Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Difference Between Organic and Conventional Meat (mostly Beef)

I'm not endorsing the conclusions of this review of the nutritional and organoleptic differences between organic and conventionally raised meat, but it feels right to me.  The following is excerpted from the paper's conclusions.

Keep in mind that the study is an evaluation of the status quo and does not address advancements that might improve the quality conventional or organic meat. 

"Beef animals raised organically grow more slowly and produce leaner carcasses. As a result the meat tends to have less marbling and is less tender. The profile of the fat is altered with organic production (or with grass feeding), with a higher content of PUFAs (in particular CLA) and is regarded as more favorable in terms of human nutrition. Similar findings have been reported with pigs and poultry, the research and consumer findings suggesting that the result is a slightly tougher meat but with an enhanced flavor that is preferred by some consumers (probably an age effect since organic animals and birds take longer to reach market weight). The main difference between organic (farm-raised) and wild fish is a higher content of fat in the organic fish, due to diet. The fat is considered desirable in the human diet."

Click  Is Organic Meat Higher in Nutrient Content? by Robert Blair to read the entire paper.


Chef Schneller said...

Please view this for a more accurate depiction of grass fed. I'm tired of the generalizations made about grass fed.

Nell said...

The amount and quality of the fat in pasture raised meats certainly, and obviously, varies enormously with the quantity and quality of the pasture.

As restaurants and cooks continue to demand pasture raised meats, some farmers will become more skilled at increasing the marbling chefs in particular seek.

The italicized preface to the study summary is pointing at that same reality.

The summary isn't making a careless generalization but a broad characterization of the data reviewed -- the overall situation with grass-fed meat right now. Which seems to be in a pretty good place: tastier and healthier than industrially raised meat.

[side note to the study summary: PUFAs are poly-unsaturated fatty acids; CLA: conjugated linoleic acid.]

chef said...

I have begun reading your book over the past weekend. Needless to say I have found it hard to put down.
I am a currently a culinary school instructor in Austin (and formerly in Vermont) and I have been struggling with and arguing pro and con for both sides of this issue for years. I too graduated from culinary school, after having been in the industry for ten years and almost eight years after having gotten a bachelors degree in hospitality management.
I have had to deal with both sides: young self-taught cooks, and fresh faces straight from school. Both can be rewarding, and both can be as frustrating.
My arguments for culinary school have always been that culinary school can allow you the opportunity to get a broad base of basics quicker than if you spent time moving from kitchen to kitchen and from position to position. The key to this is that culinary school allows you the access to the education. What you take away from school will be entirely up to the individual. What I am finding is that there are more students going to culinary school these days with no experience or expectations or even motivation than there are students who have the initiative to succeed there.
In your book, you talk of how you spent hours in the library each day pouring over the books available, and working to succeed in every way possible. If only I had students like you. My current class consists of several career changers, six students fresh from high school, and several dilettantes who have no idea who Thomas Keller is, let alone Escoffier or Careme. And what’s worse is that for some reason, they don’t really want to find out about what they don’t know.
I have been struggling with this for weeks now as I see myself getting more and more frustrated with how the students’ attitudes towards cooking and food are nowhere near what I have experienced previously with new students or with new line cooks.
In fact, I have had unschooled line cooks who are more ‘foodie’, more motivated to learn, more focused than any of the students I have right now. (Not that I haven’t had my share of stoner, alcoholic, party all the time, Bourdainesque line cooks). Its just that I have tried to hire for motivation, not necessarily skill level.
Last night I read through the chapter where you talk about your fish chef and how even though he motivated with fear, he got you to want to learn. I personally would like to become someone like that.
On the flipside, my argument against culinary school has always been two fold. One, the money. From the inside, it is easy to see how monetarily focused the education business is. And it is not sustainable in its current form. Due to the education reform act recently passed, things are getting better, but not necessarily for the student or their future career. Number two is this, if you just go to class and don’t put in the work, then you are just wasting the time, and summarily the money you have spent. You have to be focused and milk the school, the educators, and the experience, for all it is worth.
You get out what you put in to it…ultimately.