Pick a Better Beef

what kind of beef is best

Natural
Hormone-free
Organic
Grain-fed
Corn-fed
Grass-fed
Naturally-fed

I used to be confused by all these labels.
So, what's the real truth about beef?

"Corn Fed Beef"

(Quote from a boastful sticker)

A sticker must mean something special, right?  Here's a quote from the Ontario Corn Fed Beef Association.  "When it comes to producing great tasting beef, a diet that consists mainly of corn makes all the difference."

Claims like these make me mad, because cows are ruminants.  Ruminants have four stomachs and naturally digest grass by chewing their cud.  Carbohydrates like corn, do not digest properly in cows.  It creates slime in their stomachs and traps uncomfortable gas, which leads to painful medical procedures.  Corn is also very acidic and makes cows prone to stomach problems and all sorts of diseases.  To combat the inevitable, cows are given antibiotics.   That said, it's true, some people do like the taste of corn-fed beef, but it's an artificial way to raise beef.

When it comes to producing great tasting beef, a diet that consists mainly of corn makes all the difference. It’s what gives Ontario Corn Fed Beef its rich, full flavour. - See more at: http://www.ontariocornfedbeef.com/#sthash.fIjfun8c.dpuf

"Our Cows are Grass-Fed"

(Quote from a charming farmer)

Most cows graze on grass for the first 6 months of their life, essentially making them "grass-fed".  Some farmers think 6 months of a cow's life is enough to make a "grass-fed" label the truth, but what really happens after that?  Traditional cows are put on a "fattening up" diet.  This is partly our fault.  North Americans have become accustomed to very fatty marbled meat and farmers make a heftier profit on heavier cows.

To get fattened up, cows are sent to CAFO's or "Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations".  Here they are fed a high carb diet and confined to tiny spaces so they can't move and get exercise. They are fed corn and all sorts of remnants from cookie, candy, and junk food factories.  They are also fed liquid fat, liquid protein and cattle in the US and Canada may be given growth hormones (Canada does not allow growth hormones in dairy cattle).  This produces a very fat cow...one that is ready for butchering as early as 14 months.   This is the 'standard'.  To keep this post PG, I won't even go into the 'poopy' side of the beef industry.


"Our Cows are only fed organic feed"

(Quote from an expensive beef box)

There are well-meaning small, organic or artisan farmers who finish up their pastured beef with organic corn feed.   This allows them to get some marbling on the beef.  But, whether in a CAFO or on a beautiful organic farm, a cow is a cow ... and cows are ruminants their whole life.

So what kind of beef is best?

what kind of beef is best

"Have you seen a cow lately?  A cow is supposed to dilly dally around, eat grass and chew their cud.  That is a cow's life".

(Quote from a common sense person)

Okay, so a little part of me feels bad that one of those cows is probably sitting in my freezer right now. But, I do feel good knowing that my freezer meat came, first and foremost, from humanely treated pastured cows, that had a comfortable leisure-filled life, running around chasing chickens.

This meant finding a farmer who raises cows from birth to slaughter.   If you can, choose 100 % grass-fed.  It could be organic, with or without certification.  Not all farmers can afford to do this, therefore reputation and word of mouth is key.

I am so lucky to have found a farmer who is passionate about what she does.  Not only does she have to provide acres of organic grass during the summer, she also needs to grow and store an equal amount of grass for the winter....at least two winters.  That's because a grass-finished cow matures naturally and most are butchered between 24 and 30 months instead of a fat 14 months.  The result is a happier cow (this is important to taste) that provides healthier meat (important to me and you).

For more information on Grass-Fed Beef, check out the following posts:

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