In the Kitchen

Cheap food; getting exactly what you pay for

Having described our fall and winter effort to ensure a wide array of nutrients in your food, consumed in fresh air and sunshine by our creatures, let’s discuss why you are getting nearly nothing for your buck in the industrialized meat market. Their food is cheap for a reason. 
 
First up is my favorite un-food to criticize, the ubiquitous skinless chicken breast, probably the most often consumed meat in America. Consider this before you buy your next one.
 
I will not describe the conditions under which the poor factory chicken is raised - it is not an appetizing topic for the kitchen. Suffice it to say that you cannot take a cute little peeper chick from 1 ounce to 3.5 pounds in 4 to 5 weeks unless you make sure that it gets no opportunity for exercise, is fully drugged at all times to resist the disease of its production facility, and is limited to a very narrow diet of processed food filled with sugars. That’s the story of the short life of the Tyson/Cargill/Pilgrim’s Pride chicken. So what is your guess about the nutrition that that poor piece of meat is supplying you? Nearly nothing is the correct answer.

The victim of Cargill’s ground beef

While the lack of nutrients in our diet is one very good reason to eat food raised the old way, the danger of infection runs a close second. Recent news is filled with the e-coli infection and subsequent paralysis of “Stephanie” caused by no more than the eating of a hamburger prepared by her mother but produced by Cargill’s. Was this tragedy caused by some unavoidable danger inherent in the processing of ground beef or for some other reason? Consider the journey of the ground beef eaten by Stephanie in contrast to the local, sustainable method and you will find the answer.
 
1. Standard e-coli bacteria is common and harmless in both animal and human digestive systems. It is a part of our intestinal bug family and we are made to deal with it. But the version of e-coli that afflicted Stephanie was the now infamous 0157:H7. This is the most virulent form of e-coli, and is only found in beef that has been finished in (or exposed to the waste of cattle that have been finished in) a corn feedlot. Corn upsets the digestive system of a cow and creates an environment in the cow's intestines that allows this bacteria to flourish rather than be dealt with by the cow's own immunological system. It has to do with the acidity created by the unnatural corn diet.

 -our cattle are grass-finished and are never exposed to cattle that are feedlot finished. Cannot get 0157:H7 in our system. Does not happen in open pasture/grass-fed beef.

2. The Cargill plant that Stephanie's ground beef came from was processing ground beef from a variety of scraps which came from a variety of cattle which came from a variety of processing plants which in turn came from a variety of countries. The opportunity for infection was exponential.

 -our cattle go from our pastures to our local, custom butcher and are processed the first thing in the morning in a clean plant. They are never exposed to or mixed with beef from other animals or other countries.

3. The facilities (I emphasize the plural here) that the beef and fat came from that ultimately became Stephanie's hamburger was handled over and over again in various high-speed plants. The USDA inspectors admit that it is impossible to look at every piece of beef that goes by them, so instead they rely on random inspections, maybe taking a close look at 10% of the beef that passes them.

 -at our plant, it is only our beef (or pork) being processed, one at a time, start to finish, with the inspector standing right by the butcher watching every step. The inspector also is given the digestive track organs and makes many many cuts, looking for anything suspicious. I have stood next to him during the process and unlike the common skepticism about the inspection process, find him to be a diligent and thorough fellow. You know why? Because he knows that this meat will be eaten by people in his own neighborhood - often people that he knows - so there is personal accountability there, something altogether lacking in the big international plants, where meat comes in from all directions and then goes back out for shipment across the continent and the world. The inspectors and workers know not where it comes from or where it will end up. There is no incentive to take personal pride in their work, but only to complete that day’s process at a rapid speed so they can recover in order to start again the next day in their anonymous, unrewarding roles.

A kitchen tip

A tip for those of you who are fortunate to get pork or beef fat as your lagniappe in a given order-use it instead of your oil for anything you want to sauté, fry or flavor. Simply shave off enough to suit your purpose, be that beans, soups, stir-fries, cutlets or whatever and take it from there. Remember, the fat is where the queen of fats reside - the Omega 3s, produced only from free ranging naturally grown animals.

JVF