Common potential concerns about modern beef production Q & A

Have corporations replaced family farmers?   

No. In fact, more than 97 percent of U.S. beef cattle farms and ranches are family farms. Also, most beef cattle operations are smaller than you might think; according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the typical herd of beef cattle in the U.S. is only 50 animals.

Is corn an unnatural diet for cattle? Is it only fed to cattle because it’s cheap?   

No. Cattle can get the nutrients they need from eating a wide range of plants, including a variety of grains and grasses. Most beef raised in the United States comes from grain-finished cattle, which spend most of their lives on pasture eating grass before going to a feedlot for four to six months. While at a feedlot, cattle are fed a combination of grain and hay formulated by a professional nutritionist to ensure a well-balanced and nutritious diet.   

Grain feeding isn’t new, it’s just more sophisticated. In the United States, cattle have been fed grain for at least 200 years. Cattle are fed grains like corn because they are nutritious, energy-rich, and can be stored for use throughout the year. Since grass doesn’t grow year-round in most of the United States, feeding grains like corn to cattle help farmers and ranchers raise a consistent, year-round supply of great-tasting beef.

Did feedlots and modern beef production methods encourage the emergence of E. coli O157:H7 as a foodborne illness?   

No. Bacteria like E. coli are found naturally in the environment and in the intestinal tracts of healthy animals whether in a feedlot or grazing on pasture. Research to date has not found a significant difference in the likelihood of cattle to carry E. coli between those on pasture or in feedlots.   

Today, the scientifically-validated safety practices included in modern beef production methods coupled with strict government requirements allow us to control foodborne pathogens in the beef supply more effectively than ever. The beef industry continues to invest millions of dollars in developing new technologies with the goal of eliminating foodborne illness.

Is organic or natural beef safer than conventionally produced beef?   

All beef, regardless of production method, is safe, wholesome and nutritious. The beef industry provides consumers with healthy choices including conventional, natural, organic and grass-fed.

More information:

Modern Beef Production Fact Sheet

Growth Promotant Use in Beef Production

UN: Food production must double by 2050

Ranchers and Farmers Fighting Hunger

The Cattlemen's Stewardship Review Fact Sheet