Grass fed beef and top calorie sources

cattleGrass Fed Beef

Recently I joined a friend and her family at a local restaurant that specialized in burgers.  I had high hopes for the food, but ended up really disappointed.  The burger had zero flavor.  The only flavor was from the cheese, condiments and toppings.  Contrast that unhappy experience with a home-cooked burger made with locally raised grass fed/organic beef purchased at the farmer’s market.  Absolutely superb flavor, and no need for any sauces or condiments or toppings at all.  The beef was that flavorful and delicious.

If you shop for beef you’ve probably seen packages labeled grass fed beef.  What exactly does that mean?   In 2007, the USDA established a standard definition for grass fed beef.  In general, the standard says that meat labeled grass fed can only be from an animal that ate absolutely nothing but grass for its entire life.  No soybeans, no corn, no other grain.  However, the animal could eat hay.

What does grass fed NOT mean:

  • The animal has been roaming the range for it’s whole life, grazing on green grass under sunny blue skies
  • That the grass in the pasture, or the hay, was organic
  • That the animal was never treated with medications
  • That the meat is low fat

Grass fed beef tends to be expensive, and many people don’t want to risk buying something they believe will taste strange.  Consumers are led to believe “grass fed” meat is gamey, or strong flavored, whatever that means.  In fact, grass fed beef tastes like, …  beef.  If you’re used to tasteless beef from medicated feedlot cattle, eating a burger with actual flavor might be a revelation.

Nutritionally grass fed beef is essentially equivalent to regular beef with similar fat content.  There is no standard fat content for grass fed beef, although it tends to be slightly lower.  One potential difference is that grass fed beef may have more omega-3 fatty acids, depending on what the cattle ate.  But this will vary; don’t imagine that grass fed beef can replace salmon as an omega-3 source.  You can use grass fed beef in any recipes that call for beef.  You might be pleasantly surprised to find the food tastes better.

Where do our calories really come from?

Are sugar-sweetened soft drinks to blame for obesity?  There are true believers on both sides of this argument.  A new study from Harvard suggests that high consumption of sugary beverages is linked to higher weight and weight gain.  But is it just the soft drinks?  Or is a high intake of soft drinks a marker for a generally poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle choices?  That question wasn’t answered by this study.

Meanwhile actual food consumption data indicates that our calories don’t come primarily from sugary beverages or fast food.  The top source of calories is store-bought grain-based desserts like cakes, pastries, donuts and cookies.  This was especially true for children.  And most sugar-sweetened soft drinks are purchased from stores and consumed at home.  Restaurant purchased soft drinks are a much smaller percentage.  So don’t blame restaurants for your high calorie intake.  You might be bringing most of your calories home from the grocery store.

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