GRASS-FED VERSUS GRAIN- FED. WHATS THE DIFFERENCE?
Most South Africans are unaware
that there is any difference between grass-fed cattle and grain-fed cattle. For those who do know something
about it there is some contention, and depending who the person is, they will give you the pros and cons for
both types of feeding. Similar to scientists are paid by tobacco companies who will tell you that there is no
proof smoking causes lung cancer.
Let us consider the cow and the
chicken. The chicken was designed to eat grain as its staple diet. But in its throat it produces an acid,
which combines with the grain. If you have cooked chicken giblets or cut up a chicken you will know the
stomach of a chicken is extremely tough, but it is like that so
as to digest the grain.
On the other hand a cow was
designed to eat grass. It has no way of digesting grain, so what happens the cow gets sick, its lungs begin
to collapse, and to keep it alive, the farmer injects it with antibiotics.
Something else to consider most
commercial grain in South Africa is Genetically Modified (GMO). What is this grain doing to the animals and
to us who are eating the meat?
Fats get a bad
reputation, but the truth is there are good fats and bad fats. And omega-3s are really good fats.
These fatty acids, which are essential for human growth and development, are most often
associated with coldwater fish and certain fruits and vegetables, but they also occur in abundance in Grass Fed
Beef. The meat is a rich source of this healthy fat because the animals spend their lives eating the green forage
plants that are naturally rich in omega-3s themselves. Just by eating their natural diet, the cattle absorb these
valuable fats and then pass the nutrition on to you. The result is beef that has nearly 60% more omega-3s than beef
from cattle that have been raised on a low-omega-3 grain diet.
The benefits of omega-3s include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. It also helps
reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other
rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments. Some research has shown that omega-3s can boost the immune
system and help protect us from an array of illnesses including Alzheimer’s disease.
CLA may not be a household term, but here at
Gourmet Butcher we've become rather obsessed with it. That's because recent studies have shown that conjugated
linoleic acid, CLA for short, can have a powerful effect on our health.
In separate studies, scientists have shown that CLA can lower an individual's risk for cancer and arteriosclerosis
(clogged arteries), as well as reduce body fat and delay the onset of diabetes.
For South Africans, beef and dairy fat are the best sources of CLA (Conjugated Linoleic
Acid), but research has
shown that an all-grass diet can significantly increase the level of CLA in beef and dairy. Because green
plants are rich in the linoleic acid necessary to produce to CLA, grass-fed animals typically produce two to
four times the CLA of their grain-fed counterparts.
CLA has become so valued for its health benefits that many health food stores sell CLA supplements, but
naturally-occurring CLA is metabolized more effectively and used better by the body than these synthetic
supplements, which are prone to oxidation during shelf-life.
All of this makes Grass Fed Beef, which is supplied by us Gourmet Butcher one of the best sources of CLA
IT'S BEEF AND ITS GOOD FOR
Forget everything you think you know about
beef. That it's high in saturated fat, that the best cuts are marbleized with fat. That it increases your risk for
It turns out that a lot of these issues are
triggered by an unnatural pH in a cow's first stomach. The fermentation chamber that initiates what will ultimately
be the critical balance of fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins and enzymes that are essential for human nutrition,
the first stomach must be healthy in order for an animal to produce healthy meat.
Grass-grazing animals have a healthy, highly-functioning pH of 7, which allows for an abundance of the essential
fermentation bacteria that create high levels of CLA, omega-3s, branch-chain amino acids, vitamins and digestive
enzymes. But even a small amount of grain can throw all this off: just 30 days on a grain diet can offset 200 days
of grazing chemistry.
Unfortunately, when an animal lives on a heavy-starch grain diet, that healthy pH 7 suddenly plummets to a highly
acidic pH 4. With this increase in acidity comes a different kind of fermentation bacteria: one that impedes the
production of healthy fats like omega-3s and CLA and increases the level of omega-6s.
Another troubling side effect? Animals require daily doses of low-level, feed-grade antibiotics to allow their
livers to cope with abnormal acidity.
And as if all that weren't bad enough, this less-than-perfect management system demands that grain-fed animals be
given growth hormones to quickly fatten them in the race to harvest. But all this new weight doesn't come in the
form of healthy, lean muscle. With less exercise than their pasture-raised, grass-fed counterparts, grain-fed
animals develop the heavier, marbled muscle mass that is the hallmark of a high-carbohydrate, low-fibre diet.
It's no wonder most beef isn't good for you: the ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 approach 20 to1, CLA and vitamin
levels are minimal, and it's full of antibiotics and hormones. No wonder we've all been told for years to eat
chicken and fish to offset our beef consumption. But not Gourmet Butcher meats, which provides Grass Fed Beef. With a natural diet of
high-protein, low-starch lush grass combined with daily exercise and clean water, our grass-fed cattle are some
of the healthiest animals around. Though it may take a little longer for them to develop, the use of any
hormones are banned. Since our animals have a healthy pH of 7, there's no need for antibiotics. Our cattle are
hearty and content thriving on the best of the environment.
Even better, they pass the wealth of nutrients they consume in their daily diet on to you. Grass-fed beef is rich
in omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy fat found in salmon, in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a proven cancer
fighter, as well as vitamins A and E, branch-chain amino acids, digestive enzymes and essential nutrients that are
known for their antioxidant properties.
When it comes to nutrition, grass-fed beef truly is a completely different animal.
Grass-fed lamb, goat, and dairy animals all have the same digestive properties as discussed in the beef
THE TRUTH ABOUT SUPERMARKET
For almost all of
human history, there was only one way to raise animals: off the surrounding land. Cattle spent their lives years
grazing on the indigenous goodness of local grasses to grow into strong, fully developed adults. Other grazing
animals like goats, and sheep lived the same way—known as ruminants, (A ruminant is a
mammal that digests plant-based food by initially softening it within the animal's first compartment of the
stomach, principally through bacterial actions, then regurgitating the semi-digested mass, now known as cud, and
chewing it again. The process of rechewing the cud to further break down plant matter and stimulate digestion is
called "ruminating".) These animals are designed to eat the grasses, plants and shrubs that grow
naturally. Farmers knew this and nurtured soil, water and plants for pastures that were alive with the high-quality
grasses and for healthy animal growth. The animals roamed the veld enjoying their freedom, and the nutritious food
that was available through grasses and shrubs.
Today the reality
is far different.
Sixteen to twenty
ago, things changed in South Africa, big business took over, informing farmers that to remain profitable they had
to change their way of farming, and begin farming using feed-lots, and instead of the animals enjoying the veld,
they were fed on grain. Vast surpluses of corn, wheat and soybean meal—produced in mass quantities thanks to
petroleum-based fertilizers helped expand of the cattle-feeding industry.
Now animals, many
of which have never seen a blade of grass after weaning, are fattened on unnatural diets, with added hormones and
antibiotics and churned out for slaughter in little more than a year. This efficient industrial process guarantees
that there will always be plenty of meat at your local supermarket—and that it will consistently be
But we are paying
in other ways. And one need only look to the beef-loving country Argentina to understand how. Though Argentina
leads the world in per-capita red meat consumption, the country enjoys lower numbers in deaths-per-1000 of heart
disease, diabetes and cancer. And, yes, Argentina has specialized in grass-fed beef production for
DRY AGING – WHY DOES THE MEAT
aging is the process where an entire animal carcass or primal cut (whole rib or loin), without any type of covering
on it, placed in a refrigerated room at a specific temperature, humidity, and air velocity for 7-21
During this process a crust forms on the
outside of the meat, similar in texture to biltong. This layer is trimmed away after aging, leaving steaks
that are superior in tenderness and flavor.
During the dry aging process, the juices are
reabsorbed into the meat, enhancing the flavor and tenderizing the steaks.
you freeze your vacuum packed meat, when you remove it from the freezer to defrost, make a hole in the plastic,
this will ensure the blood and any liquid trapped in the bag, escapes. If you don't do this the meat sits in the
blood and can make your piece of meat mushy.
Forty years ago, most of our beef was dry
aged. Yet in the early 1960’s the process of vacuum packing beef right after slaughter became the norm.
advantage of this process was that processors could “wet age” the beef in the bag and not lose any of the weight of
the beef due to evaporation and trim.
During wet aging, the meat sits in its own
juices causing the beef to have a wet, metallic taste. But wet aging was much more cost-effective for processors.
As they changed over, consumers tastes followed slowly, the consumer forgot what the real taste of steak was.
Currently the majority of meat you purchase is either wet aged, or dry aged for only 5 days.
WHAT DOES “NATURAL”
Natural is a tough term to reliably and
consistently define these days.
“All Natural” on a label simply means
“Minimally Processed.” This says nothing about the use of hormones, animal based feeds or antibiotics. “Naturally
Raised” is thus becoming prevalent in the industry to cover that gap, but there is no fixed definition for this
term either. Every producer and processor can define “natural” as they please..
example, sometimes naturally raised means no antibiotics ever, and sometimes it means no prophylactic antibiotics
administered, and sometimes it says nothing about antibiotics at all.
Because of all of this ambiguity, we think
it’s worth the effort it takes to buy your meat from a traceable trusted source whether that source is – Kalahari
Meats or the farmer himself.
COOKING GRASS FED BEEF AND OTHER LEAN
just bought a beautiful piece of locally raised, grass-fed beef from us , and you want to impress your
Here are some cooking tips.
Because this beef is grass-fed, it is
leaner than the grain fed beef you may be used to cooking with. Lean beef cooks more quickly, and overdone
lean beef can get dry and tough. For a delicious, juicy steak or burger, it’s best to aim for cooking rare to
properly cook a rib-eye or sirloin steak, approximately 3cms or two fingers thick, take the meat out of the fridge
about 60 minutes before cooking.
you are cooking it in the kitchen, salt and pepper the meat. It is better to use crushed black pepper and coarse
salt. Place the steak into preferably a cast iron frying pan or skillet that has been pre-heated over high
heat. Then drizzle olive oil into pan and don't let the oil get too hot before adding the
Cook over a high heat for 3-4 minutes on each
side and remove from the heat. Let it rest, (See Resting below) and enjoy.
you are braaing your steak, season with a rub or marinade and then only add coarse salt to the meat just
before cooking. Many South Africans either add salt long before they begin braaing, this will allow the salt to
soak into the meat. Others only add salt when the meat is nearly cooked. This defeats the object as the meat hasn't
had time to infuse any salt.
Letting your beef rest after cooking is as
important as the cooking itself. This goes for all meats and all cuts.
Once you pull the meat out of the pan or oven
or off of the grill, put it on a cutting board and let it rest, to keep it warm cover with foil. 8-10 minutes,
longer for larger pieces of meat. Please note if you cook a minute steak or cook for short time, then the
calculation is let it rest for as long as you cooked it.
When it’s time to slice, it’s best to cut the
beef across the grain and at an angle of about 45 degrees (rather than straight down, perpendicular to the cutting
surface). By doing this, you will cut through as many muscle fibers as possible with each slice. In general, this
will be across the short section of rectangular piece of meat (though this is not a hard and fast rule).