A mural in a museum of natural history might show ancient hunters tracking vast herds through even vaster grasslands. Throughout history, herbivores have been a mainstay in our diets. Our bodies know how to use the dense calories of fats and proteins, rich in omega3 and omega6 fatty acids. As our hunter-gatherer society evolved into an agricultural one, we began to breed quickly maturing, grass-fed cattle to fulfil that need.
When producers discovered the rapid weight gain in cattle fed with corn directly before slaughter, that began to change. Gradually, the amount of time cattle were fed corn instead of grass became longer and longer. To avoid health problems, calves must be raised on grass; energy-rich corn is much too difficult for them to digest. As the cow matures, it is better able to handle starchy kernels.
However, to maintain health on this limited diet, the corn must contain additives such as nitrates and antibiotics. Otherwise, only a third of the herd would make it to slaughter.
In changing the diet of the animals we eat, we change what we eat, our environment, ourselves.
1. Corn-fed cows produce higher levels of methane gas (a greenhouse gas) than grass-fed. Fred Thompson, a conservative candidate for President remarked on the detrimental effect that cattle methane has on the environment.
2. Additives required to maintain the health of the herd often renders manure unusable as fertilizer, so it remains in ponds and pastures, cultivating bacteria which are increasingly immune to the same antibiotics used to keep the next generation healthy.
3. Feed corn in America is often grown in fields that can only produce the needed amounts by adding synthesized nitrates to the soil. Eventually, the land won’t be sufficient even with these additives.
4. Often, feed corn is genetically modified.
5. Fossil fuels are consumed at every step in growing the corn and shipping it to the herd, increasing the carbon footprint along with the energy intensive nitrate production.
1. The fat in cattle fed by corn is rife with low-density cholesterol, whereas grass-fed beef is high in levels of omega3 and omega6 fatty acids. These are the same fatty acids in fish, which have been linked to reduced cancer rates, better circulation and reduced hardening of the arteries, and have been shown to lower incidents of coronary problems as well as produce lower trygliceride levels.
2. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria bred in unused waste from corn-fed cattle can spread to humans.
3. Omega3 and omega6 fatty acids obtained from fish are often accompanied with heavy metals from ocean pollution. This issue doesn’t exist in grass-fed cattle, and their beef contains a good balance between both fatty acids.
For these reasons and more, the Bread Workshop has decided to serve grass-fed beef from Strawberry Mountain, a co-op of ranchers in Oregon. A unique characteristic of Strawberry Mountain beef is that it is dry-aged to develop rich, tender flavour. We believe this product represents a great example of quality grass-fed cattle.