The other day I was at a high-end grocery store trying to buy grass-fed beef. The butcher informed me that they had stopped selling it because there was no market for it. I was shocked. Grass-fed beef is considered healthier, tastier and is arguably better for the environment.
Dr. David Acton, a radiologist in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, raises grass-fed beef cattle. “The animals are ethically raised, and it is an environmentally friendly agriculture,” he says, arguing that stress-free animals produce better meat. “They eat grasses of different kinds that grow in the fields, so they have a more varied diet. Cows are not designed to eat corn or barley.”
The beef itself has about one-third less saturated fat (and lower cholesterol) than regular feedlot beef and is lower in calories. Dr. Acton says it has beneficial omega-6 and omega-3 levels and has high levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a naturally occurring fatty acid that has been associated with reduced inflammation and may have anti-tumour effects. Several studies, including one from Consumer Reports, also say that grass-fed beef has a lower incidence of e. coli, making it my choice for beef tartare and rare burgers.
In a blind taste test we ran recently in the test kitchen, everyone preferred the meaty taste of grass-fed beef over regular beef from the high-end grocery store. When told it may also be healthier, the testers were really pleased.
So why are people not eating more of it? It is harder to find than regular beef and it can be pricey. However, in Toronto, Loblaws carries grass-fed beef from Beretta Farms sourced in Australia. And look for it in the city’s smaller meat shops, such as the Healthy Butcher and Sanagans. Across the country, you can find grass-fed beef at local farmers’ market. Online, Eatwild.com is a great online source for finding grass-fed beef locations in various cities, and numerous outlets will ship to you.
As for the environmental effects, the jury is still out. I choose to believe that huge feedlots seem to raise stressed animals and are often dirty and muddy with no room for proper exercise. Grass-fed cows stroll over the pastures eating what they need. Methane gas emissions, huge tracts of land for raising the animals, and biodiversity are all good arguments not to eat meat, but for those of us who continue to do so, grass-fed beef gets my vote.