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Apr 5, 2010 05:38 PM

Facts about grassfed beef in Ontario (split from the Ontario board)

Hi everyone, this is Mario Fiorucci - owner of The Healthy Butcher... pretty much everyone is correct - but let me clarify about grassfed beef in Ontario.

(1) Is 100% Grassfed beef available year round? YES, because they eat hay during the winter.

(2) Is the quality of 100% Grassfed beef the same now (in the Late Winter/Spring) versus Autumn/Early Winter the same? NO, both the taste and health qualities of the meat (whether it be beef, bison, elk, whatever grassfed animal) is better when the animal is on fresh pasture. Regarding taste - of course, that's a subjective or personal preference... So to say it is "better" is not necessarily true - the autumn/early winter animals will have a more pronounced flavour and taste more "grassy" hah... if i can use that description.... "gamey" would be another word people use. Regarding health - there is a definitive advantage to eating live grass versus dead grass. So the Omega 3s and essential fatty acids found in the autumn animals will definitely be higher. That being said, The Omega 3s and essential fatty acids in a grassfed beef slaughtered in the winter or sprint will definitely be higher than a grain or corn finished beef (which has virtually zero Omega 3s and EFAs).

(3) A good follow-up question is this: Why offer grassfed animals in the winter or spring? Well, since the BSE crisis, there is a 30-month rule in Canada which says that any beef that is over 30 months old must have it's spine removed.... This effects the loin and many other cuts of the beef, and is definitely not a good thing. So, for our farmers that have beef approaching the 30-month age in the winter or spring, they have no choice but to slaughter them, otherwise they will lose a lot of money. And because we work closely with our farmers, we support them both in the summer and the winter.

As an aside: most of the grassfed farmers have to always push the 30-month age bracket because they do not gain weight as much as grain/corn finished animals, so they have to hope that their animals are not "deemed" over 30 months (even if they have birth certificates to prove the animals are less than 30, if the inspector looks at the teeth and believes they are over 30, then they are treated as such). This policy in itself makes it very difficult for grassfed farmers in Ontario.

I hope this adds some clarity to the discussion.

The Healthy Butcher
565 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V, CA

Omega 3
8362 Kennedy Rd, Markham, ON L3R, CA

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  1. thanks for the post, very informative

      1. This threat was split off from another post but the moderators did not add this subsequent post oh the other thread from thehealthybutcher so i hope I am not out of line in reposting it here. I think it is very important to also know in addition to the above for anyone who is contemplating eating grass/hay fed beef or meat:


        'I would go further to say that we should only be eating red meat fed only grass regardless of whether we're speaking of beef, bison or other. It is far healthier for you. I have studies that show that the Omega 3s and EFAs in grassfed beef are higher than in 90% of fish (without worrying about mercury content, the sustainability of fisheries, etc.)... and of course that same beef is extremely low in saturated fat, and is a great source of iron, protein, B vitamins, etc. Just by switching our red meat intake to only grassfed would make a HUGE difference in North America's obesity problem.

        Just like venison, beef shouldn't be eating grains or corn - their digestive systems are not designed for that. But the general public needs a lot of education to come to this realization. You won't find AAA or Prime grassfed beef, and people love their marbling. Baby steps I guess.'

        2 Replies
        1. re: Flexitarian

          Here is an opposing view that seems to have been getting some play in the last few days.

          From the link:

          One of the big "talking points" for grass-fed meat is that it is higher in omega-3 fatty acids. This is true. But while grass-fed beef is HIGHER in omega-3 than grain-fed beef, it is not HIGH in omega-3 fats.

          1. re: ManAbout

            ManAbout, you raise an excellent point... but that article you referred to doesn't paint the whole picture. First, one of the most important rules for Omega 3 consumption is not necessarily how much, but the ratio between Omega 3 to Omega 6. A grain-finished steak will likely have something like 15:1 or higher of Omega 6:Omega 3, whereas a grassfed steak will have a ratio of 3:1. The recommended ratio is about 3:1 or 4:1.

            Ratio's aside, one of my biggest pet peeves with nutritional labelling is not comparing apples to apples. When food scientists refer to the Omega 3 and EFA content in salmon, for example, I'll bet you dollars to donuts that they use the number associated with wild salmon. Yet, 99% of the salmon available in grocery stores is farm raised. And what are these farmed salmon fed? Well a whole bunch of crap, but I can guarantee that most farmed fish don't eat the same food they would be eating if they were in the wild. Therefore the Omega content is completely altered as a result. Farm-raised tilapia and catfish not only has low levels of Omega 3, it has more Omega 6s than bacon. (I'll leave out a discussion of mercury content, antibiotic use in farmed fish, etc.)

            And here's the real dinger... a lot of big beef companies now are raising what they call "Grassfed Beef". But really they are feedlot beef fed hay, and still use antibiotics, and other garbage. From a REAL grassfed beef farm, not only are you going to get leaner meat (lower in saturated fats), higher in Omega 3s, but you also don't have to worry about antibiotics and other problems associated with conventional mass-produced meat.

            Basically, going back to how I started - nutrition and health is about painting the whole picture. If we go back to eating the food our ancestors ate, we would be far healthier without the need for fish-oil supplements and the other "health food" stuff out there.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. Great post from The Healthy Butcher!

            I think a lot of people get confused about "Grain fed" or "vegetarian fed" beef too as that can mean 100% genetically engineered feed, whereas 100% grass fed cattle are not eating GMO's. The nutritional points made about methylmercury and omega 3's are also very worth noting.

            Hooray for The Healthy Butcher and year round grass-fed beef!