Archive for the ‘beef’ Tag

Beef vs. Sea Bass   1 comment

I recently responded (late, woops) to a wedding invitation and had a bit of a dilemma with the meal selection. The choices for dinner were beef and sea bass. I laughed when I saw the choices because isn’t it always true that when you are given two choices for a meal you don’t want either one? In this case both options have the potential to be great choices or not-so-great choices.

Beef: Last year I committed to avoiding all (to 95%) meat and dairy containing synthetic growth hormones. This usually means avoiding beef dishes (and lamb, sob) when eating out. Most restaurants do not serve organic or hormone-free beef. There’s always a chance, though, so often I ask the server.

Sea bass: For the sea bass it depends on what kind of sea bass. Black sea bass has apparently recovered sufficiently from past overfishing and it is now on the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s yellow “good alternatives” list. Chilean sea bass (toothfish) is currently overfished and is on the red “avoid” list.

My dilemma in this eeny-meeny-miny-mo is that I don’t want to be a pill. It’s part of my conscientiousness I guess. I don’t want to make life any more difficult than it already is when planning a wedding. Been there, done that. I know first hand how difficult it can be to be conscientious when planning a wedding. It was very important to me that we have organic food at our wedding, and that was how we narrowed down reception sites; but I never got around to asking for any verification beyond the word of the wedding planners, so I don’t know for sure if it really was organic food. Anyway, the celebration isn’t about me and my quirks (it’s not like I have a serious food allergy or am a committed vegetarian, we’re talking minor lifestyle choices here). I decided to select the sea bass and send a note with my reply card asking what kind of sea bass and a request that if it is Chilean sea bass to change me to beef. I figure that the beef thing counts as just a Maya-quirk. I probably could have tried requesting a vegetarian meal since there is probably a hidden vegetarian option, but since I’m not vegetarian I don’t really think that is fair.

The response that I got to my note deepened my dilemma a bit. It is Chilean sea bass, but they were assured by the chef that it is farmed and therefore okay. According to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, Marine Stewardship Council, and Wikipedia, though, Chilean sea bass is a deep water fish that is wild caught; and I did an unsuccessful Google search looking for farmed Chilean sea bass. There is a Chilean sea bass fishery that has been certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. Maybe that’s what the chef meant. I’m not comfortable with the uncertainty, though. Especially in the case of something that is being dramatically overfished I’d rather avoid consumption (and therefore not increase demand).

So beef it is. It’s not like I haven’t eaten conventional beef several times in the last year anyway.

Posted September 15, 2010 by mayakey in conscious living, food

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And That’s Why I Aim For 95%   3 comments

It’s confession time: I ate a “conventional” cheeseburger yesterday.

I had blood drawn twice in less than 24 hours (two different tests, one at my new naturopathic doctor’s office and one at a clinic where my insurance will pay the lab bill), and after the second time I realized that it might be a good idea to consume some iron, but we don’t currently have any red meat in the freezer (not that we would really want to cook it anyway, in this 100 degree heat). Since I was going to have to buy lunch anyway I decided to enjoy an In’n’Out burger. It was the first such burger I’ve had in almost a year and the last such burger that I’ll probably eat for the next couple years. Boy was it yummy.

So what’s wrong with the burger? Well, for most people, nothing. But last fall I committed to 95% elimination of meat and dairy containing synthetic hormones as one of the first steps in my pre-pregnancy prep. Why 95% instead of 100%? Because 100% is unrealistic. I’m not about to research (and then remember) every single cheese in the Whole Foods cheese display to figure out which are European, which are organic, and which are conventional. I feel really weird eating my leftovers at staff meetings or vendor presentations where everyone else is eating free pizza or whatever. I don’t want to inconvenience other people, just myself. And there will always be situations where the lines are gray, such as yesterday’s iron vs. beef-that-was-fed-artificial-hormones. What 95% does include is only hormone-free meat and dairy at home (that commitment actually dates back to 2001 when I first moved out on my own), and avoiding “conventional” meat and dairy when not eating at home.

I originally went hormone-free on two grounds. First, I was concerned that there may be some influence on my adult-onset acne from the residual hormones in the meat and dairy that I was consuming. Second, I was concerned about the health and welfare of the cows fed the artificial hormones; and how degraded health might affect my food in other indirect ways. On the first point, there is some scientific debate about whether/how much artificial hormones and related compounds pass into the meat/milk, whether/how much is destroyed by the human digestive system, and whether there is any effect from that small dosage. But I cite the Precautionary Principle. I’ve seen enough research results over the years to make me want to be wary, especially when it comes to a fetus that will spend 9 months immersed in my body and exposed to my body burden. That future fetus is the reason for ramping up my commitment to avoiding synthetic hormones. Since I’ve been told that it takes several months (on the order of three) for hormones to stabilize/be removed from the body, I decided to eliminate potential bad-actors well before we actually start trying to get pregnant.

Just in case anyone wants to know: US regulations allow synthetic hormones to be given to dairy cows, beef cattle, and lamb, but no other form of meat. Use of synthetic grown hormones (specifically rBST, recombinant bovine somatotropin) is not allowed in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or Japan. The first synthetic hormone was developed in 1994, and before that natural hormones were expensive and rarely used. For a few months in early 2009, the US imposed a luxury tax of 100% on some European goods and 300% on Roquefort cheese, supposedly in retaliation for the EU ban on imports of beef and dairy from cows given growth hormones.

Posted June 30, 2010 by mayakey in food, health

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Conscious Kitchen Challenge, Meat   2 comments

One of the blogs that I read regularly, Ask An Organic Mom, is doing a conscious kitchen challenge to promote her new book. I’m taking the challenge and posting my results here. The first week was a self-exam, the second was about shopping, the third was about fruits and vegetables, and the fourth is about meat. I haven’t read her book, so the challenge is limited to what she posted in her blog.

The first part of the meat challenge is easy for my husband and I. Eat less meat. Check. We rarely cook meat for dinner more than once a week at home, and usually cooking meat entails throwing one sausage apiece into a stir-fry or having a sausage on the side of some other dish. When we go out for dinner (once or twice a month, typically) we do eat meat most of the time, and when we go over to our friends’ house every Saturday dinner always revolves around meat. My lunches rarely include meat since I’ve stopped eating frozen lunches, and my husband’s lunch varies as far as the meat content goes.

Conscious shopping for meat has been a priority for me for about a decade, but I didn’t really buckle down and get really serious until the last year. When I bought meat previously (at the grocery store) it was always organic, but I didn’t make sure that it was free-range (which is a totally meaningless word anyway). Now the only beef I buy is grass-fed. Thankfully I never buy chicken so I haven’t had to figure out a way to buy good chicken (my understanding is that most of the chicken labeling is green washing).

We recently got two beef vendors at our farmer’s market; and at least the first one is grass-fed organic local beef. We have purchased a couple of packages from them so far, and plan to continue doing so. There is no other meat sold at our farmer’s market. I believe that there is a meat CSA or cooperative near Sacramento, but we don’t eat enough meat (or have freezer space to store) right now to justify such a regular source of meat. When we move into our new house I understand we will inherit a chest freezer from my in-laws and will hopefully soon be able to fill it with a half or quarter cow (or any form of meat other than poultry). I do need to ask questions at the grocery store when I buy pork, lamb, or buffalo to verify that the meat is consistent with my values, so that is my challenge for now. I find raw chicken disgusting and plan to continue avoiding it for the foreseeable future, so I don’t have to think about that labeling mess.

A note on the sausage. We buy all of our sausage from Whole Foods, sometimes fresh and sometimes packaged, so it’s at least not the worst sausage. I personally give sausage a lot of leeway since I consider it to be my carcinogen of choice (some people smoke, others tan, I eat sausage). I am honestly afraid to ask too many questions about the sausage ingredients since I don’t want to restrict my choices. I also have no intention in the near future of trying my hand at sausage making. So not practical for my life right now.

Posted May 9, 2010 by mayakey in food, organic, shopping

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Good Eats in Montana!   2 comments

I’m currently wrapping up a couple days of field work in Livingston, Montana. Usually field work involves either not eating, or eating pretty unhealthy and/or unremarkable food. But actually on this trip I have enjoyed some great meals. I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised since Montana is, in my mind at least, the heart of buffalo ranching country, and I love buffalo meat. In general I hear/see a lot about various ranches in this state and the sustainable ranching methods that they practice; and it seems like much of the time that I see grass fed beef for sale, it is shipped from Montana. For quite some time now, in my mind Montana has been linked to environmental stewardship and conservation.

But back to the food! I arrived in Livingston on St. Patrick’s Day, so of course we went out to an … Italian restaurant, and a very nice one at that. I assumed that I couldn’t have the lamb (I suppose I should have asked, maybe it was hormone free lamb), so I enjoyed a tender pork tenderloin instead. I don’t think I’ve ever started any field work off with a fancy plate of food before. Lunch on Thursday was at Montana’s Rib and Chop House, which I remembered fondly from my last stint of field work in Livingston a few years ago. I was quite happy to bite into a juicy, and big, buffalo burger. (I have massive burger cravings now that I can’t go out for burgers anymore, so we went to Fuddruckers a couple of weeks ago, but their buffalo patty was really bad and I needed to wipe it out of my mind with the real thing!) At the end of the day, we settled on the Second Street Bistro for dinner and I was in heaven. All local meat including grass fed beef and lamb! Hurray! Quick, can I have Moroccan Lamb Pillows and Beef Stroganoff? Mmmmmmm. (Actually, it was really hard to pick an item from the menu.) I felt kind of silly ordering beef stroganoff at a fancy restaurant, but I had to celebrate ordering beef from a menu, and what better way than to order a childhood favorite? Besides, it turned out to be fancy beef stroganoff. Lunch on Friday was a quick sandwich and salad from Mustang Catering, another gourmet meal. I don’t ordinarily like mayo on my BLTs, but I certainly enjoyed a dried tomato aioli on this one. I topped off the trip with a microbrew at Neptune’s Brewery, the first place I have ever seen to make their potato chips out of purple potatoes.

Posted March 19, 2010 by mayakey in food

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