With beef, grass-fed is retro-chic


Field Notes
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There was a time, not too long ago, when what we now call “grass-fed beef” was just called “beef.” What else would one feed one’s cattle? That’s what the beasts eat.

But then came the ambitious years following World War II, when Americans were hellbent on doing everything bigger and faster. If cows could reach slaughter weight after just a few months on a diet of cheap surplus grains, it must be better, right?

Most of us know by now that there was a small flaw in that logic: Cattle are not meant to eat grain. And so chaos, in the form of stress and disease – for the livestock, the human consumers and the environment – has ensued. You can’t fool Mother Nature.

Back in the mid-1990s, Etwenda “Tink” Wade reached that conclusion, too. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and nearly incapacitated by weekly injections of medications, she decided to return to a lifestyle led by her great-grandparents on their Florida cattle farm. Luckily, she and her husband had just purchased a farm in Wilkes County.

“I wanted to be normal again, I wanted a normal life, I wanted to enjoy my children and the farm,” she says. “The diet kept returning as a key point in all that.”

They were already raising beef and pork for themselves, but they were following modern protocol by turning over the young livestock to a feedlot for fattening. Wade determined that grass-fed meat would be part of her new strategy to improve her health. “I just decided I’d man up and take it on and try to do it,” she says. “And I did.”

Wade says she’s now medication-free and committed to raising grass-fed, black Angus beef on her 230-acre farm. Her 120 cows are not exposed to pesticides or herbicides. “If we have a thistle problem, I get out and dig the thistle,” she says.

Grass-fed beef is leaner and faster-cooking than that other kind of beef, significantly lower in saturated fat and higher in Omega-3 fatty acids. How does it taste? Atlanta magazine’s own food critic, Bill Addison, says grass-fed beef has a “concentrated richness” to it. “Corn-fed beef certainly develops a lot of marbling, but all that fat doesn’t necessarily deliver much flavor,” he says. “The texture can be mushy and the flavor is often wimpy compared to grass-fed.”

You might have noticed that I didn’t give you my own opinion of how it tastes. That’s because I’ve never tried it. I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly 20 years. But I can say this: If you do eat beef, then you might want to try grass-fed – if not for personal health, humanitarian or environmental reasons, then just out of curiosity.

> You can find Tink’s Grass-Fed Beef on alternate Wednesdays and Saturdays at Decatur Farmers Market, alternate Saturdays at Lawrenceville Farmers Market, once a month at InTown Farmers Market, and on the menu at Parker’s on Ponce in Decatur – or you can place an online order for local pickup at atlanta.locallygrown.net. Her prices start at $5 a pound for ground beef, or $20 for a five-pound bulk pack.

> You can also try grass-fed beef from another Georgia farm, White Oak Pastures, at area Whole Foods. Today (Sept. 3) only, just in time for Labor Day weekend, the market is selling grass-fed ground beef for $3.99 a pound (save $2 a pound). Ready-made patties are $1 each.

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  • Mary

    Great info! I love this blog!

  • Amanda

    This blog is exactly what I’ve been looking for. What a great resource.

  • Chris S

    I’m sold! We’ll be having grass-fed beef at my house from now on.

  • Ralph

    Fab blog. I will tell all my friends to read it.

  • MB

    I’m going retro-chic with my beef.

  • Margaret

    Thank you for the information. I was recently told how toxic corn is to cattle and therefore humans. But I didn’t know how to avoid it and, unfortunately, I love a good steak. I will absolutely give grass fed a try. Thanks for the information!

  • Rebecca

    I normally don’t eat beef, not out of principle but because I don’t like the taste – but I tried Tink’s grass-fed beef and it was eye-opening – none of the cloying greasy taste of corn-fed beef, which had been my objection all along. Tink’s story is pretty inspiring and the beef is tasty.

  • Bill

    Great blog post and to the point: We’ve been poisoning ourselves, our animals and the environment ruthlessly since the dawn of the chemical revolution following WWII. The country is finally waking up to it.

    Chemicals have their place in a modern society, but let nature provide the food!

  • Mike H

    Are there any steakhouses that serve grass fed beef?

  • Lori

    Wonderful story about Etwenda “Tink” Wade. Thanks for sharing.

  • jimmy

    I don’t always eat beef, but when I do, I make it a grass fed cow.

    Stay medium-rare my friends.

  • Anthony-Masterson

    Great post- keep it coming.

  • Burgerfan

    You mention Parkers On Ponce, but not Farm Burger..right down the street? Local, grass fed, ethically raised meat is all they serve. Check it out: http://www.farmburger.net/our-farms/

  • Deborah Geering

    Burgerfan, great suggestion. We’ll try to get a listing of area restaurants that sell locally raised meat — not just beef, and not just Tink’s Beef — up in the near future. Thanks to everyone for their comments.

  • Lauren

    It is true that grass fed beef is essentially a return to the days before the focus of society became to make everything bigger and faster. Grass Fed Beef unlike grain fed beef that is most commonly sold at your local grocery store, is lower in fat and calories and high in omega 3 acids and beta-carotene. Most importantly, in my opinion, grass fed cattle are not treated with hormones or antibiotic as grain fed cattle most commonly are. I work with La Cense Beef and have made the switch to grass fed beef entirely. This is meat I can feel good about feeding to my family and it is so flavorful.

  • Lane Burris

    I love grass fed beef. I got mine at http://www.bighickoryfarms.com They are local to Atlanta and are great people