Saturday, January 21, 2012

Where's the Beef?

Beef has a bad reputation.  It's considered dirty, and fatty, and just plain unhealthy.  But not all beef is equal.  In fact, it can be one of the best foods for you.  It all depends on where it's from, and how it was raised.

Now, if you buy the supermarket beef, then, yeah, it's probably unhealthy.  That's because it's likely to be feedlot beef.  I'm sure you've heard the horror stories of the feedots and processing plants - I'm not going to go into those here.  I'm not going to write about abused cows or CAFOs.  I'm not even going to write about the absurd practice of fattening cows up on grain (which isn't something they're designed to eat in the first place). I'm just going to say that there is no point in eating meat from cows treated regularly with antibiotics and growth hormones.  If they're that sick, there is no way that meat can make you healthy.

On the other hand, I'm more than happy to talk about grass-fed, grass-finished beef.  Cows are ruminants; they're supposed to eat grass and other leafy green plants.  This diet gives them the correct balance of omega-3's and omega-6's.  Grass-fed meat is also a great source of conjugated linoleic acid, an important nutrient that can strengthen your immune system and even reduce your risk of cancer.  Most importantly, the meat tastes a hundred times better!

Here are some of my favorite ways to eat grass-fed beef.

  • Hamburgers!  This is one of my all-time favorite foods, and the rest of my family agrees with me.  We have them almost every week during the summer.  My dad takes some ground beef (we eat around two pounds combined - a family of four would be good to go with a pound) and sprinkles a little salt and pepper on it.  Then he makes some patties and grills them until they are juicy and delicious. I can definitely taste a difference between these grass-fed burgers and supermarket beef - the grass-fed beef has so much more flavor, and the texture is like meat, not a ground-up paste.
  • Pot roast.  I am in love with pot roast.  My mom uses the recipe from The Joy of Cooking, and we put the pot roast on savory pancakes that soak up the gravy.  Mmmm...
  • Steak.  Throw a ribeye on the grill.  Eat.  Done. 
  • Chili.  We use stew meat and Italian sausage (pork).  Diced tomatoes, onions, chili powder, and jalapenos join the party, and then our secret ingredient: honey.
  • Baked ziti.  Or lasagna.  Or spaghetti and meatballs.  Or any kind of Italian food!
  • Tacos.  Enchiladas are great, too.
  • Brisket!  Barbecue beef brisket is one of the best things that I have ever eaten.  It's a crowd-pleaser, but if you're lucky, you won't have a crowd - you'll have lots of leftovers!
Mmm... steak.

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