I have many clients that come into my office and tell me that they cannot stand to eat red meat. Some think that it is the “healthy” thing to say and they assume that I think it is “unhealthy.” Others comment on how it grosses them out. I never really knew why it grossed people out until I had to make chili with some conventional beef. Now I understand what some of them mean.
Last fall our church was having a chili feed for the local community and I was asked to make some chili with some donated meat from other members. At this time I had been eating only grass-fed beef and poultry, which was processed without chemicals, for about 4 years. I opened the package of conventional beef and put it in the pot and as I started stirring it I was overcome with a very strong unpleasant smell. It was gross enough for me to call Kevin, my fiancée, over and make him smell it too! He agreed and I thought to myself, what the heck could make this meat smell so bad? Was it rotten? I wondered if this is what my clients were talking about. No wonder so many people are grossed out by red meat.
I was on a mission to find out why this meat smelled so badly. I found out that a large amount of conventional beef is treated with ammonia to kill harmful bacteria, like E. coli. According to their website, Beef Products Incorporated is the #1 largest producer of boneless lean beef in the world. This year they are hoping to up their production of 7 million pounds per week to 10-12 million. Click here to read about their process and how ammonia is used. It is truly amazing to realize the technology that is used to produce our food. There are also articles online from the New York Times in 2009 discussing the fact that the ammonia in some cases was not enough to kill the bad bacteria. No wonder conventional beef can taste or smell unappetizing.
After telling that story many times in my group classes, I have had many clients confirm the same thing. They will no longer eat conventional beef. Grass-fed beef, processed without chemicals, not only smells and tastes better. It is also higher in certain nutrients and lower in some that are less beneficial. Below is a list of important differences:
- Higher in Co Enzyme Q10 – an antioxidant that supports heart health and circulation.
- Contains CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) – a fatty acid that has been shown to aid in combating: cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammation and lower body fat percentage.
- Lower in Omega-6 fatty acids – which can cause inflammation.
- Higher in Vitamin E, zinc and B12.
- Leaner than conventional beef.
As my client from Brazil said when I introduced her to grass-fed beef from Jordandal Farm, “I am so happy to be able to have real beef…just like at home.” She had stopped eating beef because conventional beef from the USA had tasted terrible to her. If you live in the Madison area, make sure you check out Jordandal’s 100% grass-fed meat at the Dane County Farmer’s Market and the Westside Market.
Checkout Experience Life Magazine Website and learn your terminology so that you know the questions to ask in order to insure you are getting grass-fed meat processed without chemicals.
Here’s what all those meat labels really mean:
Grass-Fed. The USDA defines “grass-fed” as meat (or dairy products) from animals raised solely on grasses, hay and other non-grain vegetation. But as used on labels, it’s a fairly ambiguous term. Unless the meat is USDA certified grass-fed, the animal could be grass-fed for eight months and then finished on grain.
Grass-Finished. “Finishing” refers to the last 90 to 160 days before slaughter. The term “grass-finished” may or may not mean that the cattle were raised on grass all of their lives, both as calves and during the finishing phase.
Pasture-Raised. This label indicates that cattle have had “access to pastureland” throughout their lives and haven’t been confined to animal-feeding operations.
Organic. This federally certified label means that cattle have been raised without antibiotics and hormones and that, if they were fed grains, those grains are 100 percent organic. They must also have had access to pasture during finishing.
Natural. An ambiguous and widely used term that does not indicate how or where animals were raised, just that the meat doesn’t contain artificial additives.
So, what’s best? Meat that is USDA certified grass-fed or that comes from a trusted local producer whose methods you trust is always best. Get to know the farmer and ask questions if you can.
For a list of responsible producers, check out www.eatwild.com and the American Grassfed Association (www.americangrassfed.org), an organization of pasture-based ranchers, consumer groups and researchers.
Experience Life Magazine also offers some great tips on how to cook your lean grass-fed beef:
• Before cooking, bring beef to room temperature.
• Since grass-fed beef is very lean, consider tenderizing with a marinade or meat tenderizer.
• Grass-fed beef has lower fat and higher protein levels, so cook it at about 50 degrees lower than your standard beef recipes. It also requires about 30 percent less cooking time.
• Sear the meat on high heat to seal in the juices, and finish cooking over medium-low heat (for best flavor and texture, cook to no more than medium rare). Rare should be cooked to 120 degrees F; medium rare 125; medium 130; medium well 135; and well 140.
• Meat keeps cooking after you remove it from the heat source, so remove from heat when it’s about 10 degrees lower than desired doneness.
• After cooking, let beef sit lightly covered in a warm place for eight to 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute.