Switching your shopping to totally organic can be overwhelming and expensive. In a recent article in the NYTimes, Dr. Green a popular pediatrician and author suggests some foods that should be purchased organically grown or raised in order to maximize organic purchases. Among this list, which includes potatoes, ketchup, apples, milk, and peanut butter, is beef. After reading Michael Pollen’s excellent book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which talks about how the over-production of corn in the US has led to using corn as a feed for cows, which they are not “built” to eat, I wanted to focus on beef. Here is what Dr. Green had to say about choosing organic beef: American beef is corn-fed or grain-fed beef. It takes about seven pounds of corn to add one pound of cattle weight. It takes about 1600 calories of fossil fuels to produce 100 calories of conventional beef51. In the long run, this is a losing proposition.
And it is not natural. Cattle, with their rumen, are designed to graze. When fed corn, their stomachs can become ten to 100 times more acidic52, welcoming bacteria such as E coli O157:H753. An estimated 25% of the nation's baking soda is used as antacid for livestock54. And the amount of antibiotics used to promote growth in livestock dwarfs the total amount used to treat diseases in people.
Even though there are more than three times as many beef cattle in the US as dairy cows, there are fewer organic beef cattle than dairy. Organic beef represents less than a quarter of a percent of the beef produced in our country55. While all beef contains protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc, it also comes with unhealthy saturated fats. In addition to being more sustainable, organic, grass-fed beef also a healthier choice. It tends to be leaner overall and yet have about five times the omega-3 fats of its conventional counterparts56.
NYC: You can find organic and grass fed beef at many greenmarkets in the city. For those of you who reside in the Capital Region, Honest Weight Food Co-op and Indian Ladder farms.