For those who eat as much for pleasure as for sustenance, few things compare with the divine taste of a perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned piece of beef. Whether you’re grilling up a filet mignon or braising some ossobuco, the hearty flavor and satisfying texture of beef is in a league of its own.
But cooking great beef doesn’t start with the right recipe, but with the meat itself. Beef’s rich taste is the product of a number of complex environmental factors, and the difference between good beef and bad beef can be enormous.
Unfortunately, if you buy your steaks, ribs, and ground beef at your local supermarket, you’re probably not getting the best. Today, most American beef spends a large part of its life on industrial feedlots or CAFOs, where the first priority is to fatten the cattle up as quickly as possible.
While this serves the bottom line of the large meatpacking companies, the negative impact it has on the cows themselves — and, by extension, on those who eat them — is well-documented. But how can you be sure that your beef hasn’t come from a CAFO, and if you can’t trust your supermarket, where should you buy your beef?
The Local Difference
Though the meat industry is dominated by a few large corporations, the family farm is far from dead. In fact, there has been a resurgence of interest in smaller, more artisanal approaches to beef farming over the past twenty years, and that means there are alternatives to feedlot beef.
The first thing you should do is look for local producers. Eating local meat usually means eating meat that was raised in a single place rather than being shipped around the country, and results in a better product.
In some cases, local farms may even offer grass-fed beef options for those who want to beef with an extra-strong flavor and lower fat-content. But whether it’s grass-fed or grain-finished, buying from a local farm or butcher is the best way to avoid CAFO-produced beef and get a tastier, healthier product.
How to Buy Local Beef
If you live in the country, buying local beef might not actually be that difficult. Plenty of farms deal directly with customers, and farmers markets can help you connect with local butchers.
Unfortunately, buying local in these time-honored ways can be a little inconvenient for the modern gourmand. Not everyone has time to visit a farmer’s market every month, and buying direct from the farmer often means buying in bulk — and small apartments in big cities like Chicago don’t usually come with a chest freezer.
The good news is that it is possible to buy guaranteed local beef through online delivery services like truLOCAL USA that work closely with producers in your region to connect you with beef products that have been raised in more humane and environmentally sustainable ways.
Great tasting beef comes from cows that have been raised well, and when you order a meat delivery box through these services, you don’t just get environmentally-friendly food: you also get superior cuts that just taste better. Remember, beef that has been raised with care is always going to be healthier and more delicious than beef raised on a feedlot.
So whether you’re looking for local grass-fed striploins or a just want the perfect beef burger, try ordering local next time. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the difference in taste and quality.