Country Natural Beef goes humane

27 May

Vale-based Country Natural Beef announced in early February that it is hewing to a set of animal welfare standards it developed in conjunction with customers.

Country Natural Beef’s Raise Well humane animal treatment standards were endorsed by animal behaviorist Dr. Temple Grandin, according to Dan Probert, Country Natural Beef’s executive director. The cooperative started in 1986 with 14 ranches as an effort to create economies of scale for a sustainably raised product. Since then the member-owned coop has grown to include 120 member ranchers in most Western states. But it also faces more competition, Probert says. The move to document and certify the humane treatment of cattle raised, sold and processed by and for Country Natural Beef is a response to the more discriminating tastes of consumers who now have a plethora of “natural” choices on the market, he says.

Country Natural Beef’s standards include a three-tiered audit process designed by Grandin. All ranches undergo an audit by an independent third party and a self audit conducted by the cooperative, which also performs a corporate audit on all the companies with which it does business, including processors and packers.

Adhering to a standard of humane animal treatment doesn’t come without costs, Probert says, but benefits should outweigh them because the coop’s members are better managers than most ranchers. They must already stick to rules about not using antibiotics, and other sustainability requirements.

Country Natural Beef isn’t looking to grow its market share with the new standard, Probert says. It is meant to shore up its existing market by acting as a differentiator with other “natural” meat products, he says. “Growth for growth sake doesn’t make sense in our model.”

Country Natural Beef ranchers send about 50,000 head of cattle to market annually and bring in about $50 million in gross sales. They manage about 6 million acres of range land. It is certified by Food Alliance.

by Charles Redell – 2.10.10

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