Last week Scott picked up our annual beef purchase. We started buying a quarter of a cow three years ago (talked about here in 2010) from a local producer, Beltane Ranch and we haven’t looked back since. At first we started doing this for the health benefits but over the years we’ve found a number of reasons why this makes sense for our family:
• Buying beef in this way, we know our money goes to three sets of local people, the folks at Beltane Ranch, the butcher, and the meat market. Our money stays in Sonoma, which, because we vote with our dollars, is important to us.
• We always have dinner on hand. Now that we’ve moved out of town, this is even more important for our busy family. A quick walk through in the veggie garden and a shopping trip in the freezer almost always gives us a dinner. Our quick, last minute dinner now is almost always hamburgers, which are significantly better than any hamburger you can get in a restaurant.
• We eat like kings. All this beef is dry aged for over 20 days. Doing that lets excess water evaporate and increases the tenderness and flavor. You can’t buy dry aged hamburger in the store and to buy dry aged grass fed steaks in the store, for two adults, would cost around $50. We eat them for around $5/lb. and they honestly are delicious (that comes from someone who has never been a big red meat eater). We taste the difference easily now, going to restaurants or parties the difference between our Beltane beef and feedlot beef.
• We are more creative cooks. We get a little bit of everything in this order so along with steaks and stew meat and hamburger come bones, shanks, and the entire range of steaks. Scott has now mastered the cooking of all the cuts of meat and I know that then I see beef shanks go in the slow cooker, bones simmering on the stove, or a package of ‘T-bone’ steaks thawing on the counter (my favorite cut of steak), dinner is going to be good. We’ve also learned how important it is to raise the temperature of beef up to room temperature before you cook it. Cold beef hitting the grill or stove top results in livery tasting meat. Cooking with room temperature meat completely improves the flavor.
• It really is much healthier. “Grass-fed meat, milk, and eggs contain less total fat and less saturated fats than the same foods from grain-fed animals. Pastured animals also contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid that some recent studies indicate may help reduce weight and prevent cancer, and which is absent from feedlot animals. But perhaps most important, meat, eggs, and milk from pastured animals also contain higher levels of omega-3s, essential fatty acids created in the cells of green plants and algae that play an indispensable roll in human health, and especially in the growth and health of neurons–brain cells.” -Michael Pollen. Grass fed beef also contains much higher levels of Vitamin E and beta carotene. If we are to be committed meat eaters, we are happy to do so in a healthier way.
You too can eat grass fed if you aren’t already. Check out Eat Wild to find local grass fed farmers in your area. And if you are in Sonoma, Beltane Ranch beef is served at Breakaway Café and you can buy it by the pound at Sonoma Market.