We believe it is essential for US consumers to understand Australian Beef vs. US Beef 15 Differences because, chances are, you are already eating Australian Beef very regularly but just don't even know it as your beef will be labeled as “Product of the United States”... more on that later :(
In today’s article, we point out the key Australian Beef vs US Beef: 15 Differences so you, the US Consumer can become more informed about some seismic differences in production methods, climate, regulation, and labeling laws plus lots more.
1. Beef Cuts Terminology Is Different in Australia and the US
Despite trading beef and lamb for decades, neither Australia nor the U.S. has set common terminology for different beef cuts. This may be confusing at first, but luckily we are here to review how some of these terms vary.
- Here in the US, “round” cuts e.g. Top Round (aka the rear legs and end of a steer) are called “Topside” or “Silverside” cuts in Australia.
- Aussies also refer to “strip” steaks (like a good ol’ grilled New York Strip) as “Porterhouse” (T-Bone steaks, for Americans) or “Sirloin” steaks.
- Here in the US, what we call a Sirloin Cap, is a Rump Cap Steak. Scotch Filet in Australia is actually Ribeye Steak here in the USA.
Image: Scotch Filet (Australian Name) which is called a Ribeye Steak in the US.
2. Differences Between How Beef Cattle Are Fed: Australian vs. US Beef
Undoubtedly one of the most noteworthy differences between Australian beef and American beef is how the cattle are fed and the very different systems of food farming employed. They are quite simply poles apart.
Approximately 97% of Australia’s cattle are Grass-Fed and raised exclusively on pasture lands, meaning they feed on only naturally occurring grass throughout their entire life and not re-seeded or commercially grown / sprayed grass which is quite common here in the United States.
The 97% Australian Grass-Fed production statistic is an almost direct mirror image of the US where only 4% of annual production is fully Grass-Fed.
Image: Typical US Beef Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)
90% plus of US Beef on the other hand is raised in Industrial Feedlots known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO)
For Grass-Fed Beef in the US, only about 4% of beef sold in America is raised on Pasture and 100% Grass-Fed and Grass-Finished.
This means only a tiny in America share of US beef produced is genuinely raised on pasture and produced by grass-feeding.
The US turned its back on traditional Grass-Fed Pasture-Based beef farming decades ago in favor of intensive feedlot farming, and it will take decades for this to return if ever.
Sadly, this tiny amount of domestically produced Grass-Fed cattle is nowhere near enough to meet US consumer demand for Grass-Fed beef so the vast majority of what is labeled as “Grass-Fed Beef” is actually sourced from Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand, and also Australia, then sold as “Product of the USA”.
Many American farmers feed their cattle GMO grains like corn and/or soy to fatten them, to get more beef yet can still affix a label that says "Grass-Fed”.
We hope to see more United States-based farmers utilize more Organic and Grass-Fed farming practices like those in Australia, including feeding and raising cattle on Grass their entire lives.
Australia is the largest producer of Grass-Fed beef on the planet and produces some of the world’s best Grass-Fed and Grass-Finished beef, including flavor-packed Australian Grass-Fed Wagyu beef.
3. Differences in Regulation & Labeling: Australian vs. US Beef
Again there is a world of difference in basic regulation and labeling laws for beef in Australia and the US. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights - you may be surprised by some of this as most US consumers are completely unaware:
In Australia, “Grass-Fed Beef” has a specific set of standards that must be producers must uphold before it can be sold to its own consumers as Grass-Fed Beef.
- Here in the US, quite literally anyone can claim their beef is “Grass-Fed”. The USDA in 2016 dropped their Grass-Fed Beef legal definition, standards, and inspections to verify that a beef operation (retailer, rancher etc.) was in fact Grass-Fed.
The Result: Many Grain-Fed / Conventional feedlot operations here in the US put the “Grass-Fed'' or “Grass-Fed and Finished” label on their beef and get away with it with a resulting explosion of Fake Grass-Fed beef that is far in excess of what is produced... Read that again... Anyone can claim to be Grass-Fed beef in the US. It is wide open to misleading consumers yet legal.
- In Australia, if a piece of Beef is sold to its own consumers in Australia or exported abroad, it must be certified as being Born, Raised, and Harvested in Australia.
- In the US, livestock born, raised, and harvested in any country outside the US, can be labeled as “Product of USA" or "Product of America" - once the final packaging and label applied to this package took place in the USA. Read that one again folks... This is because the previous USA Country of Origin (COO) laws were repealed in 2015 by US Congress.
In summary, regulations and transparency for beef-buying consumers in the US are extremely poor, leading to US consumers being highly misled - compared to how beef is raised, labeled, and regulated in Australia.
4. Australian Beef vs. US Beef: The Regenerative Difference
Purely because the US beef industry has been almost entirely geared towards intensive industrial feedlot farming, and only 4% of production being grass-fed, time honored regenerative livestock farming methods went by the wayside after WW2 in particular.
This focus on intensive industrial livestock has lead to a ‘brain drain’ in traditional US Beef ranching methods over the last 8 decades, where the most basic and fundamental regenerative land management practices such as soil conservation simply disappeared.
There however is a ‘relearning’ of these key regenerative farming principles in the US which are so wonderful to see however, we are very concerned that "Regenerative" has already gone the way of the "Grass-Fed" label claim in the US, and Regenerative has already become nothing more than an unregulated marketing buzzword and not always a true reflection of the methods a producer actually employs.
Why? Regenerative farming methods in the US have no legal definition by the USDA, and there is no enforcement or checking process to verify if a producer is in fact using regenerative practices or not. This leaves the door wide open to abuse and ultimately, it is the US consumer that is misled.
To be clear on this, we (TruBeef Organic) are staunch advocates for Regenerative Agriculture practices worldwide and specifically zero chemical Regenerative Organic practices.
However, we are also advocates for meat-eating consumers to ensure they get full transparency on how their beef is really raised and produced.
We also want to protect the integrity of genuine regenerative agriculture practices to ensure they are not simply greenwashed away in a haze of unregulated marketing word salad.
But as it stands, just like how the terms "Grass-Fed or Grass-Fed and Grass-Finished” have been widely abused to the detriment of good-intentioned US consumers - any US producer, rancher, retailer etc. can put the claim and affix "Regenerative" on their label, website, and other marketing materials irrespective of whether this is true or not.
Australian Beef ranching, never embraced industrial beef production to the scale it was adopted in the US so, therefore, the Aussies never strayed away from recognizing the importance of soil for pasture-based livestock farming, hence, traditional and time-honored Regenerative farming practices have been practiced by Australian Grass-Fed Beef Cattle ranchers since the 1800s.
The Australian model should be offered as a solid template to follow in terms of practicing traditional regenerative pasture-based livestock farming and doing so at scale to be financially viable for farmers and affordable for consumers.
5. Australia Has A Year-Round Climate Perfect For Raising Cattle Outdoors Year Round
Australian Beef Ranching Down Under boasts an ideal climate for raising cattle outdoors, 12 months of the year, meaning the nation gets plenty of use out of those vast pasturelands. According to Curt Lacy, an agricultural economist at the University of Georgia, as long as there’s water in Australia, there’s grass year-round.
Meanwhile, the climate varies considerably in the United States, depending on your state.
Certain farming regions in the US, such as those in the Great Lakes and North East, experience very harsh winters that result in frozen farmland that is simply not possible for ruminants to thrive year-round.
No year round pasture makes it nigh on impossible for these states to raise Genuine Grass-Fed beef, as Grains and Supplement feeds are introduced in the winter months.
Due to the frigid weather, cattle are often brought indoors to feed on hay and/or grains until Springtime.
California and Southern Oregon are two regions in the US that are more suited to year-round beef farming, with the Western US responsible for almost 30% of National Beef production according to an American Farm Bureau Federation survey.
However, drought is a huge problem for beef ranchers in Western USA in particular which means crop growers and ranchers rely heavily on municipal water irrigation to ensure they have a viable pasture for cattle, which places a huge strain on already tight water supply, and is not sustainable in the long term.
6. Differences in Farm and Soil Irrigation: Australian Beef Farms vs. US Beef Farms
- Australian beef farming which is 97% pasture-based beef farming, relies on natural rainfall to irrigate the pasture lands to provide their cattle with grazing paddocks.
- US Beef ranchers, especially those on the West Coast and South West have to rely heavily on the municipal water supply for decades to irrigate their grazing paddocks.
According to a US Beef industry survey by AFBF this year, due to extreme drought conditions, 40% of cattle ranchers in the Western USA had to sell off part of their herds much earlier than anticipated.
7. Australian Beef Producers Have More Certified Organic Farmland
Did you know Australia boasts more Certified Organic Pasture land than anywhere else on Earth?
Australia leads the world in land committed to Certified Organic farming with 35.7 million hectares - almost half of the world's 74.9 million hectares of Organic land.
The US Beef Industry on the other hand, only has 10% of this with 798,000 hectares(1.9 m acres) of organic pastureland and just 41,000 Certified Organic beef cattle.
This allows Australia as a nation to have a thriving Organic beef industry that can produce not just Grass-Fed but Certified Organic Grass-Fed beef at scale.
On the other hand, the American Organic beef industry is tiny by comparison and has sadly struggled to scale up due to extremely high costs and the relatively low-cost intensive farming system which dominates US beef production.
Many US farmers do not find the higher costs and extra labor required feasible since it is less competitive than producing conventionally raised American beef.
To be an Organic Beef farmer in the US is to be an outlier, if not an outlaw as they are completely outside the control of massive US beef industry control. Sadly, there are just a very few US Organic beef farms out there.
As discussed in a previous point, the "Grass-Fed" label in the US is now almost meaningless, and has no guarantees to the US consumer that the cattle were on pasture at all, and certainly no guarantees no harsh chemicals such as Glyphosate have been applied to the land (Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Bayer’s Roundup weedkiller).
Image: 'The Dead Zone' at the mouth of the Mississippi River where agricultural runoff like Glyphosate, Fertilizers, and Top Soil from 32 US States makes their way to the Gulf of Mexico via water table and tributaries.
Australia is the world's leading producer of Certified Organic Grass-Fed Beef which in our humble opinion should be the template for US Beef farming to follow into the future.
8. Australian Beef Producers Have More Rural Pasture Land
Australia, particularly Western Australia, is home to abundant green pasturelands perfect for raising cattle on a scale unlike anywhere on the planet.
Australia is a huge unspoiled country, a vast continent with a very small population of 26 million people where 85% of this small population lives in coastal areas, leaving a gigantic and wide open inland area for livestock farming, far away from large cities and modern pollutants.
Image: Australia has a climate that lends itself to year-round pasture beef farming and a small population concentrated along the east coast giving rise to huge swaths of rural land for grass-fed beef farming.
Because Agriculture and Beef production are so important to the Australian economy and social fabric, land management is a huge priority, especially preserving soil health, to always have access to fresh grass. These flourishing farms and ranches then produce Naturally lean, Grass-Fed, and Nutrient-dense Australian beef products.
9. Economies of Scale Differences
Unlike the United States, Organic Grass-Fed cattle operations are mainstream in Australia, thanks to the nation’s vast pasturelands. Aussie beef farmers can produce beef products on a large scale since they have plenty of room and resources.
US average herd size is based on the NASS 2017 Census of Agriculture
One area where Australian beef farms and American beef farms are very similar, is that they are both still dominated by family-owned farms.
10. Australian Beef vs. US Beef: The Halal Difference
High and meaningful standards for Australian Beef production, welfare, and a system geared towards year-round pasture farming have also led to Australia becoming the number one exporter of Halal Certified beef.
Halal certification in Australia is unique amongst non-Muslim counties in that Halal Certification is backed under the law and audited by the Australian Government Authorized Halal Program (AGAHP) that their meat is produced and slaughtered with the highest integrity and reverence to Halal standards, for raising and slaughtering Halal Beef.
AGAHP is highly regarded right across the Muslim world for its integrity and high standards.
This has meant Australian Beef has earned huge trust amongst Muslim countries around the world who can import Australian beef with confidence, which has given Australian beef ranchers a huge market no other western country can come close to, not even the USA!
Sadly the US has no such Halal program for its own domestic citizens' consumption or to cater to the huge Halal export market.
11. Sensory and Flavor Chemistry Characteristics of Australian Beef
There are subtle differences between the flavor and sensory attributes of American and Aussie beef. Much of the beef’s nutritional and flavor profile is contributed to how the cattle were raised.
Australian beef is leaner by virtue of the All-Grass diet with a much more distinct fresh Grass-Fed flavor and sweeter aroma. US beef which will tend to be much lighter in color and fattier by virtue of grains being used more.
An Aussie Picanha or Ribeye steak just needs to be flash fried with butter, served medium rare with just salt. No need for any sauces or marinades. The Grass-Fed flavor comes through big time!
12. Cooking Australian Beef: Leaner so it Cooks A LOT Quicker!
An important thing to note about Aussie beef is that it cooks much more quickly than American beef. Why? No sneaky grains and No supplement feeds are introduced into Australian Grass-Fed Beef, which is sadly common here in the US due to poor oversight on behalf of US consumers.
Australian Grass-Fed beef will cook faster (typically about 30%) than conventionally raised beef.
This is because Genuine Grass-Fed and Grass-Finished beef are naturally leaner animals due to the fact they:
A.) Are on a Grass-only diet and
B.) Are free roaming, so are well-exercised animals.
The typical US Beef cattle have purposely fed a carb-intensive grain diet and in an enclosed feedlot setting, to prevent exercise and promote fat build up and weight gain.
Thus, your standard timed cooking methods for conventionally grown steak might result in overcooking.
If it is your first time cooking Genuine, Organic, Grass-Fed and Grass-Finished beef, we recommend using a meat thermometer to ensure doneness. It should read 128 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare, and 135 degrees Fahrenheit for medium doneness.
13. Australian Grass-Fed Beef Color Differences
Australian beef and American beef also vary in hue. When you walk into a US grocery store, you will see bright red beef. In many cases, the outer surface of these beef products is treated with gasses to preserve freshness longer.
In contrast, Australian beef often boasts a deep scarlet red color when raw. This is caused by the higher levels of beta carotene, a plant-based pigment, found in the meat. Aussie-raised cattle have a higher concentration due to their Grass-based diet.
Since most American ranchers or feedlots supplement with grain or feed exclusively on grain, the cattle will have less beta carotene in their system, causing American beef’s different color.
14. Australian Beef Grading System vs. American Beef Grading System
The Australian beef grading system (Meat Standards Australia or MSA) encompasses the whole eating process, from mouthfeel to flavor, to juiciness to tenderness.
MSA scores go from 1 to 100, which are based on specific attributes like age, breed, color, marbling, and pH levels. Thus, you can feel rest assured that you are consuming healthy and quality reared beef from Australia judged on a whole host of graded attributes.
On the other hand, American beef grading systems have only 3 category ratings known as the three USDA grades: Prime, Choice, and Select - which are only based on marbling, which will give the consumer a good snapshot of quality, but nowhere near as robust a grading as the 1 to 100 BMS system using in Australia.
15. Australian Beef Biosecurity and Traceability
Wouldn’t it be ideal to know exactly where your food came from? Luckily, you can achieve that with Australian beef, thanks to the country’s National Livestock Identification System (NLIS). First introduced in 1999, this initiative helps Animal Health Australia (AHA) trace cattle in the event of disease or other food-related incidents.
Electronic identification tags are placed on cattle's ears at a young age. All medical history and movement off farm for each animal is record as part of the Australian Beef Industry NLIS system
However, Australia actually lacks many harmful exotic diseases, such as foot and mouth disease (FMD), tuberculosis, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). We still believe that the group’s tracking abilities and commitment to biosecurity separate Australian beef from the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, the US Beef sector does not offer the same rigorous traceability. Most US consumers do not think to ask twice about where their beef really comes from despite how important it is. This also explains why “greenwashing” and mislabeling beef products as “Grass-Fed” or “Prodcut of the USA” is so common here in the United States.
Summary: Australian Beef vs. US Beef, 15 Differences
- Australia calls beef cuts by different names to the USA for example a Scotch Filet in Australia is a Ribeye Steak in the US.
- 97% of Australian cattle are raised on pasture, and fed a Grass diet.
- Only 4% of beef produced in the USA is Grass-Fed, and raised on pasture.
- Intensive feedlot operations or CAFOss are the preferred methods of producing beef in the US.
- Australia has more Certified Organic land than any country in the world, and is the largest farm producer of Organic Beef in the world.
- The large rural landmass of Australia coupled with the small coastal-based population and climate (no hard winters), all lend themselves to raising cattle outdoors on pasture 12 months a year.
- The production claim "Grass-Fed" is almost now meaningless in the US due to widespread abuse allowed, because the USDA dropped all regulations and on-farm checks of the Grass-Fed claim in 2016. In the USA, anyone can claim their beef to be Grass-Fed.
- American beef consumers regularly eat Australian Beef but do not realize it, as the meat will be packaged and labeled right here in the US, and can therefore can carry the label mark "Product of the USA"
- Australian Beef sold domestically in Australia or exported abroad receives a certificate of authenticity that the beef was born, raised, and harvested in Australia.
- Western USA beef production is under huge pressure from severe drought and relies heavily on municipal water supply for pasture irrigation.
- Australain Grass-Fed beef has a deep dark red color when raw and a fresh Grass-Fed scent.
- Australia Beef sector leads the world in Bio Security and Traceability from its National Livestock Identification System (NLIS)