Supporting Sustainability – Know Your Meat Labels

“We can’t digest grass. So to take land that is not good enough for agriculture – that’s growing grass and nothing else, that’s been doing that for 10,000 years since the buffalo – and put a cow on it … there’s something beautiful about that, and it’s just the way it was meant to be.” – Michael Pollan

Accompanying the grass-fed, pasture-raised and free-range revolution in the U.S., large initiatives like the Global Animal Partnership and The Non-GMO Project are making it easier to find ethically and sustainably raised meats and ingredients, and influencing farmers to adopt better standards. You may not know about what options you have or why they are so important, so below is a kind of meat label 101, complete with a bit of history and nutrition.

1) Why Did American Farmers Start Feeding Cows Corn?

For centuries, cows were raised on a pasture, able to graze freely on grass, a food source they are naturally bred to consume. With highly-evolved digestive systems, cows are able to easily convert cellulose from grass into bioavailable protein for both themselves and their offspring. It’s a beautiful thing, but it takes 18 to 24 months for a grass-fed cow to reach maturity on grass alone.

Enter corn. In post-war America, demand for meat sky rocketed and corn was seen as a miracle crop for a few key reasons:

  • Corn is a really cheap commodity.
  • Corn fed cattle reach maturity in about 12 months.
  • Corn fed cattle are confined to smaller, more dense feed lots.

2) What is wrong with feeding cows corn?

In short, it is not what they are meant to eat. While corn allowed the U.S. to meet food demands in a post war era, cows are not evolved to digest corn, and forcing them to leads to a number of issues including illness, disease and overall discomfort as they’re bodies attempt to cope.

Why is grass fed meat superior?

Nutritionally, grass-fed meat is higher in essential B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. Grass fed cows are free to roam wild and eat wild as nature intended, helping to restore the land they inhabit without contributing to climate change. Also, they are much less prone to illness and disease and aren’t constantly treated with antibiotics.

3) How The Global Animal Partnership is making it easy for you to find ethical and sustainable meats.

In 2008, John Mackey, the co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, visited many of the farms Whole Food’s was sourcing its meat from. Surprised by the terrible conditions in feed lots across the U.S., Mackey developed a step rating program that would educate his consumers while also pushing farmers to adopt better standards for their animals.

Later that year, The Global Animal Partnership became an independent organization and created a simple five step certification process that can now be found on meats from a wide variety of producers. Make sure to look out for the below labels and steps next time you shop for meat.

4) What is Non-Gmo?

The Non GMO project is a nonprofit organization whose goal is “to build and protect a non-GMO [genetically modified organism] food supply.” While meat cannot be genetically modified, most corn produced in the U.S. is and anything that consumes GMOs is not non-GMO. GMOs encourage the use of harsh pesticides which negatively impact the global climate and wreak havoc on traditional farmers.

For your health, animal health and the health of the planet, please look out for the above labels when shopping at your local grocery store and visit the below links to learn more about The Global Animal Partnership and The Non-GMO Project.


By Ryan Wattonville, the marketing manager of Wilde Brands. For more information, visit