TASTE and TENDERNESS

The consumer has been trained to like corn/grain fed beef recognizable by its white fat. The best known grading system USDA AAA/AA/A rewards inter-muscular fat marbling produced by feeding of corn or grain but is described as an indicator of tenderness, juiciness and flavor. Marbling accounts for only 10% of the variation in tenderness, genetic traits 30% and the remainder is handling including decreased animal stress and proper aging of meat. Grass fed beef flavor may be specific to the place the animal lived as opposed to industrial beef. Grass fed beef is seasonal, that is it can only be slaughtered during the grass growing season, fresh grass is needed for high Omega 3 and CLA.

Humane handling of animals is a primary concern for Starrs Point Steers from the time they are calved on the farm to animal harvesting, apart from the ethical issues it produces better product.

 

OTHER ISSUES

Cheap subsidized corn in the US and low grain prices in Canada have encouraged the industrialization and urbanization of livestock in massive feedlots (also applies to chicken and pork).There is not enough grass in the US to sustain the national herd total of approximately 100 million head.

Burgers and ground beef from fast food outlets, large food stores and processed ground beef products may be from up to a hundred different animals, it may also be stretched out with non-meat protein and/or mixing lean beef with beef trimmings from younger animals.

Nova Scotia is one of the best grass growing areas in North America, a natural advantage for grass fed beef but only 10-15% of the beef sold in Nova Scotia is produced in Nova Scotia. Informed consumer support is needed to support grass fed production.

 

CONCLUSIONS

The widely stated health problems associated with eating beef are really problems with feedlot or industrialized beef production. Cattle have not evolved to eat grain or corn and humans may not be adapted to eat this beef. Grass fed beef is considerably healthier than commercial feedlot beef with significantly less saturated fat but with higher Omega 3 and CLA levels.

Feedlot beef may also compromise the health of consumers with development of antibiotic resistant organisms and virulent organisms such as F. coli 0157.

It is important to know your producer and the his methods in raising beef directly from the pasture to your plate. Starrís Point Steers is a pasture grass fed cattle operation. No antibiotics are used any treated sick animal is selected out and does not go into our pasture to plate program. Routine vaccination and de-worming are the only veterinary interventions.

The meat is aged for 21 days (there is minimal benefit in aging longer, commercial beef is usually hung for three days or less because of the cost of hanging space). The taste is different from feedlot beef but is probably the same as beef in the pre-feedlot era. The yellower fat is an indication of healthier feeding practices. Because of the relatively lean nature of grass fed beef it should be cooked slightly slower and the ground beef may need some cooking oil to prevent burning.

Grass (pasture) fed beef accounts for less than 1% of all beef production and is generally only available from the producer. Sterling grade, prime grade, AAA and certified Angus are promotional concepts training the consumer to accept commercial beef which is fat laden, likely to have antibiotic and hormone residues and potentially an infection hazard. So, why donít all cattle producers grow grass or pasture fed beef? Because it is more inconvenient, there is insufficient land for pasturing the herd numbers in North America, greater costs per animal and inertia in accepting that there is a healthier more environmentally friendly alternative. The majority of beef sold in Canada and the US is controlled by three huge companies who own large numbers of cattle in feedlots and determine the price for everyone else, they slaughter and package the meat thereby controlling the price paid to cattle producers and the price that consumers pay. Since the BSE problem in Canada these companies have tripled their profit per animal.

The health claims for grass (pasture) fed beef arise from the scientific literature, they are not well promoted as it goes against the practices of the beef industry producing more than 99% of the beef. Diet and health issues remain in great flux and further work is needed to clarify these issues, however, I feel that there is good valid information for grass (pasture) fed beef to be an integral part of a balanced diet.

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