Why does it come as a surprise to the beef industry that consumers are losing faith in products from the big packers?
Through a trade e-newsletter, I came across Tyson’s new Open Prairie Natural Angus branded beef, whose promise “is to produce wholesome beef the natural way”.
We are obsessed with providing food that is as good as nature intended. We are devoted to our relationships with a passionate generation of farmers and ranchers who raise animals without added hormones or antibiotics while fulfilling an uncompromising commitment to quality and a healthy environment.
We are grateful for the land, and we’re here to pass along the best things it has to offer. We are committed to responsible management of our resources and are hopeful that our practices, from sustainable farming to smart packaging methods, will make a positive difference for years to come.
All this is obviously intended to give the impression of free-roaming cattle, sustainably produced by family farmers. From the product specifications, however, the only real requirements that make this beef any different than generic are that is is nominally angus (i.e. black-hided) and that it received no antibiotics and apparently no hormone injections. As far as I can see (and I have e-mailed Tyson for clarification, in case I am mistaken), there are no “sustainable farming” practices required. In addition, while the cattle may be born and grown for part of their lives on farms and ranches (as are virtually all beef cattle), these cattle are finished in feedlots, just the same as most mainstream beef is.
Given the current structure of costs, subsidies and infrastructure, feedlot production is the cheapest way to produce beef. My point is not that Tyson shouldn’t be selling feedlot-finished beef, natural or otherwise. I resent the purposely misleading brand name and promotional material that implies that their feedlot beef is a viable (and lower price) alternative to truly pasture-raised beef produced by ranchers such as ourselves, for whom “respect for all life” and “sustainability” are more than just marketing gambits.