You know me.
I have, at times, climbed up on my soapbox when it comes to the foods we eat.
This is one of those times. If you're not in the mood for a [small] lecture, stop reading now - but I hope you don't because this is important. To you. To your health.
Last week I visited a new farm (new to me, not a NEW farm) in Hopewell, New Jersey. Charles and Lucia Huehner, Beechtree Farms' owners are dedicated to raising grassfed beef, lamb and pork.
This is Lucia standing in front of one of her fields. See the cattle in the background? They were just walking around, munching on grass...
Here are some more cattle in the front field. I walked right up to the fence and guess what? They didn't smell. You know why? More on that later...Lucia is about my age and is slight in frame and attractively slim. Not what you would expect from a beef eating farmer. You know why? More on that later....
I had a lovely visit with Lucia and learned a lot about her farm, her philosophy and her animals. Lucia and her husband have been raising cattle since about 1993 - but only for their own consumption and a few sold at auction. They didn't realize the benefits of grass-fed and free range (which is exactly what their animals have always been) until around 2003. I think that's about when the "movement" really started to kick into high gear. I just know there's a pun in here somewhere, but I am being serious about this subject - but think about it. Grass Roots - Grass Fed. Anyway....
When Lucia and Charles realized that what they were doing was actually beneficial to the environment AND healthy to humans, they began offering their products for sale to the public. They are a small farm with BIG beliefs and standards. Their animals are humanely raised in a setting that is natural. The animals are allowed to graze and eat what mother nature intended for them to eat - fresh grass, in an environment that nature intended - with fresh air and water. They are processed (okay, that's a nice way to say put down, okay - total disclosure, killed) in a humane and dignified manner.
Here is what Lucia told me:
First of all, we don’t call our customers “consumers.” We are all people who eat. Consumer is such a dehumanizing word.
Grass-fed beef does not contain growth hormones, antibiotics and pesticide residues. The meat has less fat, fewer calories and less cholesterol than skinless chicken breast. Grassfed beef has two to four times more omega-3s, the “good fat” and conjugated linoleic acid CLA’s. Omega-3’s are an important building block in every cell of your body. People who eat food with more omega-3 and CLA’s are less likely to have heart problems, develop cancer, arthritis and high blood pressure. They are also less likely to suffer from depression, attention deficit disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. Grass-fed beef is loaded with vitamins A, D and E as well as beta-carotene. A nutritionist friend of ours tells her patients they can eat grassfed beef three times a week but must limit conventionally raised beef to once a month at the most. (this is why Lucia has an admirable figure!)
Imagine the impact on the environment of confined stockyard beef operations with mountains of manure vs. cattle roaming in the field spreading their manure naturally. One pollutes the environment, the other returns nutrients to the soil. Here is a comment I received from another farmer in our town, “One of the greatest environmental benefits of grass farming is that the soil is so well protected from erosion. Another really cool thing about what you are doing is that it is tolerable in densely-populated areas, so it can be local. A stinking stockyard has to be miles from any neighbors.”
The Farmer (this is part about the smell...)
Farmers who sell directly to the consumer realize a greater return on their investment which goes back into supporting the small family farm. Also, manure from grainfed beef has an unpleasant odor while grass-fed manure hardly has any odor at all. The farm and barnyard is a much more pleasant environment for everyone. And grass farming is beautiful and a great environment to live in. TGC: I would not have believed it if I hadn't been standing right there - but I'm telling you, there was NO smell.
Grassfed cattle live a natural, humane life with their herd. Cattle are ruminants with a digestive system designed to eat grass and forages. Of course they love to eat grain just as people love sugar. But grain is not good for cattle any more than unlimited sugar is good for people. The antibiotics that stockyard operations pump into cows are given to overcome the effects of the grain they are fed. Cattle thrive on what the food they are meant to eat - grass and forages.
Grass-fed beef is delicious! It has a superb beefy flavor that puts the alternative to shame. This statement is true, true, true. This is beef the way beef is supposed to taste people. I tell my son's friends when they eat here that they are eating "cowboy" beef - because this is the way beef tasted 100 years ago...
Thank you Lucia for allowing to reprint your words. If you'd like to read more about Beechtree Farm, view some great photos of the farm or to visit and purchase your own products, go to their website. To find a source of Grassfed products near you, visit www.eatwild.org and click on your home state. I have found these farmers to be passionate about what they are doing, eager to tell their story and incredible stewards of the land. Do yourself a favor and visit a local farm soon.
Michael Pollan, food expert, will be on Oprah on Wednesday, January 27th. Tune in to hear the latest about where your food REALLY comes from.
Sear Roasted Grassfed T-Bone Steaks - Serves 4
Two 8-10 ounce Grass Fed Steaks
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Take steaks out of refrigerator 1 hour before ready to cook.
Rub steaks all over with olive oil.
Rub in sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper on both sides. Let rest for about 10 minutes.
Heat a cast iron skillet on your stove top until searing hot. Place steaks down and sear for 2 minutes. Turn and sear other side for 2 minutes. Place in hot oven and pan roast for 5 more minutes for medium to medium rare. Let rest 7-10 minutes before slicing off the bone.
A Cook's Notes: You will be amazed at the flavor of this beef. It is rich, dense and filling. Plan on only about 3 to 4 ounces a person with a big appetite. I find 2 to 3 ounces is plenty for me. Serve with a whole wheat roll, a salad made of fresh root vegetables and an olive oil vinaigrette and feel good about the food you eat.
To learn more about grassfed animals, visit the American Grassfed Association.
PS - I went to eatwild.org's website and found a farm not far from the land we are looking at that offers grassfed beef, pork, lamb, free range chicken and fresh milk and cheeses... is that a sign or what????