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Beef Industry: Nutrition and Food Safety Analysis Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 29th, 2022


Beef cattle production is one of the major industries in the United States. Beef is supposed to provide high-quality protein for human consumption. It is an industry that is based on cattle that feed on grass. Since the U.S. has plenty of lands that are unsuitable for cultivation and that can have grass and foliage to support beef cattle. A large amount of beef is produced on the rangelands of the Western U.S. Statistics show that the retail equivalent value of the U.S beef industry is gradually increasing through 2002 -2005 reaching $71 billion in 2005 and 2006. The total beef consumption has been 28 billion pounds in 2006 whereas the production has been 24.79 billion pounds in 2006. The exports have increased dramatically from 698 million pounds ($976 million) in 2005 to 1153 million pounds ($1.63 billion) in 2006. Due to technological advances in the fields of reproduction, nutrition, genetics, plant science, product quality, and equipment, greater quantity and quality of beef products are available to the consumer. Historically, beef cattle in the U.S. are of two categories: Bos Taurus cattle from Europe and the Bos Indicus from tropical countries. The major areas of beef cattle production are Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, California, and Oklahoma. It is significant to note that the U.S. ranks fourth in the world in total cattle numbers. Over one million people are involved in the beef industry in the U.S. creating a ripple effect in the overall economy. Cattle sales lead to five times increases in other businesses.

The beef industry begins with the cow-calf production sector. This involves breeding cows with bulls or using artificial insemination, conception, gestation, the birth of the calf, and lactation periods until weaning of the calf from the cow. The calf is weaned at approximately 500 to 600 lbs. live weight or about 6 to 8 months of age. From this age, the calves are usually fed on grassland until they weigh approximately 750 to 800 lbs. live weight when they are called stocker cattle. Stocker’s calves are placed in a confinement feedlot for approximately 90 to 120 days until they reach a live weight of 1100 to 1250 lbs. On some farms, depending on the availability of feed, weaned calves may be placed directly into a confinement feedlot for growing and finishing, skipping the grassland phase. Producers specialize in different stages of beef production. Some may operate only a cow-calf business producing weaned calves. Some may specialize in finishing the stocker cattle in the feedlot. Large producers manage all sectors of beef production.

Nutrition Analysis

Due to greater health awareness today, there is a greater demand for quality protein. Beef is the main source of protein in the U.S. diet with nearly 70 lbs of beef consumed per person each year in the U.S. According to the latest government data, a 3 oz. serving of beef contains 9 essential nutrients. It has thirteen times the amount of zinc found in an equivalent weight of tuna meat. One 3 oz. serving of lean beef is a rich source of protein, zinc, vitamin B12, selenium, and phosphorus. It also contains in lesser amounts, essential nutrients such as niacin, vitamin B6, iron, and riboflavin.

According to government guidelines a serving qualifies as “lean” if it has less than 10g total fat. Lean beef has less than 10 gm of total fat, 4.5 or less saturated fat, and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per serving and 100 grams. There are at least 29 cuts of beef that meet the government labeling guidelines for lean or extra lean. The amount of saturated fat in the six leanest beef cuts is almost equal to that in the chicken’s leanest cut, the skinless chicken breast. Yet it contains almost eight times more vitamin B12, six times more zinc, and three times more iron.

In addition to the cuts listed on the chart below, 95% lean/5% fat ground beef is also considered lean. New USDA data shows 95% of lean ground beef has very little fat content. Popular lean cut beef chosen at restaurants include strip steak (Kansas City/New York), filet mignon/tenderloin steak, top sirloin/sirloin Steak, T-bone steak. Popular lean beef cuts chosen at the grocery are top sirloin/sirloin steak, strip steak, top round steak, and T-bone steak. Recent studies are indicating that beef may possess anti-cancer properties because of its Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) content. In animal studies, CLA has been shown to inhibit breast and colon cancer tumor growth and have several other health benefits.

There are three kinds of fat in beef: Intramuscular fat that gives the meat its juiciness, flavor, and tenderness is seen as marbling, the white specks or streaks contained within the flesh itself. Trim fat, the layer surrounding the pieces of beef which can be completely removed before cooking. Seam fat, the layer between the individual muscles that make up a particular cut of beef. This fat can be cut away after it is cooked by the person eating it. In beef, the “waste” fat (trim plus seam) is the biggest source of saturated fatty acids. Thus, trimming visible fat from beef does not significantly reduce cholesterol, which is present in approximately equal concentrations in fat and lean areas.

Beef cuts with “loin” or “round” in the name, such as sirloin, tenderloin, top loin, the eye of round, top round, and round tip, have the least fat.

Food Safety

According to WHO, foodborne and especially beefbourne diseases are becoming more common. Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 (E. coli) is a type of bacterial infection that can cause bloody diarrhea and acute renal failure which can become fatal in the case of children. This bacteria has been associated with beef and been reported in Australia, Canada, Japan, United States, various European countries, and southern Africa. Outbreaks of other foodborne pathogens such as salmonella and listeriosis have been linked to the beef industry. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is a fatal, transmissible, neurodegenerative disease of cattle. The linking of this disease to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans resulted in the devastation of the cattle industry in Great Britain. Intensive efforts to prevent, control, and eradicate zoonotic diseases from herds in any location need to be taken. The recent approval and use of irradiation technology, steam sterilization of carcasses, the SureBeam electronic pasteurization of hamburger patties, and intensive education and training of workers slaughtering animals or handling meat products have increased food safety concerning beef. In 1991, USDA/APHIS enacted formal regulations restricting the importation of ruminant meat, by-products, and high-risk materials from countries known to have BSE. The import firewall was strengthened in 1997 when USDA/APHIS banned imports of live ruminants and at-risk ruminant products from Europe. In December 2000, USDA/APHIS banned the import of rendered animal proteins products from Europe regardless of species. The beef industry has formed a partnership with the McDonald’s Corporation to fund research aimed at eradicating BSE. The Beef Industry also worked with the USDA and FDA to identify and implement measures that will help minimize the possibility of human exposure to BSE.


There are essentially four types of beef produced by America’s beef producers known as conventional, branded, certified organic, and grass-finished. The most available beef in the grocery store is conventional beef that comes from cattle that are raised in pastures for the majority of their lives, typically 12 to 18 months, and they are fed a grain-based diet designed to meet their many nutritional needs for 120 to 200 days. The fresh beef that comes in meat cases is natural – meaning, it has been subjected to minimal processing and contains no chemical additives. Branded beef products are marketed by a company based on the product specifications or production standards required for their brand. Some familiar types of branded beef include “Certified Angus Beef” and “Cattleman’s Collection.” Certified organic beef meets USDA National Organic Program standards. For beef, this means: cattle must be fed 100 percent organic feed, but may be provided certain vitamin and mineral supplements; organically raised cattle may not be given hormones to promote growth or antibiotics for any reason; however, if an animal is sick, it is treated with antibiotics but taken out of the National Organic Program; and all cattle must have access to pasture. Moreover, organic beef must be certified through USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Grass-finished beef comes from cattle that have grazed in pastures their entire lives. Government regulations require that the lean-to-fat composition be clearly labeled. Packages labeled with the higher percentages of lean (for example, 95% lean) have a lower fat content. Ground beef that is at least 91% lean meets USDA labeling guidelines for lean.

Retail beef comes graded as prime, choice, or select. Prime, the juiciest and tenderest, has the highest fat content and is generally available only in restaurants. Choice has less fat and fewer calories. Select has the lowest amount of marbled fat of the three grades. Beef grading costs money and time. It is a marketing tool and not all beef is graded.

The main primal cuts used by a butcher to break the carcass are chuck, rib, short loin, sirloin, rump, round, flank, short plate, brisket, and foreshank. Primal cuts are further cut to make retail cuts that can be chopped to boneless. (Table 2)


  • Braising is a slow moist-heat cooking method using a small amount of liquid with a tight-fitting lid. Recipe for Braised Beef with Mushrooms & Barley:

Ingredients: 1 boneless beef chuck arm, blade; 1 tablespoon vegetable oil; 1 teaspoon salt; 1/4 teaspoon pepper; 1/2 pound button mushrooms, 1 medium onion chopped; 3 large cloves garlic, minced; 1-1/4 cups ready-to-serve beef broth; 1 bay leaf;1/2 cup medium pearl barley;1 cup frozen peas, defrosted and 1/3 cup dairy sour cream

Instructions: Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until hot. Brown beef pot roast; remove. Season with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic to Dutch oven; cook and stir until onion is lightly browned. Add broth and bay leaf. Return pot roast; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 1-1/2 hours. Stir in barley; continue cooking, covered, 45 to 60 minutes or until pot roast is fork-tender. Remove pot roast; keep warm. Discard bay leaf. Add peas and sour cream to barley. Cook and stir over low heat just until heated through. Carve pot roast. Serve with barley.

  • Broiling is a quick dry-heat cooking method done in the oven using the broiler setting. During broiling, the temperature is controlled by raising or lowering the cooking rack. Recipe: Orange-Pepper Beef Steaks:

Ingredients: 4 beef tenderloin steaks, cut 1 inch thick (about 1 pound); 1/2 cup orange marmalade; 4 teaspoons cider vinegar; 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger; 2 teaspoons coarse grind black pepper.

Instructions: Combine marmalade, vinegar, and ginger in a small bowl. Press pepper onto beef steaks. Place steaks on rack in broiler pan so the surface of beef is 2 to 3 inches from heat. Brush tops of steaks with marmalade mixture. Broil 13 to 16 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness, turning once and brushing with remaining marmalade mixture.

  • Grilling is a quick dry-heat method over charcoal, wood, or gas flames. Tender cuts are most suitable for grilling. Less tender cuts can be grilled if marinated. Appropriate cuts: Ribeye steak, top loin steak, T-bone steak, top sirloin steak, tenderloin, top blade steak, k-bobs, and hamburger patties. Recipe: Beef Steak & Potato Kabobs

Ingredients: 1 pound boneless beef top sirloin steak, cut 1 inch thick;1 pound all-purpose potatoes; 2 medium yellow or zucchini squash

Sauce: 3/4 cup steak sauce; 2 large cloves garlic, minced

Instructions: Cut potatoes into 1-1/2-inch pieces. Place in a microwave-safe dish; cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on HIGH 6 to 8 minutes or until just tender, stirring once. Cool slightly. Combine sauce ingredients in a 1-cup glass measure. Microwave on HIGH 1-1/2 minutes, stirring once. Cut squash lengthwise in half. Cut beef steak and squash into 1-1/4-inch pieces. Combine beef, squash, potatoes, and 1/3 cup sauce in a large bowl; toss. Alternately thread beef and vegetables onto metal skewers. Place kabobs on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, uncovered, about 10 to 12 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness, turning occasionally and brushing with remaining sauce during last 5 minutes.

  • Pan Frying or sautéing is a quick dry-heat cooking method using a pan with a small amount of oil. No lid is used and it is a good method for cooking thinner cuts. Recipe for Saute of Beef with Wild Mushrooms:

Ingredients: 9 fluid ounces red wine; 1 onion, chopped; 2 cloves garlic, chopped; 1 sprig fresh thyme; 2 tablespoons butter; 1/2 pounds beef skirt steak, cut into cubes; 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour;1 cup beef stock; salt and pepper to taste; 9 ounces mixed wild mushrooms

Instructions: In a skillet over medium heat, combine red wine, onion, garlic, and thyme. Bring to a boil, and cook until volume is reduced by about 1/4. Set aside, and allow to cool. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat until just beginning to brown. Add beef, and cook until evenly brown. Remove beef, and stir into cooled wine mixture. Set aside while preparing sauce. Sprinkle flour into skillet. Reduce heat, and cook slowly until flour is browned. Gradually stir in beef stock, and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.

Stir in beef and wine mixture. Cover, and cook very gently for 40 to 45 minutes. Lay mushrooms on top of beef. Cover, and simmer for about 10 more minutes. Transfer beef and mushrooms to a serving dish. Taste sauce, and adjust seasonings. Simmer until sauce has reduced to desired consistency, then pour over meat.

  • Oven Roasting or Baking is a dry-heat cooking method used for cooking bigger cuts of beef. Recipe: BBQ Beef Pizza

Ingredients: 1 container (18 ounces) refrigerated fully-cooked shredded beef in barbecue sauce; 4 individual prebaked pizza crusts; 1 cup cream cheese, softened; 1 can dice mild green chilies, drained 1/2 cup short thin red bell pepper strips;1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Instructions: Heat oven to 400°F. Place pizza crusts on an ungreased large baking sheet. Spread 2 tablespoons of cream cheese on each crust. Spoon shredded barbecue beef evenly onto crusts. Top evenly with chilies, bell pepper, and cheese. Bake in 400°F oven 15 to 20 minutes or until topping is hot and bubbly. Cut each pizza into 4 wedges.

Stewing is a slow moist-heat cooking method using a pot with a tight-fitting lid. The beef should be completely covered in liquid. While technically any cut of beef can be stewed, this method is most appropriate for cooking tougher cuts such as cuts from the chuck or round.

  • Stir-Frying is a quick dry-heat cooking method using a lightly oiled pan. Use high heat while continuously tossing ingredients. Recipe for Asian Beef & Pepper Stir-Fry:

Ingredients: 3 beef shoulder center steaks, cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick; 1 package fresh vegetable stir-fry blend; 3 tablespoons water; 1 clove garlic, minced;1/2 cup prepared sesame-ginger stir-fry sauce; 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper; 2 cups hot cooked rice

1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts.

Instructions: Combine vegetables and water in a large nonstick skillet; cover and cook over medium-high heat for 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove and drain vegetables. Set aside. Meanwhile, cut beef steaks into 1/4-inch thick strips. Heat same skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1/2 of beef and 1/2 of garlic; stir-fry for 3 minutes or until the outside surface of beef is no longer pink. Remove from skillet. Repeat with remaining beef and garlic. Return all beef and vegetables to skillet. Add stir-fry sauce and red pepper; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or until heated through. Spoon over rice. Sprinkle with peanuts.

Other methods of cooking beef include boiling, poaching, and stewing.


The research paper titled “Environmental Sustainability and Analysis” By Michael K. Ewert (2006), Johnson Space Center, discusses efforts that can be taken by companies to promote environmental sustainability. According to Ewert, natural resources such as air, water, and food are becoming in short supply and there is a lot of waste being produced by businesses. The fact that the public now knows more about the dangers to biodiversity, damage to the ozone layer, and global warming has raised a high alert indicating that there are only finite natural resources. Ewert defines sustainability “as development that meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. The production of beef should be sustainable. That means, it should be friendly towards the environment and nutritious to the consumer. However, research shows it is not so.

USEPA’s 1998 National Water Quality Inventory indicates that agricultural operations, including animal feeding operations (AFOs), are a significant source of water pollution in the U.S. But then, cattle raised for beef production also produce dung that can be used as organic manure. According to United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization’s 400-page report entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow, the world’s increasing numbers of beef cattle are the main threat to climate, forests, and other wildlife, as they cause environmental problems from acid rain and the introduction of alien species to the poisoning of drinking water and the destruction of ocean life. The pollution from cattle ranching washes down into the sea and causes “dead zones” where there is no ocean life. Up to 8,108 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico is such a zone due to beef production wastes washed down by the Mississippi River. Mike Adams, a nutritionist, and ethicist feels that cattle ranching destroys rainforests, uses enormous quantities of fresh water and results in the inhumane treatment of animals, and also accelerates the destruction of the planet’s atmosphere. The world has about 1.5 billion cattle. In the context of the beef industry, carbon dioxide emissions happen when fuel is burnt for clearing vegetation for grazing, for production of fertilizer for feed and transportation purposes. While carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas, the flatulence and manure of cattle herds emit more than one-third of all methane, a greenhouse gas that warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide. Livestock also produces ammonia, a primary cause of acid rain, along with more than 100 other gasses. Cattle emit 18 percent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, which beats out the emissions from all manner of transportation combined. A fifth of the world’s pastures and ranges are being turned into a desert by overgrazing. Cows drink about 261 gallons of water to produce a little more than one quart of milk. A dairy cow produces about 75 kilograms of methane a year, equivalent to over 1.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The following facts show that the beef industry is not very environmentally sustainable: More than one-third of the world’s grain harvest is used to feed livestock; the total cattle population is about 1.3 billion and occupies some 24% of the land of the planet. Some 70 to 80% of grain produced in the United States is fed to livestock Half the water consumed in the U.S. is used to grow grain for cattle feed. A gallon of gasoline is required to produce a pound of grain-fed beef. For every pound of red meat produced, farm fields lose about five pounds of irreplaceable topsoil.

Apart from causing damage to the environment, cattle in feedlots become more prone to all sorts of illnesses. And what they are being fed often contributes to the spread of disease. Current FDA regulations allow dead pigs and dead horses to be rendered into cattle feed, along with dead poultry. The regulations not only allow cattle to be fed dead poultry, but they also allow poultry to be fed dead cattle. Steven P. Bjerklie warns that cattle were meant to eat grass or grain and not other animals. Beefbourne pathogens that are passed down the food chain are caused due to the feed being given to cattle, the overcrowding at feedlots, the poor sanitation at slaughterhouses, excessive line speeds, poorly trained workers, and the lack of stringent government oversight.


Thus we find that the beef industry is of great concern to the United States as over one million people are involved in this industry. Beef is both vital for consumption and at the same time, needs to be regulated with care. Beef is offered on the menus of most restaurants and it is processed into many nutritious products, including, steaks, roasts, hamburgers, sausages, etc. Beef is the major source of protein for a citizen in the United States. It is very nutritious and contains many essential nutrients. Beef can be categorized into four types: conventional, branded, certified organic, and grass-finished depending on the upbringing of the cow, USDA grading, and the quality of the beef. Retail beef comes graded as a prime, choice, or select depending on its fat content. While beef seems to be a great food product, there has been a great uproar in recent times over the diseases spread through beef, the inhuman treatment of cattle at cattle feedlots, the hormones injected into cattle, the meat feed given to the cattle, etc. Moreover, experts feel that beef is damaging to the environment. Working on this project has been an eye-opener to me. I never realized that beef had such a huge role in our diet and that it was detrimental to the environment. The details regarding the grading of beef added to my existing knowledge. The search for recipes enlightened my knowledge regarding cooking methods as well. While I realize that beef is a good source of protein, I also understand that the beef industry needs to be regulated more to make it safe for the consumer and the world. Moreover, as a study of the background of the beef industry shows, a lot depends on cattle feed. If steps are taken to ensure that the cattle are fed properly and in an environment-friendly manner, the beef industry is likely to flourish in U.S. Personally, I agree with Worldwatch researchers Brian Halweil and Danielle Nierenberg who hold that beef eating is not an unhealthy practice. Grass-fed meat, raised without hormones or antibiotics, will be an improvement on the standard factory-farmed fare. For many of the nation’s poor, beef is an efficient and feasible source of protein.

Table 1: Nutrients in Beef (Based on an average 3 oz. serving of eye round roast, top round steak, top sirloin steak, boneless shoulder pot roast, round tip roast and shoulder steak, and a 3 oz. serving of skinless chicken breast). (US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, 2005. USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 18.

Nutrients in Beef
Table 1: Nutrients in Beef

Table 2: Breaking the carcass.

The first step in breaking the carcass is to separate it into primal cuts that can be handled more easily. The primal cuts correspond fairly closely to the units that a retail butcher might order from a wholesaler or abattoir. The primal cuts of beef are shown below. The separation of the forequarter and the hindquarter leaves only the last rib on the hindquarter.

Breaking the carcass.
Table 2: Breaking the carcass.
No. Primal Cut Retail Cuts
1 Chuck
  • Chuck Eye Roast
  • Arm Pot Roast
  • Cross Rib Pot Roast
  • Blade Roast
  • 7-Bone Pot Roast
  • Flanken Style Ribs
  • Short Ribs
  • Under Blade Pot Roast
  • Mock Tender
  • Boneless Shoulder Pot
  • Roast
  • Boneless Top Blade Steak
2 Rib
  • Rib Roast Large End
  • Rib Roast Small End
  • Rib Eye Roast
  • Back Ribs
  • Rib Eye Steak
  • Rib Steak Small End
3 Short Loin
  • Boneless Top Loin Steak
  • Porterhouse Steak
  • T-Bone Steak
  • Tenderloin Roast
  • Tenderloin Steak
  • New York Strip Steak
4 Sirloin
  • Sirloin Steak, Round Bone
  • Sirloin Steak, Flat Bone
  • Top Sirloin Steak
5 Rump
  • Rump Steaks
6 Round
  • Round Steak
  • Top Round Roast
  • Boneless Rump Roast
  • Tip Roast, Cap Off
  • Tip Steak
  • Eye Round Roast
  • Bottom Round Roast
  • Top Round Steak
7 Flank
  • Flank Steak
  • Flank Steak Rolls
8 Short Plate
  • Skirt Steak
9 Brisket
  • Corned Brisket, Point Half
  • Brisket, Whole
  • Brisket, Flat Half
10 Fore Shank
  • Shank Cross Cut
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