Friday, November 6, 2009

Grass eating Ungulates...

This post is part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays. Please check out the fantastic posts written about Real Food!

I am not a vegan or a vegetarian and still I consider myself an environmentalist and Yogini. For some I know this should result in something akin to cognitive dissonance... and this is not a post about that debate but I thought I would put a little something as to why I've chosen to remain an omnivore pre:story.

From an environmental perspective, the most effective way to slash your carbon footprint would be to cut out meat. Traditional meat raising (CAFO) involves huge amounts of water (100,000 kilos for every pound of beef produced), grain that's grown using carbon sucking machinery, polluting pesticides and genetically modified seeds. Often animals are sick and fed hormones to encourage faster growth and antibiotics to decrease illness pre-slaughter.

From a Yogi perspective, Ahimsa, one of the five Yamas ("restraints"), means non-violence or non-harm. Which would apply to both the cruelty involved with traditional meat farming and the environmental harm. However, we could take this debate to the extremes as Olivia Rosewood discusses.

My reasons for being a meat-eater are health related. I have such a restricted diet (especially when it comes to vegetables and fruit) that further restrictions would simply result in an unhealthy me. Since I refuse to eat soy (especially after watching "The World According to Monsanto"), knowing the amount of pesticides, pollution, monocultures and GMO's involved in soy's journey, a balanced diet comes with some meat.

Our compromise? Trying to eat less meat, as many local and sustainable vegetables and grains as possible. Whenever we do buy meat, we try to invest in those that are local, organic and grass-fed. Sustainable farms don't mistreat their animals, use harmful pesticides or antibiotics. Their animals are healthy and some would argue happy. For a fantastic example, please check out Joel Salatin's farm Polyface.

A few weeks ago Andrew and I decided to treat ourselves and buy some local organic grass-fed steaks from Planet Organic. I think they were from Getaway Farms. Unfortunately, unless you go directly to the farm or the farmer's market all local meats are frozen (I'm assuming it has to do with processing regulations and demand). Two steaks cost us 18$... WOW. It's fine,(higher, more panic-y internal voice) we were treating ourselves. Grass-fed beef means the cows ate what their stomach's have evolved to digest... grass, they were happier and healthier and as a result so would our planet and ourselves be.

Interestingly enough, I also felt much more connected to this meat than any other beef I've bought. Although it looked nothing like a cow, knowing it had been raised, lived and slaughtered only a few hours drive away made me stop and consider how it had been a living creature. As geeky as it sounds, I found myself thanking the Goddess for providing this life and energy... you know all the spiritual stuff. All the things we're supposed to consider to encourage more connectedness with our world.

What we didn't consider was how to cook the steaks. We defrosted them and Andrew did his usual fancy schmancy steak thing, we sat down to eat our yummy local, sustainable steaks and took a bite. And chewed.... and chewed some more. Then we chewed even more. They were the most chewy, dry steaks I have ever eaten. Crap. We totally didn't consider the small fact that... well they were grass-fed.

Grass-fed beef means less marbling of fat in the meat (which we knew) which results in a different flavour (which we knew) and.... less fat to tenderize the meat throughout the steak. Sigh. 18$ worth of meat and instead of considering that we might need to marinade them like they needed a bath, we just cooked them as if they were regular steaks. Even though we bravely ate every single bite and our jaws were sore afterwards from all the chewing, I was very disappointed.

Sadly, they were way to expensive for us to buy on a regular basis so it will be a while until we give it another go. When we do, however, there will be many hours of marinading (perhaps even using my dad's method of cutting the meat to allow for more sauce to soak in, terrible I know but effective!). Perhaps we missed some crucial tip or method? Any suggestions would be welcome :)

There you have, our first "grass-fed" experience, not exactly the success we wanted. I think what I took away that was most helpful was that unexpected spiritual-ness and connectedness that comes from knowing my food's origins. Don't get me wrong, growing up in a fisherman's family meant cooking the lobsters we had just raced across the kitchen floor, seeing the rabbits my dad snared and the deer he had killed that year... but I'd never experienced similar things with beef or chicken. Instead of feeling disgusted, I felt connected which may seem completely weird for some (sorry VeganB!) but for myself it felt balanced.

Tonight Andrew and I are off to visit the family in the "village" and we'll be bringing back some fresh local haddock (frozen sadly) that my parents sourced from a local fisherman. :)


article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. I have a hard time justifying my omnivore habits to myself - although I've always said I could become a vegetarian for life way more easily than go on the Atkin's diet for a week! Thanks for the thoughtful perspective : )

  2. Awww, you're sweet to apologize but it's not necessary! I'm not going to soapbox you. ;) I respect your journey and honor your efforts to treat the Earth and her gifts as gently as you can. Actually, I just read Sharon Gannon's Yoga and Vegetarianism, which reminded me to be as compassionate as possible towards everyone I meet, especially when discussing veganism. (Ingrid Newkirk of PETA infamy wrote the introduction, though, so I skipped that b/c she's about as compassionate as a pothole.)

  3. I am mostly vegan - a little milk but it is TOUGH to do. I do not like it when people make others wrong for NOT being vegan. It is a tough and hard road of eatting for a variety of reasons.

    Sometimes I think that vegans can take their agenda too far. That is one of the reasons I avoid even blogging about things like animal rights and water conservation in this area.

    People are not bad as people because they are not vegan and people are not better than others for being vegan.

    I loved your post though very well put together.

  4. I pretty much am about where you are. I was a vegetarian for a long time. I grew up on a farm where we did our own butchering. I don't have anything against it and find regular family farms (not some mega-farms) to be cruelty free and mostly if not all organic. I just don't like the taste of meat very often and I'm allergic to milk. I have learned to listen to my body and occasionally if my body wants some meat(usually buffelo or chicken) I give it meat. I guess I sometimes feel sad that I'm not fully vegetarian anymore but my body is happier and healthier. We are lucky to be near some great farms so we are able to get our buffelo (ground and steaks) fresh and unfrozen straight from the man who raises them.
    Even when I was a vegetarian I was annoyed by holier then thou vegans/vegetarians. Sadly they used up all their compassion, empathy and understanding on animals and had none leftover for their fellow human beings. I'm glad to share my thoughts but would never expect anyone to just do things my way. I, also, dislike the misinformation about farms. I love when someone who has never stepped foot on a farm tries to tell me all about the horrificness of farms.
    Another great topic. You are so cool. :-)

  5. Great post. I too am an omnivore .... and recognise the need to reduce my meat consumption and then eat only organic and free range meat. To me this seems a very natural and sustainable way to live.

    I do wonder if the thought of total abstinence from something (meat, alcohol, tobacco, whatever .....) prevents people from making those necessary changes to help themselves or the environment. If a person were urged just to reduce the damage they were doing then that baby-step would be easier to take (and to follow with more steps).

  6. I'm a vegetarian and I agree with Vegan B about your journey. I'm still a little confused about the soy thing. I love it, but the issue has been weighing on my mind.

  7. I think everyone has genuine dietary needs that they need to work with. And if they need to eat meat, then I hope they are as conscientious about it as you are! It is SO important to feel that connection with the food we eat, and I am so glad you strive for that!

    I totally agree with Vegan Burnout, too. We all need to be respectful of each other's dietary choices.

  8. You should try their beef sausages...they are AMAZING! The honey garlic ones or maple...YUM

  9. I had a similar experience. After that, I purchased a couple of "grass-fed cookbooks," which made a huge difference. You can keep it simple and just rub the meat with olive oil and let it sit at room temperature for one hour (always do this). It makes an amazing difference. Also, salt it prior to cooking, and a bit of garlic powder is nice. Don't expect it to ever be as tender as a "normal" steak. It is muscle that has been used. But I much prefer the grass-fed taste now to the other. Oh, and cook it at lower temperatures, removing it a bit early and tenting it with foil for about 10 minutes to finish cooking. It will cook a lot faster than conventional steaks, and I prefer mine cooked in my cast iron skillet to those cooked on the grill. I hope that this helps you to enjoy your steak the next time you treat yourselves.


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