Demand Rises for Organic and Natural Beef

What’s bad news for most ranchers may be great news for growers and purveyors of organic and natural-fed beef. In the wake of the discovery of mad cow disease in the U.S., folks who still like to chomp on a nice, juicy steak are increasingly seeking out beef that’s been raised the old-fashioned way. To earn the organic label, cattle must be fed a strict vegetarian diet of pesticide-free hay and grain, which means the animals have no opportunity to consume the tainted slaughterhouse leftovers that are believed to lead to bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Less than 1 percent of meat and poultry sold in the U.S. is now organic, but that could change as consumers become more aware and demanding about food safety. “Our beef business is growing,” said Jasch Hamilton of Diamond Organics in Watsonville, Calif. “The real test, however, is how many people will begin eating organic beef and stick with it once the mad cow fears start to fade.”