Two weeks ago, we were finally able to switch our brisket, steak, hamburger and cabbage roll sourcing to 100% grass-fed beef. From Marin Sun Farms. Extremely local.
It’s so much more flavorful, the texture more real. It’s amazing. Higher in omega 3 fatty acids, beta carotene and CLA, another “good” fat, and Vitamin E. It’s leaner, so our kitchen is adjusting to new cooking methods. Our diners are advised that well-done might be too, well, done.
American had never tasted corn-fed beef until WWII. But now, most beef eaten the US is corn-fed, with a very different flavor profile and texture. Since grass-fed beef predates most of us, taste memories are made of corn-fed flavor. So it’s an adventure in revisiting and redefining authenticity, too.
What was the hold-up in going grass-fed? As a 100 seat diner, we source beef at a very high volume. Marin Sun Farms is now able to supply us at that volume.
And why not 100% grass-fed pastrami and corned beef . . . yet?
Pastrami and corned beef come from a small cut of muscle – the navel end of the brisket. Each cow yields just two briskets. And as a cut of meat with high fat content, corn-fed brisket has only a 40% yield of usable meat. So far, we can’t source that many grass-fed cows locally.
But we’re working on it. For the future of Deli.
In our Re-plating Pastrami post, we discuss the huge impact of beef on the environment – well over and above poultry, pork, and fish.
Indeed, grass-fed and local beef still has a much higher impact than other sources of animal protein, but is a significant improvement for environment and human health over grain-fed and grain-finished.
Grass-fed cattle ranching is far more of a closed-loop ecosystem. Grazing helps sequester carbon. From the Rodale Institute via Treehugger:
. . . well-managed cattle can greatly enhance the growth and propagation of grasses. These grasses can sequester huge amounts of carbon annually, especially when grazing practices include high density, short-term exposure efforts with the cattle eating the grasses down and moving on to let the grasses grow back. On just one acre of biologically healthy grassland soil, there can be between 0.5 – 1.5 tons of carbon deposited in the soil annually.
Grass-fed cattle and pastured chickens live symbiotically. Chickens can follow up on cow patties, which are full of worms, pecking and breaking patties apart and spreading them, fertilizing the grass. Check out this entertaining video of Joel Salatin, celebrity sustainable farmer, on his process.
Michael Pollan – a regular customer to whom we owe many thanks for inspiration in our persistence and ongoing quest for grass-fed sourcing – described the beauty of grass-fed cattle ranching at Salatin’s Polyface Farms for Gourmet Magazine.
And we haven’t even gotten into the petroleum inputs demanded by grain-fed cattle ranching. The synthetic nitrogen fertilizing corn and soy monocultures used to produce feed, polluting our water supply and killing marine life. The food miles required to transport grain to centralized, massive feedlots. The energy required to drill and transport these oil-based inputs.
Yes, we much prefer the taste of grass-fed, local beef.