We all know Hawaii has some of the highest food prices in the nation – mostly because we import well over 80% of our food. But there’s one Hawaii food that is remarkably cheaper, and the quality is some of the best you’ll find anywhere. I’m referring to the Big Island Grass-Fed Beef. In most cases our own island’s beef is either comparable or sometimes less expensive than imported grain-fed beef. More importantly, in terms of nutrition, environmental sustainability and offering the animal quality of life, grass-fed beef is actually one of the best choices you can make.
Cows and their ancestors have always been grass grazers. Grain didn’t even exist until humans domesticated annual grasses roughly 12,000 years ago. Cows are ruminants and have a digestive tract designed to eat cellulose and transfer it with the help of specific gut bacteria into fat and protein. Grains, especially not GMO corn, are not a natural food for cows and their gut bacteria are unable to transfer it properly to normal tissue. These cows get fat quickly, which is only a plus in terms of economics. Because they’re eating improper food, the blood of this cow becomes acidic and their digestion is compromised. The imbalanced internal environment favors the growth of disease and of pathogenic bacteria. Grain-fed feedlot cows also are crammed into tight spaces without sufficient area to roam and often stand in their own waste. As a result, these cows are fed antibiotics, piles of them, which ultimately make their way to us. This overuse of antibiotics has led to “super bugs” or antibiotic resistant bacteria that poses a nightmarish threat to the health of humans and cows alike. Because grass-fed cows are eating their natural diet and they have plenty of area to cruise, they’re much healthier and don’t require antibiotics. They’re leaner and have a naturally higher content of Omega 3 fatty acids, the type of fat that is largely deficient in the American diet but essential to our health. Grass-fed beef also contains high concentrations of Conjugated Linolenic Acid (CLA) which create lean muscle mass and has anti-cancer properties. Its important to consider how our food lived and what it ate before it came to the dinner table.
One of the lesser considered but most dire environmental issues we face is loss of topsoil. Topsoil contains nutrients, fungi, and healthy bacteria to grow nutritious food. We’re overdrawn at the bank on this one, it takes about 500 years to develop one inch of topsoil naturally and at current projections humans will have exhausted this resource in less than 60 years. We need topsoil for farming but also it creates fertile ground for all life to grow, which in turn give us everything from building materials to the air we breath. Some scientists have posed that however you’re living, it should be creating, not depleting topsoil. Our quick fix is to use synthetic petroleum fertilizers which fail to provide sound nutrition and worse, there’s no nutrient cycling in this model that’s sustainable. One of the best ways to create topsoil? Support pasture raised animals, such as grass-fed beef.
To be continued…
(Sofia Wilt is a former dispatcher and park ranger who now works as a natural foods chef.)