLC will process meat from cattle and bison raised the natural way.

Hoppe says sending cattle to be processed at an in-state plant will save considerable transportation costs for producers who normally send their cattle to another state for processing. He estimates that producers who once spent about $20 per head to ship cattle to a processing plant in Nebraska, for example, now spend about $60 per head because of the increase in freight and fuel costs.

A third incentive is that some companies buying beef pay a premium for naturally raised cattle.

However, producers who are thinking about raising cattle the natural way can’t wait to make that decision until they sell their calves this fall. They need to make that decision soon, while the calves still are out on pasture, Hoppe advises. That’s because what producers feed, implant or apply on their animals could affect the cattle’s eligibility to be sold as naturally raised.

In today’s marketplace, the generally accepted definition for natural beef is “never-ever,” which means producers have not treated the cattle with antibiotics or hormone growth implants. A few companies consider cattle as being naturally raised if they didn’t receive antibiotics or implants for a certain time period before they were slaughtered or if tests on the meat show no traces of antibiotics or hormones.

Because of this variance in standards, producers should check with the companies where they intend to market their cattle to determine what criteria they would need to meet to sell their animals as naturally raised, Hoppe says.

Producers also need to remember that raising cattle naturally doesn’t mean the animals can’t be immunized. Producers actually are encouraged to immunize their calves to ensure the animals have minimal health problems.

Keeping accurate records of which animals receive antibiotics or implants and making sure they are separated from other animals going to market as naturally raised cattle also are important pieces of any natural beef program, Hoppe says.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Karl Hoppe, (701) 652-2951, karl.hoppe@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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