Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand (or, like me, your face buried in a particularly good burger) you’ve probably heard something about grass-fed beef. I got curious and did a little research.
A little background.
Almost all cows start out with mother’s milk and are then fed a milk replacement (basically a high-protein shake) when they’re separated from their mothers. At this point virtually all of them eat grass for a while. If they’re going to be 100% grass-fed, they continue eating grass which is the natural diet for cattle.
If, however, they’re going to be grain-fed, at some point they’re switched to a diet of concentrated feed. This feed typically consists of corn (and corn by-products like husks and cobs), soy, spent brewery/distillers grain, and other cereals. Here is a more complete list of what sort of stuff goes into concentrated feed. Check out the section labelled “Unusual By-Product Feedstuffs,” and note that sometimes the candy wrappers are not removed. Cattle, it turns out, don’t do well on a diet of grains. It makes them fat and unhealthy, and if they’re kept on a grain diet for long enough they get sick and die.
Why Grass Fed?
One: For the health of the animals. Cows evolved on a diet of grasses and leaves, not grain. They aren’t designed to digest the stuff and they don’t do well on a grain diet. Since cows become sick on grain-fed diets, antibiotics are usually added to the feed. Those antibiotics end up in the cow’s meat and fat and we get to become antibiotic-resistant without even taking a single pill. Yay.
Two: Grass-fed is more nutritious. Because the cattle are eating a healthy natural diet, they themselves are healthier. The nutrition from the grass makes its way into the cow’s meat and fat. Grass-fed beef contains more saturated fat (omega-3 – which is the healthy stuff we want) and less omega-6 – which can cause fun things like cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Three: Grass-fed beef tastes better. This is the way beef is supposed to taste! Much in the same way that wines from different climates and soils taste different, cattle feeding on different types of grass have their own unique flavours as well.
Four: Grass-fed is better for the environment. Cows raised in pastures use far less fossil fuels since they both harvest and fertilize the grass in a completely natural cycle. This is your basic Circle of Pooh kind of stuff. Grain-fed cows are fed corn and grains fertilized with precious fossil fuels, sprayed with pesticides, and injected with antibiotics. Rain runoff from the manure of grain-fed cattle spreads these pesticides and antibiotics to other farms, crops, and even public water sources. Grass-fed cattle also have lower greenhouse emissions.
Medium Rare offers grass-fed beef.
Product Spotlight (AKA Burgers! Burgers! Burgers!)
What a great week for meat this was!
Prime-Rib and Porcini Mushroom Burgers: I haven’t yet sampled all of the burgers offered by Medium Rare (I’m trying, I’m trying!), but these are were my favourite burgers. More on that in a moment. The prime-rib brings a fantastic flavour and is seriously juicy. These are an absolute must for any barbeque. I topped mine with a Dijon-Chardonnay mustard and some four-year-old cheddar. Just typing this is making my mouth water.
Wild Boar and Truffle Burgers: The new king. Like the Prime-Rib and Porcini burgers, these are excellently juicy, but they also possess a unique flavour. I cooked up four of these thinking I’d have two for lunch and save the rest for the next day. I ate all four. To my way of thinking, what does pig go best with? Why, more pig! I topped them with Medium Rare’s Old Fashion Bacon. I’ll definitely be doing this again. And again.
Mike is an SF/F author who loves meat and lives on a diet of real food, red wine, and great cheese. He can be found at www.michaelrfletcher.com or on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/MichaelRFletcher.