Four Categories of Beef: 120 Off, Never Never, Regular, Australian Bull

Beef One of the lessons from our year long experiment is that it is very difficult to find out where most of the food in a grocery store comes from. One example is that Western Family products, many of which are locally sourced, are identified by the headquarters of the Western Family corporation in Portland. This doesn't mean the food comes from Portland, and there is no other identification of origin. New laws now require a country of origin labeling, but that may even make products more anonymous. This means that it's that much harder to sort out the safety and quality, i.e. did the pork on the shelf in Spokane come from the the industrial pig farm in Perote Mexico where the recent outbreak of swine flu is believed by some to have originated?

I had a fascinating conversation today with a new friend who helps manage a local meat wholesaler in Spokane. He confirmed that when they get the meat from Kansas, Pasco, Australia or elsewhere, they process it, package it, and from that point on there is no way to track where it is from. Go here for my previous rundown on beef industry practices.

My friend went on to explain that the beef comes to them in several different varieties. They get it "regular", which means that it is grain fed and it is likely there is some remnant of growth hormones and antibiotics in the beef. I already knew about that beef. What I didn't know is that they also get beef he called, "120 off" which he explained has been intentionally kept free of hormones and antibiotics for 120 days. There is no trace of the chemicals in this beef. This is often marketed as "natural". They also receive beef he called, "never, never" which means that it has never had antibiotics or growth hormone. What's fascinating to me about this information is that it is not readily available to consumers. Did you know that beef comes in these categories? Why not? Shouldn't consumers know that information and shouldn't they be empowered to make those choices.

He also described Wal Mart's practices of asking the supplier for the cheapest beef that they then inject with saline and chemicals to keep the meat red for up to a year. Beefalicious.

Another surprise is that the bull meat they get from Australia is grass fed and is made into hamburger. Your hamburger meat may be the only non grain-stuffed meat at the market.