“We were looking for high-quality organic beef, and that led us to start learning more about the organic beef market in America,” Feinberg explains. “We decided to make an investment in early 2006 to help this market grow, because we believed in the benefit organic meat brings to consumers as well as the environment,” he says. “Dakota Beef was founded and developed under the ideals of providing top-quality, gourmet-tasting beef that’s also organic – good for you and good for the environment.”
This commitment to certified organic meat extends throughout the organization and to its partners. “We’re continuing to expand our partnership with local producers in terms of the farms we use to pasture our calves after they leave our ranch,” Feinberg emphasizes.
“The network we are working with is always expanding. We have to be very discriminating about finding partners who share our ideals and are committed to organic, not just as a business, but as a philosophy.”
Dakota Beef owns and operates a 150,000-acre, certified organic Angus ranch in Oregon.
“The calves are raised nursing with their mothers until they are old enough to be weaned; if they are born in the spring, they are weaned in the fall,” he says. “Then, after weaning, the calves are put to organic pasture where they’re essentially feeding on hay and grass.
“As they grow older, they continue grazing in organic pastures – which are completely free of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers – while their diet is supplemented by high-quality organic vegetarian feed for another 60 to 90 days,” he continues.
The Benefits of Organic
Feinberg lists three major benefits to certified organic beef.
- No hormones: “We never administer synthetic growth hormones,” Feinberg insists. “Growth hormones have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. We don’t want any residues of those substances in our product. “We also think the actual flavor of the eating experience may be altered by the hormones due to the increased water content of synthetic-hormone-stimulated muscles,” he adds.
- No antibiotics:“Antibiotics administered to animals have been linked to the increased problem of antibiotic resistance of bacterial strains,” he asserts. “It is harder for the medical community to combat bacterial infections in humans, because humans are consuming so many antibiotics through food and drink from animals.”
- No pesticides:“You’re guaranteed no residues of pesticides in our organic meat,” he maintains. “That is important, since it has been reported that non-organic meat may contain higher levels of pesticide residues than any plant food. Medical studies have linked pesticides in food to cancer risk in humans.
“Additionally, by avoiding agrichemicals including chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, our company’s organic farming and ranching practices protect our land, waterways and fisheries,” he continues.
Not only are the animals fed well, but Dakota Beef also are treats them humanely. “We ensure that our organic livestock enjoy unrestricted access to the outdoors throughout their lives,” Feinberg stresses. “Our employees receive rigid training in humane handling of animals.
“For example, we use horses on our ranches to keep the peacefulness and noise level down instead of using all-terrain vehicles (ATVs),” he adds.
“The animals also have to be given space to exercise and maintain distance from other animals.”
Natural vs. Organic
“Some consumers don’t understand the difference between natural and organic beef,” Feinberg maintains. “According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all fresh meat qualifies as natural as long as no artificial flavor or coloring agent has been added to the meat. So just about any unprocessed beef in America can qualify as natural.
“Only organic beef is certified and strictly regulated by the USDA,” he insists. “Some natural beef companies claim to offer antibiotic or hormone-free product, but those claims are not verified independently by the USDA.”
Also, only organic cattle are guaranteed never to be exposed to harmful pesticides in their pasture and feed.
Growing the Market
Dakota Beef products have found great success at major retailers from the East Coast to the West Coast and many locations in between. In addition to serving customers in the retail market segment, Dakota Beef has expanded into the foodservice sector with one of the largest foodservice distributors in the United States.
Dakota Beef also has export customers that are asking for this product to be exported to Asia, and the company is beginning to explore sales in the European Union.
“The organic segment of the food industry is not a passing fad, it’s part of a healthy lifestyle that millions of consumers are trying to maintain,” Feinberg notes. “Not only are these consumers looking for organic meats at retail, but when they dine out, they would like to see more gourmet organic options like our products.”
The company has launched a line of individually quick-frozen, quarter-pound organic ground beef patties in a 16-ounce box, along with a gourmet hot dog with 100-percent organic beef and no nitrates. Additionally, a frozen organic steak in a gusseted bag is being introduced to the market, and Dakota Beef is in discussion with restaurants and other national health food retailers about carrying its products.
“As consumers become more aware of the benefits of organic over natural and conventional beef, and also become more aware of the possibility for a really gourmet eating experience without sacrificing their health or the welfare of the environment, there will be more demand for organic beef,” he believes.
“The demand will increase, not only in retail, but in foodservice, gourmet restaurants, convenience food stores, for business lunches and even in less expensive stores,” Feinberg predicts. “We’re working hard all the time to combine our goals with increased efficiency to provide certified organic beef in an affordable way.”