As a small child I loved McDonalds, I mean so much so that I had a nickname for the place: Donny’s; however, it wasn’t just McDonalds, I loved hamburgers and I could eat them any time of day. My dad often cringed when I ordered them for breakfast. Needless to say, I did grow out of that phase eventually, and as my palate grew more sophisticated I began to develop a taste for flavorful healthier food, including colorful fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, I also discovered the origins of that (delicious) burger from the 1970s forward in America as McDonalds began to obtain their meat from factory farms.
Today, there are approximately 250,000 Factory Farms, aka-CAFOs: concentrated animal feeding operations, in America, according to Wikipedia. In an AFO “animals are confined for over 45 days in a vegetation-free area. These animals are packed into warehouses and lots with slatted floors, not wandering around in the grass,” like we imagine at Old McDonald’s farm. (Grist.org). Animals are confined to a small area with their own excrement (enter ecoli and mad cow), possibly surrounded by sick and dead animals and their food is brought to them (GMO feed-we’ll get to this later) without any room to wander and graze. Additionally, they are forced into maturity through hormones, overfeeding and supplements. They are also injected with harmful antibiotics to protect them from sickness, since cows are not actually meant to eat grain. Factory fed cows spend most of their life (one year) in a cramped pen preparing to be slaughtered with no quality of life whatsoever, and we won’t even get into the sometimes unethical means of slaughter.
Enter grass fed beef, the alternative to the latter. Bear with me, this is an overwhelming amount of information, but I’m getting somewhere I swear. When you go to the supermarket you should assume the meat available for purchase is CAFO beef unless otherwise labeled. Now, there are some drawbacks 1). grass fed beef is more costly 2). less convenient to obtain and 3). as a result you may need to cull consumption. On the flip side 1). grass fed beef is a more ethical way to eat meat (since vegetarianism is not an option for me right now–I’ll get to this) Here’s why: cows are free to naturally graze open pastures, allowed to mature naturally to two years old, lending to a much better quality of life for the animals. 2). Many Grass fed farms allow tours, so you can see the origin of your meat–transparent operation– and meet the rancher who raised said cow, 3). Grass fed meat is free of hormones and supplements, 4). Grass fed beef is leaner, with a higher level of omega 3s.
I’m not so naive to believe that we will all become vegetarians or vegans and that the practice of slaughtering animals will hence stop; however, we have a moral and ethical responsibility to do right by them and be mindful of the origin of our food. There’s research now to prove humans are omnivores and while we can survive on a vegetarian diet, our whole genetic makeup, body structure and past eating habits point to a diet consisting of both plant and animal products. So, if you’re still with me a great place to start is here: http://www.eatwild.com, a website dedicated to organic farms and ranches by state.
Lately, I have been purchasing my grass fed beef at Trader Joes, and they are limited. I was only able to purchase ground beef at a whopping $6.99 a lb.; however, it is flavorful, tender, and hormone free–unlike some questionable grocery store purchases I’ve made in the past, and sourced in Uruguay. I’ve not heard anything negative about Uruguayan beef except the fossil fuel it takes to get here. It makes me feel slightly better and that’s got to count for something, right?
So the next step in my journey here is to sample various cuts from some local ranches, who deliver to CSAs: community supported agriculture, and local farmer’s markets. Stay tuned: I will report my findings on price, taste, and availability soon.