Thursday, April 9, 2009

Let's Talk About Grass-Fed Beef

I've written quite a few blog entries about the various burger joints in the Twin Cities and how I'd like for them to consider sourcing locally raised, grass-fed beef for their burgers and juicy lucys. Some Twin Cities restaurants are doing that already, including The Strip Club, the Craftsman, and Cafe 28.

In general, beef is a controversial subject when talking about sustainability. Studies have shown that livestock production production generates 18 percent of global green house gas emissions - that's more than transportation. Other studies have shown that it takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef in the US; that's right, 2,500 gallons. For these reasons, some argue beef production simply cannot be sustainable. Others argue that it could be more sustainable if we: 1) ate a lot less of it, and 2) ate grass-fed, locally raised beef.

Today I've got some brief and interesting reading material for you if you're interested in learning more about grass-fed beef in our area.

Read About Thousand Hills Cattle Co.

Thousand Hills Cattle Co. is possibly the most widely sourced locally raised grass-fed beef in the Twin Cities. The Strip Club sources their beef exclusively, and it's stocked at many co-ops throughout the cities. Todd Churchill of 1000 Hills is a bonafied purveyor of grass-fed beef, and it's hard miss him in his giant cowboy hat. Kim Ode wrote a really neat piece about him this past January. Take a gander at it here. He's an interesting character, and somebody worth knowing more about.

Read Some General Information about Grass-Fed Beef

University of Wisconsin Extension has just released a new, free publication about grass-fed beef, specifically written for consumers. The publication contains all kinds of information for the consumer about the benefits of grass-fed beef, how to cook grass-fed beef, and how to buy it. They've even included some recipes.

So Why is Grass-Fed Beef more Sustainable than Corn-Fed?

Here's what UW Extension has to say:

Today, most meat in the grocery store or at the local restaurant is from animals that were raised in a feedlot and fed significant amounts of grain in addition to hay and pasture. Grass-fed meat is from animals that are put “out on grass” or fed a forage diet. This allows animals to harvest their own food and dispose of their manure in the pasture. Some farmers combine the use of grains with pasture; others choose to use pastures only.

From an environmental perspective, raising animals on pasture has many benefits. High quality, healthy pastures reduce soil erosion, improve water quality (a University of Wisconsin study showed that pastures are the “best” crop for reducing runoff and erosion), increase plant diversity, and provide high quality wildlife habitat...

A variety of health benefits are associated with grass-fed meats. Grass-fed meat is leaner and lower in fat and calories than grain-fed beef. (See table with nutritional information.)

Additionally, studies have shown that grass-fed meat contains more of vitamins A and E, conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which have been shown to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, and decrease the risk of diabetes and cancer.

Nutrition information for Grass-fed Beef From UWExtension

*Cattleana pasture-finished Galloway beef loin

USDA Prime Grade beef loin

USDA Choice Grade beef loin

Pork loin

Lamb loin

Chicken breast without skin

Chicken thigh without skin

Protein (grams)








Fat (grams)
















[where: Sustainable Food, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, grass-fed beef, Minnesota]


Conrad said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Scott McGerik said...

Thank you for the link to Kim Ode's article about Todd Churchill of Thousand Hills. My appreciation of Churchill and Thousand Hills has grown as a result of that article.

I can say that the best burger I ever had was at Birchwood Cafe and made from Thousand Hills beef. I've been disappointed with all other burgers since that particular burger.

Kris said...

I'd be interested to see the nutritional information on truly grass fed beef, instead of just grass finished.

I agree with Scott that the 1,000 Hills burger at Birchwood is outstanding. And I just had a 1,000 Hills roast beef at Common Roots that was equally as good. 1,000 Hills also makes for a great steak tartare. Not a fear in the world from me about eating it raw.

Idris_Arslanian said...

We are looking at getting a side of beef, and have been looking at costs of grass fed. 1000 hills gets great reviews, but seems a bit expensive 380 for 1/8, 1360 for 1/2. Through some research, we found Moonstone, which is out by Montevideo MN. They end up being about 830 for 1/2, and are grass fed. They are also the suppliers for Barbette, and some other local bistros. Can anyone confirm the quality?

Anonymous said...

grass-fed better than corn-fed? they are both horrible and unsustainable in any fashion.

"Most of the public lands in the West, and especially the Southwest, are what you might call 'cow burnt.' Almost anywhere and everywhere you go in the American West you find hordes of cows. . . . They are a pest and a plague. They pollute our springs and streams and rivers. They infest our canyons, valleys, meadows and forests. They graze off the native bluestems and grama and bunch grasses, leaving behind jungles of prickly pear. They trample down the native forbs and shrubs and cacti. They spread the exotic cheatgrass, the Russian thistle, and the crested wheat grass. Even when the cattle are not physically present, you see the dung and the flies and the mud and the dust and the general destruction. If you don't see it, you'll smell it. The whole American West stinks of cattle." - Edward Abbey, conservationist and author, in a speech before cattlemen at the University of Montana in 1985

Reetsyburger said...

All - Welcome to the blog, and thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

Scott and Kris - The beef burger at the Birchwood isn't regularly on their menu, as far as I can tell. I know the turkey burger at the Birchwood is a regular feature on their menu.

Kris - A cooperative project between California State University, Chico College of Agriculture and University of California Cooperative Extension has a whole bunch of information regarding health and nutrition pertaining to grass-fed beef:

Idris - Bryant Lake Bowl and Barbette in Minneapolis serve beef sourced from Moonstone. You could stop down at either restaurant and try it for yourself.

Scott McGerik said...

I believe it is on Sunday night Birchwood Cafe has a special burger night.

Lee said...

Fantastic post! I'm totally sold on the merits of grass fed meat for all of the reasons you've mentioned. Can I also please point you to my own blog post about Thousand Hills Cattle Company?:

Thanks a lot!


toddjames said...

Grass fed beef is certainly the wave of the future. Once you taste it traditional raised beef won't taste the same. My client, La Cense Beef is famous for its Natural beef and cuts that are organic and quite tasty.