Who Got the Remaining Three Quarters of the Cow?

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Like most things, being married to a graduate of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University has its pluses and minuses.  Take for instance, using a public bathroom.  This used to be a fairly easy thing to do.  Now, I need a Masters degree in Operations Management to figure out how I’m going to successfully relieve myself without touching anything, including the door.  Riding the subway during the summer is fun because I look like Jeremy Renner in “Hurt Locker”, fully protected from all railings and poles.

However, one major benefit of my wife having her Masters in Public Health is the focus on nutrition.  As many of you that know me can attest to, well-balanced and nutritious have not always been accurate descriptions of my diet.  Her degree, combined with now having two young children to nourish, has turned our kitchen into an organic smorgasbord.  Not a meal can pass without consuming something organic and green, or something organic with seeds.  In addition, I have become a believer in the importance of knowing what you’re eating.  This sounds like a simple concept, but is a challenge in today’s environment.  I will spare you all the details of movies/books like Fast Food Nation, Food Inc. and Omnivore’s dilemma, but if you’re familiar with any or all of the above, you know what I mean when I say challenge.

So the question becomes, how does a life-long carnivore like myself satisfy the need for red-meat while going local, organic, or both?

Isn’t it obvious – you buy ¼ of a grass-fed, Devon cow from a farm in upstate New York.  My wife and I were at a Halloween party this year (she was Fannie Mae, I was Freddie Mac – great costumes), and some friends of ours were telling us how they were going buy a cow from a farm near Oneonta.  The whole concept sounded crazy, but after hearing more about the concept, it made total sense, for two major reasons.

First and foremost, it’s just a healthier option.  The basic premise is that the farm alone should be able to sustain the nutrient cycle, without the help of harmful additives, hormones and chemicals.

Please note, my intention here is not to deliver a public service announcement, or start a debate about the food industry.  However, if you presented me with 2 1-lb bags of ground chuck, and one was the product of the Mark McGwire/Barry Bonds (enhanced unnaturally) regimen, and the other was the product of the Ken Griffey (not enhanced) Jr. regiment, I’m going to pick Griffey Jr.

Second, it’s a more economical option.  We paid less than $4/lb for all the meat, which includes delivery from upstate, butchering and packaging each of all the cuts.  I’d like you to tell me where you can find nearly 80 lbs of beef, which includes brisket, ground chuck, short ribs, flank steak, sirloin, bottom round, rib steak, t-bone, porter house etc. for less than $4/lb, all-in.  Granted, we did have to spend some money on a chest freezer (7 cubic foot vessel of love), but the two hens that the farmer threw in gratis made it all worth it.

Now I’m sure you reading this thinking, “there’s no way the taste is comparable, or else he would have said that in the front of this blog that is already too long.”  The United States Department of Agriculture hands out higher grades for beef with higher marbling content.  Unfortunately, higher marbling content can be the result of cattle feeding on grains and corn, rather than grass, which their stomachs are better at digesting.  Grass-fed beef, in general, is not as marbleized as corn-fed, meaning less fat, more beef.  It’s hard to verbalize, but there’s something that I prefer about the grass-fed beef eating experience.  The best word that I can use to describe the differentiating factor is clean.  We made sliders with the ground chuck, and there was something about the taste after consumption that was very clean and fulfilling (even after wolfing down 6 of those bad boys).

Be warned, cooking grass-fed beef is different and a little trickier than what you may be used to, for the reason described in the previous paragraph.  To prepare your meat to your liking requires increased attention for the first couple times you do it, but then it’s like riding a bike.

In summary, by no means am I taking a holier than thou approach to food.  However, I can now attest to the high quality and great taste that grass fed cattle deliver.  I can also sleep a little bit better knowing that I’m supporting a number of good causes, my stomach included.

Anyone wanna go halfsies with us next time?

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