Why I Eat The Way I Do, Part 3

It’s Day 10 of the Paleo Iron Chef competition, which marks the halfway point.  The not-so-secret ingredient today is Ground Beef.  I decided right away that my entry would be Steak Tartare.

It seems fitting that ground beef, and my raw preparation of it, is the ingredient today.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, you probably have heard that the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow Disease, in six years has been reported here in the United States.  The USDA has been quick to point out that the animal in question was a dairy cow and that mad cow cannot be transmitted to human beings via dairy products.

They’re also trying to tell us this case is an anomaly – the cow tested positive for “atypical BSE.”  In other words, the cow just came down with it out of nowhere; it was a “random mutation.”  Typical BSE is caused by feeding cattle the remains of other cattle in the form of meat and bone meal, which is illegal.  It is, of course, perfectly legal to feed cattle corn, soy, bakery wastes in the form of stale donuts and pastries, stale candy (still in the wrapper, if I understand correctly) and other things that are not part of a cow’s natural diet.  It’s also interesting to note that while it is illegal to feed cows to cows, it is perfectly legal to feed cows to chickens and pigs, then feed those chickens and pigs to cows.

But this isolated case wasn’t caused by the cow’s feed, the USDA tells us.  Just so you understand.

I also find it amusing (and irritating)(and alarming) that while the USDA is telling the media, and the media is telling the public, this is an isolated incident, they seem to be downplaying the fact the infected animal was caught by a random test.  For all we know, all of the other cows in the herd – whose location has not been disclosed – could be infected, especially since we’ve been told the cow was asymptomatic.

I find all of this extremely disconcerting.  Apparently all the laws and regulations in the world can’t keep these animals from becoming ill – illness that happens when a creature, be it human or bovine or canine, consumes a diet that is unnatural to it.  Cows aren’t supposed to eat corn or soy or stale donuts; they are supposed to eat grass.  Let them do it – preferably outdoors, in a field.

In the meantime, I’m going to go and hug my freezer full of grass-fed beef, delivered to me by a man I know by name, whose farm I have visited, and butchered by people more than willing to let me watch the process.

Do you know who your farmer is?

17 thoughts on “Why I Eat The Way I Do, Part 3”

  1. Great thoughts, and I totally agree it’s important to know your farmer. However, I still feel like this case is not a cause for alarm. This cow was never intended for our food supply. Here are a few facts worth noting.

    Fact: BSE is NOT contagious and NOT transferred through milk or beef. Bottom line for consumers: Your beef is safe. The animal never entered food supply. The World Animal Health Organization says U.S. controlled the risk for BSE because of the thoroughness of our safeguards. BSE is a diminishing disease. This is just the 4th U.S. case in 9 years and only 29 cases were diagnosed worldwide in 2011.

    For more information on BSE and the reasons why I think our beef supply is safe, check out http://www.bseinfo.org.

    1. I don’t think BSE is a threat to our food supply, and never said so. This was more of a commentary on the horrible feeding practices of CAFO beef “farmers.” Which, Amanda, you seem to be affiliated with – you guys must be all over Google Alerts to have caught my little blog so quickly.

      Providing a link to a website maintained by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association isn’t going to do anything for your credibility here, at any rate.

      1. Jan,

        I didn’t find your blog from a google alert. I’m a small beef producer here in South Dakota, and I’ve been following your bog for some time now as my family started following the paleo lifestyle about a year ago. We are a family-owned business, and my husband still has the traveling butcher shop, so we support small, locally grown beef.

        I view your blog as a great resource for many in the paleosphere, so I wanted to share the facts about beef safety in teh comments section. I wasn’t trying to discredit your post, by any means, and totally agree with you on the poor quality feeds that are given to many farm animals. I definitely didn’t mean to be argumentative and my apologies if I came across that way.

        I think the source I listed has a lot of great information for folks wanting to learn more about beef cattle production — whether it’s grass-fed, grain-fed, organic, natural, whatever. I just think it’s important to remind folks that here in thUe U.S. we are blessed with an abundance of choices in the meat case, but all of them, I believe are safe.

        Best wishes to you. Love your recipes. Can’t wait to try the steak tartare.

        1. Amanda, I apologize; I’ve had corporate representatives here before. But I’m a bit confused, too – if nothing else, I am an advocate for sustainable farms that raise beef on their natural foods: grass. I’m also a vocal advocate of small, local abattoirs; we love our butchers. Part of the point of this post is that if you raise, feed and slaughter cattle ethically, BSE is a non-existent threat – the media is telling us that this case “just happened” – it had nothing to do with the animal’s feed, which is how cattle contract BSE. If it can “just happen” to this cow, it could also happen to ANY cow or steer, which is simply untrue.

          Do I believe that BSE is a threat to our food supply, regardless of the source of the beef? NO. Mostly because Americans are so damn squeamish – we (and that’s a general “we”) don’t like to eat any part of any animal other then the muscle meat. If you don’t eat the brains or spine, your chances of contracting Mad Cow yourself are just about non-existent. But I don’t believe that CAFO beef is necessarily safe, either – sick animals in our food supply make for sick people, which is why every restaurant in the country has a disclaimer on their menu about undercooked and raw meat. Just sayin’.

    2. Amanda, it actually makes me MORE nervous that you people are scrambling to calm everyone down. Who are you?

      1. As I said above, I’m a small beef producer here in South Dakota. I love beef and am always frustrated how the media scares folks about beef. I think beef is safe, nutritious and totally paleo, and I’m passionate about raising and eating it.I don’t come here with an agenda, but simply a shared passion for Jan’s great recipes and living a healthy life using the paleo template.

  2. i made the trip this past saturday for my whole cow. great experience as usual and a great product too. this time around, rather than 85/15 in the ground, i asked them to make the ground meat as fatty as possible. i am curious how it will be. prices have gone up a bit though haven’t they?

    1. Who’s your beef farmer – is it still Paul Yoder? Unfortunately, yeah, the prices have gone up, both for the beef (we are still getting ours from Green Vista) and the processing. We adjust for that by going out to eat less and less. LOL

      We have Whitefeather ratio our ground beef at 80/20, then provide me with the leftover suet so I can render it into tallow. Nothing better for sweet potato fries! 🙂

  3. I cannot remember where offhand, but someone put forth an interesting argument that the disease had more to do with the pesticides used on the animals to get rid of parasites than anything else. Even if that is the case though, it still comes down to the attitude of not valuing this resource enough to take proper care of the animals.
    I am doubly fortunate in that I have at least two responsible farms locally to get healthy beef from and have finally taken the step of raising my own for future meals.

  4. Yes, I am definitely with you. When I first came to the UK, more than 30 years ago, I quit eating beef. I dunno, I told people, it just doesn’t taste right… I think maybe it is what they eat. (little did I know)

    And now that they have banned all that, and cow’s eat grass, I am gradually rediscovering British beef.

    But I’ll be sorry if I can’t enjoy American beef when I visit… It is one of the things I used to really enjoy.

    (I’m pretty sure cows are meant to be vegetarian…)

  5. I pretty much ignored the whole thing since a) the dairy I buy is from my local farmers market and b) I don’t eat any meat.

  6. I love steak tartar and I eat it with slight nervousness. Not because of BSE, because you can’t cook that out anyhow, but because one can never be sure, even with the best of farmers and butchers, that the meat is always safely handled to that those nasty e coli germs don’t get in. But I guess there are some chances in life worth taking, and one of them is eating steak tartar. And your method?

    I feel the same way about eating raw oysters. I love them, but there’s always a slight risk of hepatitis. I take the risk.

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