If you answered “beef”, you have chosen a delicious, nutritious, safe and sustainable meal. What a package! Surprised?
I just participated in a 2 day Florida Beef “#Farm to Fork” tour in central Florida. We had the opportunity to visit 3 cattle ranches, meet the families and see the passion for the lives that they live.
Florida has raised cattle continuously since 1570 and not without its challenges. Not all cattle can tolerate the hot, wet climate and as a result, all Florida cattle have some Brahman blood in their pedigree. Each ranch owner determines the percentage necessary for the success of his/her herd.
Which brings us to the cows. Each animal has 4-6 acres for grazing grass. Pastures are rotated to provide fresh grass, to rest and renew previous fields, and to plant crops to diversify the ranch. Time for a reality check: all beef cattle are grass fed for the majority of their lives. A percentage are grain-fed in feedlots during “finishing” because grass can’t be grown year-round in many parts of the country. Some consumers buy exclusively grass fed cattle because of perceived benefits in the fat profile of the beef. There is little difference in the omega-3 fatty acid content of grass-finished vs grain-finished beef.
Grain-fed cattle build muscle more quickly and can be processed sooner. Cattle are not fed antibiotics to speed growth. In fact, cattle are vaccinated twice per year to prevent diseases and parasites common to the individual breeds. This actually eliminates most of the need to treat sick cows with antibiotics. When a cow needs treatment, an antibiotic not used routinely for human health is prescribed. Cattle are not processed within 48 days of treatment to assure there is no detectable level of antibiotic residue.
Did you know that there are 38 cuts of beef that meet the USDA definition for “lean” in 3.5oz portions? This means that you can feel confident in serving your family a beef meal more often to provide a great source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, selenium, protein and B-vitamins.
I was saddened to hear that many ranches not only suffer encroachment from development, but are susceptible to eminent domain policies. one of the ranches that we visited will soon have a highway extension paved through the property. Not only will the land become less efficient, but the stress to the animals will likely affect reproductive health for years to come. Ultimately, the ranchers are forced to sell off the property ending family legacies and leading to a vanishing way of life.
I so appreciated this opportunity to get my questions answered and to see first-hand where my food comes from.