Beef Up Your Vocabulary

Choice

High quality USDA beef grade. It is the most widely available beef sold in supermarkets and has less marbling than Prime cuts.


Curing

Process by which ingredients (typically salt, nitrates, and sugars) are added to meat. Curing plays an essential role in food safety preservation and also stabilizes the texture, flavor, and color characteristics of the meat. It is an essential process in the manufacture of bacon, ham, corned beef, and many sausage meats.


Free range

Refers to animals that have access to the outdoors.


Grain-Fed

Cattle raised primarily on forage, but moved to a feedlot for approximately four to six months prior to slaughter, where they are fed a carefully balanced diet that includes grain. Feeding cattle grain for a short period of time helps improve meat quality and provides a more tender and juicy product for consumers.


Grass-Fed

Cattle that have been raised exclusively on a pasture and forage diet.


Growth promotion

The use of some antibiotics to destroy certain bacteria in the gut and help livestock and poultry convert feed to muscle more quickly, causing more rapid growth. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked livestock and poultry producers to phase out use of medically-important antibiotics for growth purposes.


Hormones

Some beef cattle are given hormones to promote growth. Hormones are illegal to use on pigs, chickens or turkeys. In beef, according to USDA, the amounts hormones used are extremely low. One pound of beef raised using synthetic estradiol contains about 15,000 times less of this hormone than the amount produced daily by the average man and about nine million times less than the amount produced by a pregnant woman.


Marbling

White flecks and streaks of fat within the lean sections of meat. Marbling adds flavor and is one of the main criteria for judging the quality of cuts of meat. In general, better cuts of meat contain more marbling.


Natural

Products that do not contain artificial or synthetic ingredients, coloring additives, chemical preservatives, and are not more than minimally processed. Minimal processing includes smoking, roasting, freezing, drying, and fermenting.


Nitrate and nitrite

Natural salts often used as curing agents to provide pink color to cured meat, develop and protect flavor, and prevent the growth and development of botulism-causing bacteria.


Organic

Livestock that are fed 100 percent organically grown feed (grain) and forage (pastures). Use of synthetic hormones, vaccinations, and antibiotics is prohibited. Synthetic pesticides on pastures are also prohibited. If an animal gets sick and requires antibiotics, it is removed from the organic supply.


Prime

Highest quality USDA beef grade given to meat produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. It has abundant marbling, and is generally sold in hotels and restaurants.


Processed meats

Processed meat products have undergone at least one further processing or preparation step such as grinding, adding an ingredient, or cooking, which changes the appearance, texture, or taste. Hot dogs and deli meats are examples of processed meats. While many people think processing only occurs in plants, keep in mind that preparing homemade meat loaf, making meatballs, or cooking pork barbecue are also forms of meat processing.


Raised without antibiotics/ no antibiotics added

Products are derived from animals raised without antibiotics. While there are similarities to organic production, animals are raised on farms that are not certified organic, or do not meet the National Organic Program standards for other reasons.


Select

USDA beef grade for meat that is mostly uniform in quality and normally leaner than Prime or Choice cuts.


Withdrawal period

Length of time before slaughter that the use of hormones or drugs must be discontinued. This period allows sufficient time for the drug to pass through and exit the animal’s system.