Decoding Misleading Beef Labels

Acabonac Farms |

I have something to share that I think may have a big impact on your life and how you shop for beef.

It’s especially important for those who want the beef they buy to actually live up to what the package says on its label.

The truth is, many products don’t live up to their label.

That’s a bad situation for everyone. It’s even worse for those committed to serving healthy food created by farmers using ethical practices.

At Acabonac Farms, we live up to what we promise.

We promise our customers healthy, nutritious grass-fed beef. But, without using a lot of marketing hype, what exactly does that mean?

It means our beef provides more nutrition than “industrial beef.” It means our cattle freely roam fields along the shores of Long Island, eating a healthy mix of local vegetation. It means we never use growth-promoting steroids or antibiotics. Ever.

Our beef is exactly “as advertised.” It’s truly grass-fed, pasture-finished beef. We pride ourselves on that transparency.

Unfortunately, the beef industry is not so transparent about what they do.

Too often, profits are put ahead of people.

One way this “money is more important than anything” approach manifests itself is at the grocery store. Rather than give you straightforward information, industrial meat has packaging that is misleading and confusing.

Or, to put it another way, it’s false advertising.

Think about this: More than 95% of all beef comes from industrial feedlots, not real grass-fed operations. The cattle in these feedlots are fed food waste, silage and grains in feedlots known as “concentrated animal feeding operations.”

So, why is it that far more than 5% of packaging at the store claims the beef is healthier and grass-fed?

Good question. Here’s the truth behind some of the misleading packaging from the beef industry.

“100% Grass-Fed”

Labeling something 100% is supposed to actually mean 100%. But not with industrial beef. Although they might label a package “grass-fed,” you can assume it’s likely “grain-finished.”

That’s because USDA regulations - in the fine print - allow industrial operations to feed cattle soy and peanut hulls, soy pulp and other grain by-products to cattle and still call them “grass-fed.”.

If you think the federal government is monitoring this effectively, think again. The USDA has far too few food inspectors to look at all the beef operations across the country.

The only answer is to see the farm yourself. And in most cases, that’s impossible.

Although, if you are on Long Island, it’s easy enough to visit ours!

“Product of the U.S.A”

Another misleading label.

By stamping something “Product of the USA,” it means only that the beef was processed in the United States.

Let that sink in a moment.

In truth, much of the beef with this label comes from Uruguay, Brazil, Australia and other countries. The cattle never spent one second of its life in the United States.

This is one of the most egregious examples of misleading labels. If you see this in the grocery store, know that it’s likely beef from cattle raised in another country.


The “organic” label is routinely misused by the food industry. Much of the “organic” or “certified organic” labels in beef refer to spent dairy cows that are used for beef.

Also, if you want to see what is allowed in “organic” food, check out the federal government rules in the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations of the “National Organic Program.” You’ll find them in the section called “Synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production.”

Humanely Raised

Labels that indicate an animal was humanely raised are essentially meaningless, because there is no one, set criteria for what it means.

For example, there are three or four different organizations that certify beef as humanely raised, and each has different criteria and various levels of certification.

Also, most of them still allow for cattle to be grain-finished in feedlots (I’m sure at this point you are seeing the pattern).

Locally Sourced

This is a lot like calling beef a “Product of the USA.” If cattle come from Texas but is processed in New York, it can technically be called “locally sourced.” But I doubt that’s what you had in mind when you bought it.

The Bottom Line

Rules in the “big beef” cattle industry are meant to serve companies, not consumers. Most rules are written with an eye on the bottom line.

That’s why all the above labels, which mislead consumers into thinking they are buying a healthier product, can get put on packages of beef that come from cattle who were crammed into feedlots and fed grain and other food products meant to bulk them up fast.

That’s not what we do at Acabonac Farms.

As a true local source for 100% grass-fed, pasture-finished beef, we offer what all those labels promise but do not deliver.

Your best bet for finding healthy beef is to buy from a local farm. One that runs its operation with integrity. One that you can visit and see how the cattle are treated.

We at Acabonac Farms believe in a food system that is transparent and works for consumers, not against them. A system that puts people’s health before profits.

I hope this has been informative for you. You can read more about our operation on our website. Thanks for taking the time to read this.


I am a vegan trying to make ethical choices for my meat eating husband. I have a few questions I need answers to. Are your cows bred? How long do calves stay with birth mother? They sketches of your cows all have horns. I don’t see any on your herd. Dehorned? Is slaughter done on premises? If not, where? I’d like to know the facilities practice. Thank you.

Mary Ann ,

Thank you for your informative article concerning the quality of beef that we consume and what “labels” don’t include.

Linda Castrovinci ,

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