The 411 on Hormones & Antibiotics in Meat

cow in the field looking at youOnce groundbreaking, scientific discoveries, the words ‘hormones’ and ‘antibiotics’ have almost become curse words in some circles. There is an enormous amount of medical data about the use and effect of antibiotics and hormones on humans, animals and all facets in between. Unfortunately, this data seems to be ignored when it comes to flashy headlines and marketing claims about so-called “healthier” or “more natural” meat and eggs. The fact is major food producers and chains are capitalizing on the public’s fear of over-handled and over-processed products. So which is it– good or bad? The truth is somewhere in the middle and D’Arcy’s is here to fill you in! Keep reading for more info!

 

HORMONES

To some, it sounds like sci-fi– a small pellet is inserted under an animal’s skin and it releases regular doses of hormones. These customized hormone levels increase muscle growth in the animal, which increases the quality of the meat and reduces the amount of feed required over its life. The overall benefit of this modern advancement far outweighs the reported dangers, many of which are inconclusive thanks to new research. Only producers that abuse or ignore regulations put consumers at risk and they are handled with a zero-tolerance policy.

**FUN FACT: The lowest human output of estrogen occurs in pre-pubescent boys; to match their daily output, a person would have to eat approximately 225 kg of hormone-implanted beef per day– more than 8 cows’ worth! Claims of early onset puberty are now being tied to increased body fat levels in young children.**

 

ANTIBIOTICS

Antibiotics, drug resistance and “superbugs” are all hot-button issues that get a lot of coverage across news outlets and popular media alike. It seems scary at first glance– discovering something that helps the human body, only to learn that too much of it can make its enemies even stronger! The fact is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has regulations in place that ensure 99.9% of beef —both domestic and imported— has absolutely no antibiotic residue whatsoever. Drug resistance is also tracked by several Canadian agencies and medical cases of human illness due to drug resistant food poisoning are extremely rare.

**FUN FACT: Antibiotics are included in animal feed because it is safer to deliver medicine this way. Repeated injections delivered “as-needed” can actually hinder natural healing and do more harm than good.**

 

If any questions or fears about hormones and antibiotics in your meat and egg products– visit or contact D’Arcy’s today! Our knowledgeable staff is ready to address any concerns you might have, as we are deeply familiar with our suppliers and their practices.

Certified Humane – What Does it Mean

Major Canadian chains like A&W, Earls and Sobeys made headlines recently by adopting “Certified Humane” programs for their meat and eggs. This certification mirrors many in the U.S., though the Canadian government has yet to impose any official legislation. Apart from general animal welfare and hygienic conditions, the only other humane certification the government provides is if the product qualifies as “Certified Organic.” So just what does “Certified Humane” mean to the average Canadian consumer? Read on for D’Arcy’s crash course in this new food trend.

 

WHO REGULATES ‘CERTIFIED HUMANE’ PRODUCTS?

Chicken on a while background - Certified humane chicken Since there is no government regulation for “humane” certification, any label that claims humane conditions should be given a closer look. In the case of the companies mentioned in the introduction, their “Certified Humane” labels are backed by either the companies’ own standards or a U.S.-based third-party’s requirements. Fortunately, there are many new efforts to work with groups such as SPCA to outline responsible, humane methods on a local level.

 

WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL REQUIREMENTS FOR ‘HUMANE’ CERTIFICATION?

The following is a summary of “Certified Humane” standards, based on the criteria of the U.S. non-profit group Humane Animal Care:

  • Producers must observe food safety and environmental regulations;
  • Processors must comply with the American Meat Institute Standards– created by animal welfare specialist Temple Grandin;
  • No animal byproducts, antibiotics or growth hormones present in animals’ diet;
  • Animals free to roam up to a specific standard.

These standards are far from universal– and most are based on research and data from places with varying climates, growing seasons, crop types and animal breeds.

 

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO SUPPORT HUMANELY RAISED ANIMAL PRODUCTS?

Critical looks at a wide variety of certifiers have revealed significant discrepancies between what is considered ‘humane.’ Efforts are beginning to debunk mislabeling and dishonest claims, but consumers should always read the fine print. If you want to support better treatment for animals, buying into vague or false claims will not help the cause. Always invest your money in a trusted source and ask questions if you have any doubts.

 

The experts here at D’Arcy’s carefully and thoughtfully choose our suppliers, many of which are local, humane operations with more rigorous standards than what the national chains advertise. Contact or visit us today for answers to all of your “Certified Humane” questions and concerns.

Certified Organic – What Does it Mean

Portrait of a Cow in a Wild Meadow, Grown for Organic MeatThe “certified organic” trend started in grocery aisles, but we see it in all sorts of products and services these days. Many of us are used to spending a few extra bucks for the organic option, but do we really know what we’re paying for? The pros at D’Arcy’s did their homework and the summary below outlines the facts about organic certification. Read on for more!

 

WHAT DOES ‘CERTIFIED ORGANIC’ MEAN?

The Canadian Organic Standard covers several aspects of production, including but not limited to:

  • Eliminating toxic, synthetic pesticides;
  • Avoiding growth hormones and unnecessary antibiotics;
  • Improving humane treatment for animals including outdoor access;
  • De-incentivizing contemporary shortcuts such as nitrogen- or sewage-based fertilization, GMO/nanotechnology usage, irradiated products or ingredients and many other issues;
  • Preventing use of chemical additives, artificial or harmful preservatives, colours or flavours (MSG, aspartame, sodium nitrates and nitrites, etc.).

The fact is… Organic certification was created with good intentions, but– like any new industrial standard– it must be continually updated and scrutinized to keep up with modern advancement and discovery.

 

WHO REGULATES ORGANIC CERTIFICATION?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) controls organic certification— they set the Canadian Organic Standard in partnership with organic producers, then CFIA Accredited Certification Bodies enforce it across the country. This system, known generally as the Canada Organic Regime, is meant to ensure certified organics are grown, marketed and sold in a responsible, transparent manner. Critics of the process argue there is financial incentive to overlook wrongdoers, as well as overall vulnerability to human error.

The fact is… ‘Certified organic’ production may be too new of a concept for it to be taken at face value by an everyday consumer– it’s up to them to be well informed!

 

WHAT DOESN’T ‘ORGANIC’ COVER?

The CFIA and their producers are very upfront that ‘certified organic’ only covers a specific range of details. The following is a list of some product labels that are not controlled by organic certification:

  • Free-range, free-run, cage-free and other egg classifications;
  • Grain-fed, grass-fed, grass-finished and other feed types;
  • Local, farm-fresh or other geographic information;
  • Natural, all-natural, country style and similar claims about the health, quality and reliability of the product.

The fact is… All experts agree that you should investigate any claim made on a product label before buying it.

 

If you have questions about ‘certified organic’ products, the alternatives, and the availability of both at D’Arcy’s– contact or visit us today! Our helpful, friendly staff takes pride in their knowledge and familiarity with what we sell, why we sell it and the quality of our suppliers.

TASTE THE DIFFERENCE: Grass-Fed vs. Grass-Finished/Grain-Fed Beef

A cow in a field of grass

All cows are raised on grass… for a little while. While grain-fed cattle often do graze pastures for part of their life, they spend most of their time confined in feedlots being fed a steady diet of grains and hormones. This process fattens the cows efficiently and quickly, but many critics have labeled it in inhumane. Raising cattle on native grass pastures is slower, but it allows the animal more freedom and a longer life. Some other advantages of grass-fed cows: they age more naturally, they carry less dangerous bacteria and they even produce less methane.

Read on to learn more about the advantages of grass-fed beef and how it compares to traditional grain-raised/grass-finished beef.

 

COST OF CONVENIENCE

Grain-fed beef dominates the supermarket aisle. While it creates a delicious product, the grain-fed cattle industry is a massive operation built around feedlots. Feedlots go through a lot of grain that is harvested from row-crop farms. The kind of agriculture practiced on these farms is extremely harsh on the soil and natural ecosystem. A cheaper, tasty product is enticing though– so why choose grass-fed?

 

GO GREEN

Grass-fed cattle can be raised on a diet of native vegetation in a manner that actually helps nature maintain its own equilibrium. Grasslands– even when grazed– help eliminate greenhouse gases, prevent floods and provide habitat for other animals. Native grass pastures also eliminate much of the need for pesticides and fuel-thirsty equipment. D’Arcy’s grass-fed beef is local, so we’re even burning less gas to bring to your plate!

 

TASTE TEST

Many swear by the richer, beefier flavour in grass-fed beef, but all of its factors must be carefully considered. Maturing slower causes grass-fed cattle to become leaner and less evenly marbled. Fat and marbling are what has made grain-fed beef the powerhouse it is today; both are vital to taste and tenderness. Does this mean grass-fed beef is chewy and dry? Not at all! Grass-fed beef must be cooked a little more carefully, but it offers many additional advantages.

*Note: Compared to grain-fed/grass-finished beef, natural grass feeding provides beef that is lower in less overall fat, yet is higher in good fats and healthy acids. Grass-fed beef also contains significantly more antioxidants and nutrients thanks to high levels of beta-carotene.

 

THE FINE PRINT

Beware of labels that use the word “grass” to confuse consumers. “Grass-finished” is by no means the same process as grass-fed. The term grass-finished usually refers to the small percentage of grass in the lifetime diet of grain-fed cattle. This is typically a marketing ploy to lure customers away from more natural, genuinely grass-fed alternatives.

 

Come to D’Arcy’s and try out grass-fed beef for you and your family. Not only will you experience a new flavour, but you will also support local producers using humane and environmentally friendly practices on their cattle farms. Our experts can answer any question you might have about grass-fed beef or any of our other specialty products, so don’t hesitate to call, email or visit!

UNDERSTANDING CANADIAN BEEF GRADES

canadian-beef-gradesCanadian beef is unrivaled in culinary circles. The care and attention taken by Canadian cattle farmers has raised their status to world leaders in the field. With such high quality, it can be confusing to try and sort out the different qualities of beef. The following is a handy guide to explain the Canadian beef grades and what they mean to you.

More than 85% of beef raised in Canada falls under the high-quality classifications ranging from A to Prime. The beef in these grades is youthful and has a firm bright red rib-eye with 2 mm or more of fat. Marbling is the only category that differentiates the four high-quality grades and is defined as the quality of fat distribution throughout the cut of beef.

PRIME

Prime grade beef features abundant marbling, its red meat laced with an even distribution of fat. The presence of this fat means a more tender and juicy cut of beef that should cook well in all conditions. Only 2% of graded beef is given Prime grade.

AAA

Unlike Prime, AAA-grade beef has only small amounts of visible marbling. Yet like Prime, the AAA grade is a very high-quality category that will provide a juicy, tender cut of beef that is resilient in a variety of cooking methods. Up to 50% of graded beef reaches AAA quality and status.

AA

With only a slight amount of marbling, AA-grade beef is a slight step down from AAA-graded beef. Still, 45% of graded beef falls under the AA heading and it still can provide an excellent cooking and dining experience.

A

The lowest of the four high-quality grades, A-grade beef only consists of 3% of graded beef in Canada. Obviously still considered adequate enough to be listed as high quality, A-grade beef should be cooked a little more carefully for best results due to the less evenly distributed fat.

While beef grade labels make it clear to the naked eye, the actual differences in quality are usually only discernible by a practiced grader or butcher. So rely on D’Arcy’s for the best advice on what grade of beef is best for you and your family (and your budget). Contact us with any questions you might have about beef quality or the grading of any other meat we sell!