Full disclosure, I no longer buy conventionally raised meat. I’m mainly talking about beef from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). Let’s just say that it ain’t pretty … nor is it healthy for the animals, for the people who eat it or for the environment. Read The Omnivore’s Dilemma or watch Food, Inc. for full, gory details.
The biggest obstacle to overcome when switching from conventionally raised meat to grass-fed is the price. It is true that factory farmed beef is cheaper. My thinking on meat is to buy local, grass-fed beef and just eat less of it. Your overall meat costs will be close to the same and you’ll be healthier for it, especially if you use the extra room on your plate for vegetables.
In my search for local meat, I came across Jimmy Bulich of Pathfinder Farms in Catskill. He gave my husband and me a tour of his farm.
Jimmy has a small herd of Hereford and Black Baldies beef cattle. Here’s how his farm works: Jimmy uses an electric fence to section off his pasture into football field-sized quadrants, plenty of space for his 14-cow herd. The cows stay in an area for about a day and they eat the grass. Once they have given that area a nice mow, they are moved to another area.
Cows, of course, leave behind manure. This does a few things. First, it is an excellent fertilizer. Jimmy never needs to add chemicals to his fields. Second, it provides food for wildlife. Wild turkeys and birds come in and eat the bugs that are attracted to the manure. The wildlife does its part by spreading the manure when digging for the protein-rich bugs.
In the winter, Jimmy feeds the cows hay (a.k.a. dried grass) grown on a nearby farm.
I love the simplicity of the process. Grass and cows form a beautiful symbiotic relationship. Cows eat the grass and, in turn, feed the grass with what they leave behind. How can you not love that?
The cows on Jimmy’s farm look healthy and happy. We ate his delicious nitrate-free hot dogs twice last week. Normally I would feel like a hot dog dinner is skimpy in the health department, but I think ones made from grass-fed beef are down right healthy for you.
Meat from cows raised on grass has more omega-3s, more vitamin E and more CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acids) than meat from animals fed conventional diets. CLA is purported to lower risk of cancer and heart disease and improve immune systems. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and are excellent “brain” food. Vitamin E has strong antioxidant properties. All of this sounds good to me!
Grass-fed beef is leaner and requires less cooking time than conventional meat. Kinderhook Farms has great tips for cooking grass-fed beef on its Web site, http://www.kinderhookfarm.com/recipes/recipes_tipsforcooking.html.
They recommended these cooking temperatures: 120 degrees, rare; 125 degrees, medium rare; 130 degrees, medium; 135 degrees, medium well; and 140 degrees, well.
I found this list of Columbia and Greene county grass-fed farms on www.eatwild.com. If I missed your farm, please let me know.
Gansvoort Farm, 1830 Route 9, Germantown, 12526. 518-537-4668. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grazin’ Angus Acres, Route 66 (between Hudson and Chatham) on Bartel Road in Ghent, New York. (518) 392-3620. Web site:
Heather Ridge Farm, 989 Broome Center Road, Preston Hollow, 12469. 518-239-6045. E-mail: HeatherRidgeFarm@aol.com. Web site: http://www.heather-ridge-farm.com.