Steak 101


Organic, wagyu, aged, grass fed, grain fed, kobe, veal or marbled its all a little confusing. So we thought we would put you on the straight and narrow with Steak 101. Now this isn't about setting the record straight for those dining on a 7 course degustation menu but for the everyday person (who is hopefully health conscious) choosing a nourishing steak for dinner.

So which would you pick Grass-fed Black Angus or Grain-fed Wagyu?
Wagyu.... urghrrr  wrong.

Over the last decade where there has been a rise in pop culture and paying exorbitant dollars for food has become a standard practice it was easily believed that grain-fed beef is a quality product, the Pièce de résistance shall I say and while it may be tender and flavoursome, in terms of good health it is not the best for you or the animal.

So what’s the problem?

It starts with how cows digest there food. Cows have four chambers in their stomachs (trust me it gets worse) and are hence known as ruminants. They digest plant based food by softening it in their first stomach, known as the rumen, before regurgitating the semi-digested food, and chewing it again to break it down further (chewing their cud). Finally, the food enters the last section of the stomach, the true stomach, where digestive juices mix with the food and start it on its way to the intestine to be completely digested.  *insert cringe*
Grass-fed also known as pasture fed cattle (Most Victorian and Tasmanian cattle) are put in paddocks and once weaned off their mother’s milk are left to graze in paddocks on pasture, bails or silage (the latter two being forms of cut and dried grass).
 Alternatively grain-fed cattle are enclosed for periods ranging from 60 to 300 days and fed on a variety of grains to "fatten them up".  Grains are more nutrient dense then pasture, that combined with inactivity from enclosure the meat becomes marbled (fine threads of fat through the meat muscle) which therefore means the steak remains juicier (read fatty) after cooking. 
So while the meat may be considered juicy and tender, why does this matter and how does this affect our health? 


A US study found that beef from grass-fed cattle contained almost double the quantities of beta-carotene, almost three times the amount of Vitamin E, sixty percent more Omega 3 fatty acids and a more favourable Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio. Grain-fed cattle contains more saturated fat and consequently more calories. Aside from the well documented research on Omega 3 fats and their role in preventing heart disease and reducing inflammation, the balance of fatty acid concentration in the brain is believed to be particularly supportive in cognitive and behavioral function. 
Grass-fed cattle also boosts the amount of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) in the beef. This important fatty acid is believed to have a role in reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and accumulation of body fat.

If that's not reason enough for a change we must also consider the cow’s health…
There are long term health and welfare issues to be considered for these cattle being grain-fed. Not only are there ethical problems from long term penning and overcrowding the digestive health of these animals must also be considered. The shift from high-fibre grass to high-energy reduced fibre grain foods takes its toll on the health of cattle too with complications such as bloating, acidosis, rumen ulcers, liver abscesses (which all can be fatal) and lameness reported in increasing incidences.  

So how to I avoid this?
Make the choice
Most packaged meat (supermarkets) will state whether the meat is grain-fed or grass-fed. The cut of meat determines the amount of fat in it. The leaner options are always the least marbled (eye fillet, sirloin, top round) and as marbling increases so to the fat content (t-bone, skirt, ribeye, new york). Your best options not only for freshness but for your back pocket ($$) are to find a good butcher as they are a wealth of information, form best cuts for certain meals, breed of cattle (Angus, Hereford) to where the meat has been sourced from (state).  

For us the choice is easy Grass-fed all the way (and avoid veal... this is "tortured baby animal"  aka meat from calves < 3 months of age, often tied up to increase the tenderness of muscle). Grass-fed is not only healthier for you but for the cow. Really being bred to be eaten is bad enough at least give them a chilled life in a paddock somewhere. 

 Finally remember the Australian guide to healthy eating recomends serving of meat as 100g (but we do think about a 150g steak is perfect at dinner), to trim any visible fat off before cooking (decreases sat. fat content and calories) and to not overcook it. Chefs say a perfect steak is medium rare.