Beef: It's What's For Dinner
We’ve been eating a lot of beef lately. I feel like I live in that ad campaign. I feel surrounded by beef! Grass-fed beef.
Let me explain.
My parents-in-law have this wonderful tradition of sending my husband steaks every year on his birthday. What man doesn’t enjoy a good steak?
This year, they decided to send something a little different. Oh don’t worry, beef was still involved, but this time, the birthday package came from Rocky Mountain Organic Meats, containing succulent cuts of grass-fed beef. Neither my husband nor I had heard of this company before, but we certainly are quite familiar with grass-fed beef. How could you not? Although beef is not necessarily en vogue among fashion forward foodies, there has been such a buzz over the grass-fed vs. corn-fed debate over the last five years, and the discussion has been especially hot lately.
Over the weekend, there was a meaty article by Canadian food writer Mark Shatzker in the Wall Street Journal on what makes good steak. It outlined the old standards upon which grading is based and the cattle industry’s quest for mass output, questioned the fat = flavor mantra, and explored the [positive] qualities of grass-fed beef. He also recently published a book entitled Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef.
Awareness about grass-fed beef seemed to take hold in 2006, when Time devoted an article to the grass-fed “revolution.” Even then, Shatzker was already on the grass-fed scene, conducting his very own taste test of grain- and grass-fed beefs for a November 2006 article in Slate. (Incidentally, he declared that grass-fed steak was the winner).
Even the Freakonomics Blog on the New York Times chimed in, encouraging grass-fed advocates to provide more research-based support for their arguments (though if you take a peek, all the journal articles supporting corn-fed beef listed are between 1822-1911).
Not to worry, there is now more current academic research being produced in this area. A study from California State University in Chico reviewed three decades of research comparing the nutritional profiles of grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutrition Journal also published a recent study highlighting grass-fed beef as generally healthier than grain-fed. According to their findings, grass-fed beef has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamins A and E, and even antioxidants. Tara Parker-Pope from the Well Blog of the New York Times points out that the impact of grass-fed beef is not clear – after all, there are far greater foods with much higher levels of antioxidants and “good fats” than grass-fed beef. But in general, the consensus seems to point towards grass-fed as the ideal.
Back to that grass-fed, organic beef birthday package. It contained beautiful cuts of beef tenderloin, ground beef patties, ground beef chuck, and even a summer sausage. We pretty much dove into the beef. What was most intriguing were the enclosed cooking instructions, which cautioned that grass-fed beef requires shorter cooking times than the grain-fed, because it is leaner.
Absolutely wonderful. In a way, it reminded me of my first taste of buffalo – lean but extremely flavorful. And of all the goodies in the package, I was most surprised to find that my absolute favorite were the ground beef patties. They made the best grilled burgers I have ever made at home. It did not require any seasoning whatsoever! I’m usually one to flavor my patties when I make my own burgers, but this was just delicious unadorned.
I will have to agree that grass-fed, organic beef is the ideal, but it can be hard to find pure grass-fed beef, even from upscale markets. Most beef available at your butcher starts out grass-fed, but finishes its days in grain-fed feedlots. So to find completely grass-fed and grass-finished beef can be challenging. There are several purveyors online, including Rocky Mountain, but hopefully, it will only be a matter of time when it will be easier to find locally. Perhaps then, beef will come back into fashion.