I don’t eat a lot of red meat, in fact, last weekend was the first time I had eaten ground beef in several years. The lack of beef in my life has a little to do with nutrition, but more to do with the fact that I grew up on a small farm in TN with sweet little cows in my backyard. Although these cows were all black and hard to distinguish one from another, I named each and every cow, and could pick out Jerry from Oreo pretty quickly. Last weekend, PJ brought home some grass-fed beef from a local farm. With our increased interest in buying locally, we were both pretty excited to try it, although…I must say I had a hard time getting Oreo out of my head. Grass-fed beef is different from the more popular grain (corn) fed cows in several ways. Although, one can delve pretty deep into each issue, research continues to mount that grass-fed cattle is leaner, healthier, and more planet and cow friendly. It is more expensive, more difficult to find, and one cannot expect a consistent beef flavor due to the fact that the cows are grazing on different variations of pasture grasses. Because grass-fed cows don’t suffer the consequences of diseases from confined corn-based feedlots, grass-fed cows usually do not require antibiotics as well. Grass-fed cows have healthier amounts of good fats, like omega-3 fatty acids and Conjugated linoleic Acids’s which have been linked to lower risk of certain cancers. In addition, this beef is higher in some vitamins and minerals like beta-carotene. The grass fed beef does have a different flavor, and because the meat is leaner, it requires cooking the meat over lower temperatures, for a longer amount of time. I turned our grass-fed beef into taco meat with this recipe from Epicurious.com.  I must say, it was delicious.

Soft Beef Tacos with Salsa

Bon Appétit | November 1997

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 cup bottled chunky medium-hot salsa
  • 1/4 cup canned beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 12 6-inch-diameter corn or flour tortillas

Instructions: Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté half of beef until brown, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer beef to bowl. Sauté remaining beef until brown, about 3 minutes. Return all beef to pot. Add salsa, broth, garlic, sugar and soy sauce; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until beef is tender, stirring often, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Uncover pot and simmer stew until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Mix in cilantro and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Refrigerate until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm before continuing.) Heat tortillas 1 at a time on stove burner, about 10 seconds per side, turning with tongs. Cover with towel to keep warm. Serve stew with tortillas, allowing diners to assemble tacos. Regardless of your beef choice, the quantity of red meat we eat still should be considered.  High intakes of red meat are associated with greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer.  After doing some research on the calories in restaurant hamburgers, it is obvious the restaurants haven’t gotten this message with 11-12 ounce hamburgers on the menus: Check out Chili’s Smokehouse Bacon Triple Cheese Big Mouth Burger with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing for 1,901 calories and 138 grams of fat. Are you kidding? Everything in moderation, but if and when you get the chance, support some of those farmers who are making a responsible effort to allow Oreo to a good and graze happy, healthy life.  Not only are the cows happy, but their meat translates to tasty, healthy food on our plate.

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.