Organic Beef


Organic meat production is governed by USDA’s national organic standards implemented in 2002.  These standards state that animals must be raised using organic management practices and that organically-raised livestock must be separated from their conventional counterparts.   The use of growth-enhancing hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics is prohibited.  Cattle can receive preventive medical care (e.g., vaccines) and dietary vitamin and mineral supplements.  Cattle can only be fed 100% organically-produced feed that is free of animal by-products.  Furthermore, cattle must have access to the outdoors, shade, exercise areas, fresh air, and direct sunlight.  Organically-raised cows must have access to pasture.

In 2008, there were 2 million acres of organic certified rangeland and 63,680 organically-certified beef cows.  The price of natural/organic beef averaged $5.48 in the first quarter of 2011 which represented a premium of $1.70 per pound.  Such premiums are the result of consumer demand as well as the additional costs of producing organic beef.  April 2012 ...  Organic Beef




  • American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP) - This association represents more than 1,800 small- and medium-sized meat, poultry and food businesses.
  • Labeling Guidance, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA - This site includes procedures, policies, a listing of ingredients, packaging materials and other related links.
  • North American Meat Processors Association (NAMP) - This nonprofit trade association provides information and technical services to the meat-processing industry.
  • Packing House Byproducts, Iowa State University, 2003 - Large packing plants have found markets for the "last squeal" of the pig. How can smaller operations compete without the quantity of animals? This paper looks at small and medium-size beef and pork slaughterhouses and the alternatives for the major by-product categories.
  • U.S. Beef Packing Industry Profile, Iowa State University, 2003 - The beef sector of the U.S. agricultural economy is dominated by four major packers who control more than 83 percent of the federal slaughtering. A niche exists for smaller single plants that compete in market segments not occupied by major packers.


Businesses/Case Studies

  • Dakota Beef, Howard, South Dakota - This natural and organic beef operation stresses vertical coordination.
  • Half Circle Ranch, Belgrade, Montana - This ranch is certified organic by the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA). Cattle are raised naturally--no growth stimulants, biological shots or other potentially harmful shots are administered. If a medical shot becomes necessary at any time during an animal's life, Half Circle Ranch will sell this animal at a local auction as commercial livestock and thereby remove it from the ranch.
  • Larsons Greenfarms, Brodhead, Wisconsin - This operation raises the majority of its own organic feedstuffs but also purchases organic feedstuffs from area producers.
  • Mesquite Organic Foods, Aurora, Colorado - This company provides certified, grass-fed organic beef.
  • Organic Valley Family of Farms, LaFarge, Wisconsin - This group of farms claims to be the largest organic farmer-owned cooperative in the United States with 750 farm families in 25 states. It markets beef and other meats under its Valley's™ Organic Meats brand.
  • Prather Ranch, Macdoel, California - This ranch has been certified organic by Quality Assurance International. Cattle are raised without added hormones, antibiotics or animal-sourced proteins. The beef is processed in a private, USDA-inspected facility on the ranch.

Links checked February 2013.