Sunday, May 16, 2010

Grass vs. Grain: Which would you choose?

Confession: The hubby and I have recently become addicted to documentaries. Specifically, documentaries about food. Some of our favorites have been Food, Inc., King Corn, and No Impact Man. (All available via Netflix. P.S. Isn't Netflix the greatest??) Now, the unfortunate (or possibly fortunate?) thing I have discovered about documentaries is that they have this tendency to make you think about things you'd rather not. So, as a result of our latest addiction we have been forced to rethink our diets.

Did you know that the majority of beef produced and consumed in the United States comes from grain-fed cows? Maybe this doesn't sound so bad, but cows are grazing animals who were created to eat grass.

They were not created to live in crowded feedlots while consuming a diet primarily of grain.

It sure is nice to imagine all the beef we consume comes from cows who spend their days grazing through green grass under bright blue skies, but sadly this just isn't true.

But, why are cows fed grain instead of grass? Well, I have since learned, it is a cheaper and more efficient system. When a cow is grass-fed and allowed to graze it can take him 2 or 3 years to reach a weight appropriate for market. When a cow is grain-fed and contained in a feedlot he can be ready for market in as few as 15 months. Feeding cows grain certainly keeps the price of beef low, but at what other costs? Grain-fed beef is higher in saturated fats and lower in omega-3s than grass-fed beef. Also, since these cows are living in such close quarters they are continually and routinely given antibiotics to keep them healthy. This system also isn't very sustainable. The corn (which is the main grain in a grain-fed diet) being fed to these cows requires a lot of fossil fuel energy and grain-fed beef is also more polluting. When cows are grass-fed their waste drops back into the land, with grain-fed cows their waste just builds up, polluting water and air.

In our eyes, after watching these documentaries and learning this information, we have decided that choosing grass-fed beef seems to be the more humane, healthy, and environmentally friendly choice. So, as a result, we have decided to give up grain-fed beef with the eventual move towards a diet free from red meat (because grass-fed beef is much much more expensive and is also not a perfect system).

We know it won't be easy but are looking forward to the challenge and are excited to move towards, what we believe is, a healthier lifestyle. Stay tuned for more food adventures.

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