So, then I reached out to Pati Jacobs at Bastrop Cattle Company, a local supplier of grass fed beef. I asked her if they used animal byproducts. Her answer:
Absolutely not! Any suppliments must be certified organic or natural and we check the label to make sure there are no byproducts (usually tallow as a binder).
So, I explained more about why I was asking. It does seem like some certified organic producers are badmouthing non-certified folks, when, from what I understand, there are a lot of producers out there that are abiding completely by organic practices, but just don't get certified -- because of the cost (in dollars, labor, etc.) .
Interestingly, Pati said that "grass fed" is regulated, at least in Texas. And she had a lot of other thought-provoking things to say, as well:
The state of Texas requires that I have their approval for anything that I put on my label. They require proof of what I'm saying. I say that my beef is grass-fed, and natural. The state requires me to keep signed agreements between us and all our ranchers stating that they use no hormones, antibiotics or chemicals and that the animals are grass-fed.
I would like to point out to the organic people that there are loop holes in all the certifications and labeling. For example, you can be organic and still be corn finishing (as long as it is organic grain) the beef. Also, natural is required to be hormone and antibiotic free, but big producers are pushing the USDA to allow 10% of an animal's life to be in a feed lot and as long as it spent 90% on grass it can still be labeled natural, grass-fed.
My answer to all of this is instead of bashing each other, we should be working together! While the traditional meat industry is only growing at 1% annually, the organic/natural/grass-fed/local/sustainable meat market is growing at a whopping 30% to 40%.
There is more than enough market for everyone in all different shapes. The real issues are that we are transparent with our customers, that we are local/sustainable (much more important to me than a label as it allows my customers to really know me) and that we develop (or re-develop!) the infrastructure we need to raise, process and distribute our meat.