A list of companies who go beyond the government's standards for natural meats.

A list of companies who go beyond the government's standards for natural meats.

Shopping for natural meat can be confusing because the USDA's definition of "natural" is vague, requiring only that the meat is minimally processed and free of artificial or synthetic ingredients. For now, your best clue is the USDA Organic seal, which guarantees the animals have been fed organically grown feed and forage, with no synthetic hormones. Or shop by brand name; our short list includes companies who stake their reputations on going beyond those minimum standards.

Coleman Natural Foods


Products: Beef, bison, chicken, lamb, pork, sausage. Headquartered in Golden, Colorado, Coleman bills itself as "the largest all-natural meat company in the United States." First to have meat certified all-natural by the USDA, it goes beyond this by embracing sound animal welfare practices and emphasizing sustainable agriculture and land stewardship.

Dakota Beef


Product: Beef. This company raises certified organic cattle on certified organic pasture, without antibiotics or growth hormones. Cattle are fed only certified organic grains and grasses, have unrestricted outdoor access and receive humane treatment.

Laura's Lean Beef


Product: Beef. Laura's eschews hormones and antibiotics and raises naturally leaner breeds of cattle, such as Limousin and Charolais. The company is also committed to sustainable agriculture.

Maverick Ranch Natural Meats


Products: Beef, buffalo, chicken, lamb, pork, sausage, bacon. Founder Roy Moore says, "As a ranching family, we remain dedicated to our system of raising healthy animals the old-fashioned way." Maverick Ranch supplies beef, buffalo and pork to the U.S. Olympic Training Centers.

Niman Ranch


Products: Beef, lamb, pork.

Organic Prairie www.organicvalley.coop

Products: Beef, poultry, pork. A subsidiary of the large farmer-owned cooperative Organic Valley, Organic Prairie touts meats produced "by family farmers in harmony with nature without antibiotics, synthetic hormones or pesticides" and emphasizes humane treatment of animals.

U.S. Wellness Meats


Products: Beef, chicken, lamb. These meats have been hailed by food writers and chefs. The company states its vision for "beef cattle to be raised in their natural environment and finished grazing lush, green pasture forage so that our families and consumers can reap the benefits of consuming highly nutritious, health-enhancing beef."

Read more about The Niman Ranch from our April/May 2006 issue.