TASTE and TENDERNESS
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
tenderness, juiciness and flavor. Marbling accounts for only
10% of the variation in tenderness, genetic traits 30% and
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
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.
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
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.