Choices of Beef
Navigating the meat case can be a little confusing these days, but the good news is that all beef is safe, nutritious, and wholesome! Beef farmers and ranchers are proud to offer a variety of choices to meet changing lifestyles and different nutritional needs. They have adapted their practices to provide consumers with the grain-fed, grass-finished, certified organic or natural beef they desire. Each of these kinds of beef offers specific value to consumers who have different tastes and preferences.
There have been numerous claims made recently about grass-fed beef being more nutritious than grain-fed beef. Like all kinds of beef, grass-finished is naturally nutrient-rich and provides better nutrition than many alternative food choices. However, when compared to grain-fed beef, a 3.5 ounce serving of grass-finished beef contains only 1/10 of a gram more of omega-3 fatty acids than the same amount of grain-fed beef. All beef, no matter how it's raised, is an excellent or good source of ten essential nutrients we all need every day, such as protein, zinc and many B-vitamins.
A common misperception is that hormones in beef are unsafe, when in fact, hormones used as growth promotants have been safely used by beef producers for more than 50 years and continue to be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Years of scientific research studies, government review and frequent evaluation of growth hormone use in cattle show the technology is safe for animals and humans. This advancement in technology has allowed beef producers to provide nutritious lean beef at a cost consumers can afford. While each type of beef offers a specific value, typically price and flavor are the core variations.
Ultimately, consumers dictate the actions of the beef production chain by determining what kinds of beef they want and at what price they are willing to purchase them. All beef starts with one of the 800,000 American producers whose livelihoods depend on producing a safe, wholesome and nutritious product tailored to the needs of consumers. Regardless of what kind of beef you choose, the safety promise is guaranteed by the beef producers' vigilance on farm, the inspection of every single animal by a public health veterinarian and the safe food handling at restaurants, grocery stores and even our own kitchens.
Whether you're looking for a lean cut for a weeknight family dinner or a large, tender cut for your holiday roast, our cut collections will provide you with everything you need to choose the perfect cut next time you're at the meat case.
The grade is primarily determined by the degree of marbling — the small flecks of fat within the beef muscle. Marbling provides flavor, tenderness and juiciness to beef and improves overall palatability. Other grading factors include animal age, and color and texture of the muscle.
Beef aging does not pertain to the age of the cattle but instead refers to the amount of time the meat has been stored and refrigerated after slaughter. Aging beef involves storing meat at refrigerated temperatures to enhance tenderness and flavor.
Pasture to Plate: Exploring the Beef Lifecycle
The journey of raising beef is among the most complex of any food. Due in part to their changing nutritional needs throughout their lifetime. Beef cattle often times will change hands and ownership up to three or four times over the course of one and a half to three years, as they move through their various life stages. Across this process, however, one important thing remains constant - and that's the beef community's shared commitment to raising cattle in a safe, humane and environmentally sustainable way. Working together, each segment of the beef lifecycle aims to make the best use of vital natural resources like land, water, and energy - not just for today, but also for the future. The result is a delicious and nutritious food you can feel good about serving your family and friends.
Not only is beef delicious and nutritious, but the beef industry continues to implement numerous proven sustainability practices throughout each and every step of the “pasture-to-plate” process that contribute to the way beef is responsibly raised today. Though the path to sustainability is never complete. It is a continuous journey being carried out by farmers and ranchers responsible for raising and supplying beef to the U.S. and across the world. To the beef community, sustainability comprises much more than environmental considerations. Today, a sustainable food supply balances efficient production with environmental, social and economic impacts. A sustainable food system is comprised of three different, but intersecting, pillars: social responsibility, economic viability and environmental stewardship. True sustainability is a balance of these three aspects. Beef farmers and ranchers are dedicated to producing beef in a way that prioritizes the planet, people, animals, and progress.
Beef Industry Facts
- Agriculture is a major contributor to South Dakota's economy, generating $25.6 billion in annual economic activity.
- South Dakota is home to nearly 14,000 beef operations.
- South Dakota has 3,800,000 head of cattle - nearly 4.3 beef animals for every state resident.
- South Dakota ranks seventh in the nation for number of beef cattle with 4 million head of cattle.
- South Dakota ranks fifth in beef cow inventory
- South Dakota ranks fifth in calf crop
- South Dakota ranks seventh in cattle on feed
- South Dakota’s cattle industry contributes $5.8 billion to the state’s economy, according to a 2019 South Dakota Agriculture Economic Contribution Study.
Courtesy of USDA/NASS; Cattle Inventory as of Jan 1, 2022
- "Beef cattle production represents the largest segment of American Agriculture."
- Production of meat animals responsible for $67.56 billion to economy
- 913,246 Cattle Operations in the US
- All Cattle and Calves: 91.9 million head
- All Cattle on Feed: 14.7 million
- 55.5 pounds per capita consumption of beef
- 97% of farms are family operations