Posts Tagged ‘grain-fed beef’

Eating beef is a complicated issue.

Apart from environmental concerns regarding the methane burped up by cattle, there are a couple of other considerations to take into account.

First is the issue of growth hormones, and their use in the Australian beef industry. Although my first instinct is to reject these outright, there have been a couple of well-written articles on the topic, including this rational and sensible piece by The Food Sage, and these comments from my food chemist friend, Lee.  The general consensus is that they probably aren’t harmful to humans, but I’d like to avoid them if possible.

The second point to consider is whether the cattle have been grain-fed or pasture-fed.  As omnivores, we want to ensure that the meat we consume has had the best life it possibly can. We only buy free range chicken, pork and lamb, and would like to be able to do the same with beef.  Unfortunately, the ongoing quest for tender meat has led to an increase in grain-fed or grain-finished beef, with the animal fed on prepared rations for the last few months of its life.

In order to do this, the beast is moved to a feedlot, where it has limited room to move, further ensuring the tenderness of the finished meat. A few butchers have told me that a grain-fed steer hasn’t necessarily been kept on a feedlot, but the Australian Beef Industry specifications seem to imply otherwise. (If I’ve misread this, please let me know.)

The issue isn’t completely black and white – Australia is traditionally a very dry country, and in times of drought our cattle need to be given supplementary feeds, or risk dying of starvation.  But there is a world of difference between providing extra feed to animals in the pasture and keeping them on a feedlot for months on end.

Apart from these animal welfare concerns, there are environmental issues associated with growing large quantities of grain for use as cattle-feed. Additionally, research has shown grain-fed beef to be a far less healthy option than grass-fed.

Which leads me to my dilemma. I want to make informed choices about the meat I feed to my family, but this can be difficult to do, particularly when buying from retail butchers.  Wholesalers will usually have more information about the provenance of the meat they’re selling, but all bets are off when it comes to buying prepared products such as mince.

These concerns have been plaguing me for several months now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to be completely certain about the beef we’re eating is to buy a clearly labelled bulk portion and process it ourselves.

Having made this decision, I was delighted to discover Greenham Tasmania Natural Beef on sale at the Flemington Market butchers during our last visit.  This Tasmanian grown grass-fed and certified hormone-free beef appears to tick all the boxes.

We bought a large rump piece – 5.4 kilos – and put it through our old Kenwood mincer.  It was very reasonably priced at just $6.50 per kilo, but by the time I’d trimmed the fat off fairly obsessively, we were left with under four kilos of meat.

It still worked out at an economical $9.20 per kilo for premium rump mince.

Without a doubt, grain-fed beef is tenderer and less gristly, but grass-fed (to our tastes) has a richer flavour and a more pleasing mouthfeel, particularly in a steak.  More importantly though, I’m happy to feed it to my sons!

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