EAT Magazine July/Aug 2018_Layout 1 7/16/18 2:45 PM Page 28
If the beef is certiﬁed organic, no antibiotics, pesticides or growth hormones may be
A PRIME STEAK PRIMER
used, and all feed must be organically grown, though most animals are fed and ﬁnished
While the best way to understand the beef you’re buying is to talk to a butcher you trust,
in feedlots like conventional beef. A lot of beef is “grass fed” at some point (another la-
there are so many options, you’ll need to do your homework ﬁrst.
belling ploy as it’s an unregulated term), so if you want beef from cattle that spent their
Beef is graded according to its levels of intramuscular fat or marbling, age and other car-
entire lives on pastures, look for “grass ﬁnished.”
cass speciﬁcations—Prime and AAA being the highest grade with the most fat. Only two
Village Butcher oﬀers three “streams” of BC beef—pasture-raised from the Cranbrook
percent of Canadian beef reaches Prime grade, with up to 50 percent graded AAA.
area, certiﬁed organic from Blue Goose Cattle Company in the south Cariboo region,
There are also branded premium beef programs such as Certiﬁed Angus Beef, Angus
and grass-fed raised on Vancouver Island. Their premium dry-aged cuts are aged for 30
Pride, Butcher Block Reserve Angus and Sterling Silver. This beef is from convention-
days in a special humidity-controlled cooler in the Oak Bay shop.
ally raised cattle that’s graded in the processing plants after slaughter.
Because they break down the local and organic carcasses themselves, they seam out the
Because it is never fattened in a feedlot, grass-ﬁnished beef is leaner, darker in colour
specialty steaks. The day I was there, several options were in
with a beeﬁer ﬂavour and usually grades lower. Aging is
the meat case, from skirt steak and culotte to thick strip loins
another variable in the taste and tenderness equation.
and cowboy steaks on the bone. “People are still buying rib
WHILE THE BEST lar, too.” WAY TO UNDERFarm + Field Butchers also brings in whole animals, many STAND THE BEEF from Two Rivers Meats’ Cache Creek ranch or small islandbased farms producing grass-fed and ﬁnished beef. “We YOU’RE BUYING IS always have a variety of diﬀerent steaks from high-end rib TO TALK TO A eye and tenderloin to less expensive cuts,” says ownerbutcher Rebecca Teskey. “We always have skirt steak, hanger, BUTCHER YOU bavette and top sirloin. We’ll pull the ﬂat iron from the shoulTRUST, THERE ARE der; we harvest whatever we can.” SO MANY OPTIONS, Teskey says only about ﬁve percent of Canadian beef is 100 percent grass-fed, but she looks for farms that keep their YOU’LL NEED TO animals grazing on pasture for most of their lives, and ﬁnish DO YOUR HOMEthem on barley or alfalfa for less than 12 weeks. “There’s a lot of misinformation about how beef is raised. You WORK FIRST.
Supermarket steak is usually “wet aged” (sealed in
eye mostly,” says Windle, “but skirt steak and ﬂank are popu-
plastic) and often sold within days of slaughter. Dry-
can only know by asking,” she says, adding their beef is aged
new study evaluating the entire food industry’s impact
for 28 days. “If you want good beef, you’ve got to open your
on global warming.
wallet. The only way to produce cheap beef is with steroids
But author Rob Firing says the solution is not that clear
aged meat is hung in a temperature- and humiditycontrolled cooler (usually for 21-28 days but longer for some premium beef ). The slow decomposition tenderizes the meat and imparts an aged ﬂavour but also increases the cost signiﬁcantly as the meat loses moisture and must be trimmed before cooking Today’s industrial model of beef production in feedlots may produce the cheapest protein, but there are other issues, from the humane treatment of animals to our air, water and climate. Scientists point to beef production as a major contributor to climate change. Replacing 25 percent of your beef consumption with lower carbon meats (like chicken) would reduce carbon emissions system wide by six percent according to a
and antibiotics. The beef we buy is more than double the price, but the ﬂavour and qual-
cut, pointing to Nicolette Hahn Niman’s 2014 book, Defending Beef. Niman, an envi-
ity is so much better than the commodity stuﬀ.”
ronmental lawyer turned California cattle rancher argues that, when properly man-
It’s “a myth,” she says, that butcher cuts are cheap. “Beef is expensive across the board,”
aged on pasture, grazing cattle act like the wild bison before them, actually helping to
says Teskey. “Flank steak is still $20 a kilo, even high-quality ground beef is expensive.
maintain the grassland ecosystems, enhance biodiversity and mitigate climate change
It’s true of the entire food system. Anything industrialized is cheaper, but I think we
by trapping carbon in the soil. Firing agrees, adding that replacing factory farms with
need to eat less meat, and choose better.”
small-scale beef production and grass feeding is a growing global trend among “enlight-
Other butchers are oﬀering beef from their own suppliers and cutting steaks on site, too.
At Slater’s Meats, butcher and co-owner Geoﬀ Martin says steaks are cut to order from
“The footprint for cows raised properly can provide environmental services to a surpris-
Alberta AAA beef. It’s conventionally raised, but “it’s all about the way we age it and cut
ing level,” he says.
it,” Martin says.
Eating less, but better, beef is a better answer, he says, because a sizzling slab of steak is
“All of the beef in the case is wet-aged, a minimum of 28 days, but we also get Vintage 67
the ultimate indulgence. “It’s hardwired somewhere in our ancestral past. It harkens
beef, dry-aged from the slaughter house for 35 days,” he says, adding some customers
back to the hunter-gatherer of the Great Plains, the prestige of coming back with a big
special-order grass-fed beef or even bison.
animal, and the celebration,” says Firing of our ongoing love aﬀair with beef. “It meant a
For Wali Popal, owner of the new Bold Butchery + Grill, all of the meat he sells is certi-
lot. It saved your life and was incredibly nutritious.
ﬁed Halal, catering to the city’s Muslim population. Halal meats must be slaughtered in
“It all comes down to the senses, the way a steak cooks, especially on an open ﬁre, fat
the Halal method (by hand by a Muslim man, in a low-stress environment). Popal oﬀers
dripping and charring, the scent and sound and incredible umami and smoky ﬂavour,”
big chunks of sirloin tip stew beef for kebabs, ﬂank, rib eye, rib and striploin steaks, all
raised without steroids and hormones in BC, and slaughtered in the province’s only Halal facility. “It does add to the cost, about 10-25 percent,” he says, “but Halal is a sustainable way of raising animals. And it does aﬀect the quality and tenderness of the meat.”
28 JULY/AUGUST 2018
LOCAL FOOD & CULTURE