The Extraordinary 2009 Beef Vintage
An abridged version of this article also appeared in
Tonic Magazine October 2009 Issue.
Anyone who enjoys a fine wine knows, or has
easy access to the knowledge, that 2005 produced extraordinary Bordeaux and
Burgandy wines. It is a fact well documented in the hundreds of vintage charts
within a short google reach, and is a fact that should be known by all LCBO
Vintages employees. Yet, we just entered one of the best years on record for
100% grassfed beef and it seems this knowledge is untold and uncelebrated. It
was a dismal year for numerous crops in the Southern Ontario agricultural
industry, but boy oh boy, a lot of a rain and limited heat does wonders for
grass (a fact easily appreciated if you own a patch of grass and a lawnmower).
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Purchasing Certified Organic or for that matter, any meat that is
organically-raised assures you that the beef have been treated humanely, not
been confined, and have not been fed industry bi-products and antibiotics.
However, “organic beef” does not equate to “100% Grassfed” as the feed of most
organic beef have been supplemented with grains to gain what has become
mandatory in the industry – marbling. In The Healthy Butcher’s case, all the
beef is pasture raised and never shipped to a feedlot, but other than the beef
labeled “100% Grassfed,” the mainly grass diet has been supplemented with
Let me get this point out of the way for all those foodie bloggers out there who
seek nothing but fatty meat… My wife Tara and I own HB and we love fat. We
practically drink olive oil, we eat full fat yogurt, the creamier the cheese the
better, and of course and most importantly in our business, good marbling in a
cut of meat is essential to ultimate enjoyment. HOWEVER, we must keep in
mind that moderation is the key to health. To demand AAA and Prime marbling year
round is a direct route to a bad heart and a meal of cholesterol pills.
Autumn is the optimum time of the year to forego Prime marbling without
foregoing flavour by selecting a cut of 100% grassfed beef. Sure, you can
get grassfed beef in February, but unfortunately Ontario doesn’t offer grass
in February… and let me tell you, there is a huge difference between hay and
live grass. Right now you can taste beef that have grazed on green Ontario
pastures since March and the taste and health benefits of their meat are at
their peak. As much as I love good marbling, and I really do, nothing
compares to that pure Earthy taste of a beef that has grazed as Mother
The Healthy Butcher'a 100% Grassfed Ribeyes from
earlier this year.
Above and below, Red Devon beef grazing on plentiful
| Usually, the fat content of grassfed beef is extremely low – it would
be safe to say that they grade, at most, single A. 2009 is an
extraordinary year however; we are currently dry ageing some grassfed Red
Devon beef to be released later this week that would easily grade a AA and
might tip the scales at AAA. As an aside,
Devon is one of the oldest breeds in existence today and well-known for
it’s grazing superiority. It has once again become popularized by Hugh
Fearnley-Whittingstall (of the acclaimed River Cottage cooking shows and
author of The River Cottage Meat Book) who raises Devon on his own farm and
describes the beef as “ambrosia for the meat-eating gods”.|
From a health perspective, grassfed beef offers fewer calories than grain
fed beef and is rich in antioxidants including vitamins E, beta-carotene,
and vitamin C. It also offers as much omega-3 fatty acid and conjugated
linoleic acid (the stuff attributed to healthy hearts and brains, and
reduced risks of cancer) as fish! And furthermore, grassfed beef farmers
don’t treat their animals with hormones, antibiotics or other drugs because
the beef stay naturally healthy and don’t need them.
Although our generation has become used to eating all types of fruits,
vegetables, fish, and meat year round, I encourage you to consider the
seasonality of all your food. In the case of beef, without question, don’t miss
out on the Ontario grassfed beef available October-through-December, 2009, it
will be no doubt be a record-setting tasty year.
For more information on the health benefits of 100%
grassfed beef, refer to:
Clancy, Kate. “How Grassfed Beef and Milk Contribute to Healthy Eating.” Union
of Concerned Scientists. March 2006 <
Click here for direct link.
Enser, M., Hallett, K.G., Hewett, B., Fursey, A.J., Wood, J.D., & Harrington, G.
“Fatty Acid Content and Composition of UK Beef and Lamb Muscle in Relation to
Production System and Implications for Human Nutrition.” Meat Science, Vol. 49,
No. 3, 329-341 (1998).
Cordain, L., Watkins, B.A., Florant, G.L., Kelher, M., Rogers, L., Li, Y. “Fatty
acid analysis of wild ruminant tissues: evolutionary implications for reducing
diet-related chronic disease.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 56,
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