I've noticed at Whole Foods and the local supermarket that they offer "Natural Beef" for a premium. They are not organic. Here are the words used: No antibiotics or hormones, never fed animal by-product, strict vegetarian diet, fed only grains.
How does this differ from the "other" meat? I thought recent changes made usage of animal bi-products illegal for cows? Is this really the only difference... I know that chicken waste has been mixed into feed in the past.
If a cow makes a stop at a feedlot and is fed corn - a grain - it will require antibiotics for digestion so I don't understand how that cows could not receive antibiotics.
Antibiotics are not actually an aid for digesting grain. They protect against bacterial infection.
I am going to add to mpalmer6c (but I hit reply to OP instead).
The feed given to cattle at many feedlots is mostly corn, which though high in starch (great for fattening up the animals) is relatively poor in other nutrients necessary for healthy growth. Animal byproducts were added to the feed as a ready source of minerals and vitamins lacking from the corn itself.
I thought I was up to date on the legal food-stuffs, but I thought there was just more careful formulation- no spinal/brain content, but blood & bonemeal by products were still legal. Food additives can be from an animal, vegetable or mineral source. The animal stuff makes modern consumers squeamish, and mineral products are what the organic movement was created to avoid- but it is (was- rising petroleum prices affect everything from fertilizer to transportation costs) cheaper than the all veggie additives.
At WF, I think their buyers are looking for ranches that finish their cattle with a better veggie diet, and frankly, I suspect some of the other grocers are calling something 10% less harmful "Natural Beef" to get a couple of extra bucks per pound.