Planting for the Future – February 2010

Phyllis Rauch

By Judy Baehr

What’s the Beef?


Masthead-PlantingIt’s no surprise that ACÁ, the organic demonstration farm at Jaltepec, is a proponent of the health value of vegetables and fruit. But this month by reader request, we are focusing on the other side of the plate, where many of you like to put beef.

Here’s great news: you can enjoy beef and be healthy at the same time by buying LOCAL beef that is grass-raised and hormone-free, as opposed to factory-farmed grain-fed cows full of hormones and antibiotics. Unlike in the U.S. and Canada, where grass-raised beef can be costly and hard to find, almost all beef sold in local meat markets is naturally raised AND it costs less than the factory-farmed grain-fed antibiotic and hormone-injected stuff you get at the big box stores.

True, you may find it easier to pick up a wrapped package of factory-farmed beef at one of those big box stores (no Spanish required and they even take plastic!) than to practice your Spanish, figure out the names of cuts and stand in line along the sides of bloody beef at the meat store. But given that the steak thus bought will be hugely better for you, will you try it?

“Part of the rise in obesity [in developed countries] can be attributed to the changes in the way we raise beef and other animals,” writes Dr. Nicholas Perricone, MD, CNS, and best-selling author. “Grass-fed beef is up to three times leaner than grain-fed beef, and can have up to 15 fewer calories per ounce than meat from a grain-fed cow.”

“Like wild salmon,” notes Dr. Perricone, “grass-fed beef is an excellent source of high quality omega-3 essential fatty acid as well as CLA, a fatty acid that has a number of health benefits. But because of the dietary change from grass to grain, levels of CLA dramatically decreased in meat and dairy products.”

Yes, you can enjoy both beef and good health. But, please try to eat most of your meals farther down the food scale. A 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), quoted in Scientific American, notes that “our diets and, specifically, the meat in them cause more greenhouse gases…to spew into the atmosphere than either transportation or industry. Current production levels of meat contribute between 14 and 22 percent of the 36 billion tons of ‘CO2-equivalent’ greenhouse gases the world produces every year. It turns out that producing half a pound of hamburger for someone’s lunch…releases as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as driving a 3,000-pound car nearly 10 miles.”

If and when you do eat steak, may I recommend putting some ACÁ Great Greens alongside? And please don’t tell me if you chicken-fry the steak. It’ll just get me started again.

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