Sunday, October 5, 2008

Beef eats grass, remember?: Part I

OK, I don't have a picture of a cow, so a cute little sheep will do.

I sure have forgotten.
Thanks to a comment made by Aliya to my post on farmed tilapia, I now remember and can’t forget. She wrote: “It's sort of like cows eating corn, which is cheap, when they're meant to eat grass”. Her comment caught me by surprise because I got so used to seeing the signs of “corn fed beef” in the grocery store, that I haven’t given it another thought anymore.
So I thought I should check it out more closely.

Cows are vegetarians, by the way. On some farms they are given meat to eat, which actually their cow-friends’ remains. But we’ll discuss that later.
There is a lot to digest, the picture is not pretty, so I thought – I must break this up to smaller parts instead of overwhelming you with one long post. I was very overwhelmed. I shared some info with the hubby and he asked me – why are you telling me this? So this confirmed my feeling that this should be posted in a few “Parts”.

I would like to focus on grass-fed beef first, because this IS what cows are supposed to eat naturally.

And you might ask what the big deal is if the cows are eating corn or grass as long as they are eating a vegetarian diet? So let’s start.

This is from The New York Times, August 30, 2006

There’s More to Like About Grass-Fed Beef By MARIAN BURROS

“My own delicious research shows the industry has taken giant steps. When I wrote about grass-fed beef in 2002 there were about 50 producers, and most of what they raised was not very good. Now there are about 1,000 of them…

Ranchers of grass-fed beef say they have made great strides in the last few years by relearning what came naturally before the era of the feedlot (for “Feedlot” definition click here), then building on it. They use heritage breeds that thrive on grass rather than on grain, as well as crossbreeds developed with advanced genetics.

They have relearned the science of rotating pastures and determined which grasses provide better nutrition in a region like the Northeast, where pastures are not endless, as they are in the West.

… Research suggests grass-fed beef is likely to be lower in total fat, contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids (corn fed beef has high omega-6 fatty acid like is found in doughnuts and pork bacon – N.) useful in reducing the risk of heart disease and have a higher level of C.L.A., conjugated linoleic acid, which, in animal studies, reduces the risk of cancer.

But the loose definition of grass-fed beef makes it difficult for people looking for alternatives to figure out just what they are buying. There is no regulation defining the term, and the Department of Agriculture has proposed letting cattle be called grass-fed even if they were raised on hay in a feedlot and never set hoof in a pasture.

The American Grassfed Association, which represents producers of 100 percent grass-fed animals, says a true grass-fed animal is put on pasture as soon as it is weaned and eats grass as long as it is available. When there is no more fresh grass the animal is fed hay and silage. Hormones and antibiotics are forbidden.

Jo Robinson, a writer who has spread the word about the benefits of pasture-raised animals, recognizes the quandary. At her Web site, Ms. Robinson writes: “Meat from an animal that has been able to graze in its last few months of life is still nutritionally superior to feedlot beef, even if the animal has also been given some grain. It’s a matter of degree.”

But my tasting showed that with 100 percent grass-fed beef you can have it all: sustainable, more nutritious beef with clean, juicy, beefy flavor. (Because the beef has less fat, though, it must be cooked at lower temperatures and for less time.) “

More about corn-fed and grass-fed beef to come...

Sounds good so far?

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