In an article in a recent Sunday New York Times, Brian Halweil and Danielle Nierenberg firmly state their argument for purchasing hamburger instead of steaks and other pricier cuts, for several good reasons. In “The Kindest Cut of Meat is Ground”, they explain that ground is the cut that’s “the most sustainable, economical, gastronomically flexible and morally responsible”. When we shoppers purchase 100% grassfed ground meat, we’re supporting our local growers; families who are raising breeds well suited to our region, in the healthiest way possible – on grass, not feedlot fare such as corn and soy. Cattle are grass grazers by nature; they’re really not designed to digest grains.
Grassfed beef is more expensive than meat processed at the large industrial plants, but it’s much more healthful for humans as well as beasts. The Mayo Clinic website states that 100% grass fed beef may be part of a heart-healthy diet as it’s both leaner than grain fed, and higher in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and CLA, (conjugated linoleic acid); nutrients that contribute to a healthy diet.
When we buy hamburger at the Farmers’ Market, we know where our food is coming from, and from whom. Halweil and Nierenberg describe how the usual supermarket ground beef from the large commercial meat processing plants comes from animals that are grain-fed, or grain finished on huge feedlots. We all remember the very scary beef recalls in the past few years, and how difficult it is for federal agencies to trace the origins of these products whenever there’s a recall. One batch of ground meat from this type of feedlot meat can come from hundreds or thousands of different animals. Grassfed, on the other hand, is most often from one animal, one farm. And if you purchase pasture-raised beef, chicken, eggs, or pork at the Farmers’ Market, then you probably know who your local growers are too. They are always delighted to answer questions and to tell you about the animals they raise. Choosing ground meat supports our farmers in utilizing all that good meat that’s left over after the more expensive cuts – the steaks and roasts, are taken. This allows us to make good use of the whole animal.
Another point the authors make is that ground meat is also the most “gastronomically flexible” cut. It shows up in many cuisines around the world; as meatballs, in meat pies, in curries, and soups. Flexibility translates to recipes too – in many recipes it’s quite easy to bump up your intake of healthful aromatics and vegetables, thereby stretching that pound of ground beef, and stretching your food dollars at the same time. One of my current favorites is curried ground beef with peas and chiles from Raghavan Iyer’s amazing cookbook, “660 Curries”. For weekday meals I often double the amount of vegetables in the recipe. And our weekday supper version of Bolognese sauce is always plumped up with extra tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion and garlic.
Click on the link below for Halweil’s and Nierenberg’s opinion piece in the SundayReview section of the New York Times.
The Kindest Cut of Meat Is Ground
By BRIAN HALWEIL and DANIELLE NIERENBERG
Published: June 30, 2012