Thursday, May 22, 2008

Corn and Beef

The current sky-high prices for corn may finally help wean people off corn-fed beef, as it gets equally expensive. The funny thing is that grass-fed beef is healthier, more humane, and tastes better than corn-fed. The richly-marbled meat that corn finishing produces is why eating beef is considered so fattening; bison is considered healthier because bison typically aren't corn-finished. Cattle haven't evolved to eat corn, and over time, it tears their stomachs apart. The feedlots where the corn is fed are unnatural environments for cattle, leading to stress and disease, so the cattle are fed regular doses of antibiotics to keep them healthy (with all that that entails for humans who eat them). The feedlots also produce massive amounts of concentrated manure and urine, which is hard to dispose of safely. Simply out of concern for our health, the cattle themselves, the future of drug-resistant bacteria, and the environment, doing away with feedlots and corn rations makes a lot of sense.

The good news, and the reason I don't eat corn-fed beef when I can help it, is that grass-fed beef has more flavor; beautifully-marbled corn-fed beef tastes mostly of fat - tasty fat, but still fat. I like the meaty flavor of leaner grass-fed beef, and it is healthier, too. It does take a little practice to learn how to cook the leaner beef, but it is no harder to do. Pot-roasting obviously works well, but my major compensation technique is to serve a sauce or salsa of some sort with it: sauteed onions and mushrooms, mango/jalapeno salsa, grapefruit/onion/avocado salsa and blue cheese (a winter favorite), a red-wine/tarragon reduction, salsa fresca, or anything else that sounds good with the rest of the meal; the salsas have the added advantage of making a steak more versatile, letting it meld with a wider range of flavors than a simple slab of cow. I have my fingers crossed that the rising costs of corn finishing will lead to more grass-fed beef, so I have more options.

No comments: