Thursday, June 30, 2011

Considering Grass Fed Beef- It Matters What Your Food Eats

A few months ago when we switched to Grass Fed Beef I had a tough time wrapping my head around the increase in price over conventional beef. It took a little while but I stuck with it and seem to have everything under control now. The steak is once again sizzling on the grill. Our household meat intake averaged around twice per week so it wasn't too difficult to get the ball rolling and find the same cuts that we were used to. There were several reasons in our decision to make the switch to Grass Fed Beef. Hopefully you will find these reasons and my beliefs similar to yours, and you will too consider Grass Fed Beef the next time you go to the store or farmers market if you haven't done so already.

The first and initial reason that we switched to Grass Fed Beef were the facilities in which our conventional meat was raised and processed. We wanted absolutely no part of that mess. I understand and support breeding cows for food. I don't understand why they cant have bedding, or room to move around, or food without antibiotics, growth hormones, and animal by products.
Being in the food industry for half of my life I have seen some pretty questionable things with my own eyes when it comes to large scale operations. I have personally felt for many years that larger operations lead to larger mistakes when it comes to potentially hazardous foods like meat. When you have so much meat moving through one place, there is little chance of shutting the line down to "fix" a problem. In other words the meat packing industry keeps operations moving at all costs, no matter what. That's not safe at all ! Now that I have children I am even more cautious about this because time and time again, case after heartbreaking case, there seems to be little to no accountability on the behalf of the meat industry.

The second reason we switched to Grass Fed Beef was that cows eat grass and that's all they should eat. Cows don't naturally have access to grain or corn. They're pasture animals, they eat grass. Conventionally raised beef is fed corn and or grain with growth hormones to fatten the cow up at lightning speed. This isn't so easy on the cow because a cows stomach isn't built to digest or assimilate massive amounts of corn and grain. Only grass.
Because of this risk, the feed lots which fatten up the cow before slaughter have it down to an almost exact science. They have figured out that they have about a 150 - 160 day window in which they can feed the cow a diet of pure grain or corn to fatten it up and get it ready for market before it will basically fall over and die.
In addition to the cow not being designed by nature to eat corn and grain there is the whole issue of those pesky GMO's. Most of the corn and grain used to feed the cows is a GMO. Plus it takes so much fuel to grow the corn, harvest it and move it around that it hardly seems worth the carbon footprint when a cow can just eat grass.

The third reason we made the switch was nutrition. It became quite obvious to me that the reason why so many studies that have been released over the years showing that red meat was unhealthy for us, wasn't due to the meat actually being unhealthy, but rather, the food that the cows were eating was creating unhealthy meat. We need saturated fats in our diets, but all the grains and corn that the cow is fed in the feed lot produces Beef with more of the bad vegetable fats (Omega 6)  and less of the good vegetable fats (Omega 3). For the record Grass Fed Beef is packed with Omega 3 and conventional meat isn't. You could probably eat a hamburger every day for the rest of your life and never have a cholesterol problem if you ate Grass Fed Beef.

The fourth but not final reason for us making the switch to Grass Fed Beef was the flavor. Grass fed beef is soooooo good ! Yes, it's a little more lean that conventional beef, but that issue can be nearly eliminated by purchasing the right cuts to get the job done. If you want a juicy steak, buy a bone-in Ribeye or Delmonico. Don't pick up a Strip steak, that might be a little too lean.
If you live here on the West side I can tell you that Whole Foods here in Venice has a Grass Fed Ribeye that's about $15.00 a pound cheaper than their dry aged conventional meat. 
Give it a try, you'll notice that the flavor of the Beef is easier to appreciate, and doesn't require as much seasoning to make it taste good.