Friday, October 10, 2008

Grass-Fed Meat from U.S. Wellness Meats

As I’ve previously written, the move toward grass-fed meats is growing. As consumers become more aware of the better flavor and dramatic health benefits of grass-fed foods, demand increases. Suppliers, either new to the trade or converted conventional ranchers, follow in kind.

One example of farmers switching from corn-fed to grass-fed operations is U.S. Wellness Meats, a combine of four family farms in Missouri that decided several years ago to change for economic, environmental and nutritional reasons.

“It’s created more work for them,” said McKenzie Disselhorst, the company’s Fresh Beef Marketing Specialist. “In terms of management of the land and animals, we’re not using chemicals and antibiotics, so the work is harder. But, it’s so much more rewarding.”

The hard work is paying off, as business, according to Disselhorst, is increasing steadily. The company sells its beef on its web site and over the phone; a wide array of additional grass-fed products from other farms that share U.S. Wellness’s mission are also available.

Regarding taste, Disselhorst relays the story of a blind taste test that John Wood, one of the family farmers, administered to members of the Southwest (Mo.) Cattlemen’s Association. Mostly conventional ranchers, the cattlemen were highly skeptical when asked to compare rib eye steaks from corn-fed and grass-fed cattle.

The result? The majority of tasters thought the grass-fed meat had the stronger beef flavor. (The beef is aged for 28 days, which helps it to be more tender and flavorful.)

Another example of the care taken is in the slaughtering process. Since there is no facility in Missouri that will do custom slaughtering, U.S. Wellness’s cattle are sent to Omaha, Nebraska.

“Our animals are slaughtered on separate days from conventional cattle to avoid cross contamination,” Disselhorst said.

For those that don’t have access to local farmers markets or supermarkets that sell grass-fed products, U.S. Wellness is a great option. Prices are competitive, and orders placed early in the week are shipped FedEx overnight that day, while orders placed later in the week are sent out on the subsequent Monday.


Mary Beth said...

Hi Rob,
I love reading your blog! In NYC, is the farmer's market in Union Square the best place to find grass fed meat? It isn't always possible for me to make it to the farmer's market, and I have found that Whole Foods and other smaller health food stores have little to no grass-fed options. Any other recommendations?
Mary Beth

Chef Rob said...

Mary Beth,

Thanks for reading and I'm happy to hear that you are enjoying the blog.

The availability of grass-fed meat depends on location. For example, the Whole Foods in Columbus Circle carries quite a bit, probably because the demand is high. That is probably not the case everywhere, though.

If you are having trouble finding it, my suggestion would be to order from one of the many farmers and producers that sell and ship grass-fed meats. The majority ship overnight, using dry ice to keep the product frozen.

I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.


Autumn Rae said...

We are all products of our environments. My upbringing was an economically-challenged household.

This summer, my older sister and I helped my mom move. We always joke about her being a "food hoarder", but it really hit home as we packed room by room.

The living room had bagged candy, salted nuts and random snacks by the sofa. There also was the chest freezer tastefully disguised from view in a corner, stocked with 1/2 a side of conventional, grain-feed beef. The kitchen cupboards were packed with boxed cake mixes, canned foods, pudding cups, crackers, canned juices ... the refrigerator with processed meats, hotdogs and the standard array of condiments.

My sister and I accepted what we found to this point with stride. We both realized our mother shopped like there were still 5 kids at home (or secretly thought she was preparing for the end times).

Then we moved to the laundry area. We were both taken aback by the amount of food we found stored in the upper cupboards. Pounds of dry pasta in glass jars, canned vegetables, and boxes of cornbread, plus more muffin and cake mixes.

Despite being stashed in unforgiving environments, the obvious lack of purpose and bearing expiration dates from three years ago, our mother still defended the need to save this food.

"Oh that date doesn't matter. It won't go bad- it's still good." No mom. We love you, but this food already is bad and it never was good.

My apologies for the long post. Long road to a short thought: sometimes you can get away with subtle and sometimes you just need an intervention.

Even if you're not close enough to cook with us in person, I hope you know Rob that you are deepening the awareness of real, natural, good food. Thank you!

Jen said...

How is custom slaughtering preferable?