Benefits of sustainable beef explored

Culinary arts and science team up to show students the benefits of sustainable beef

Mark Hendricks, Science & Technology Editor Ω

Students from both culinary arts and science programs teamed up to present the benefits of sustainable beef on March 26, 2014. Sean Brady/The Omega

Students from both culinary arts and science programs teamed up to present the benefits of sustainable beef on March 26, 2014. Sean Brady/The Omega

What we put in our food is a hot topic right now. People are increasingly interested in getting natural food without any additives. The beef industry is commonly a target, as it’s well known that cattle often have chemical additives and growth hormones in them.

Students from TRU’s agricultural science program, with the assistance of the culinary arts program, put on a day at the cafeteria dedicated to sustainable, hormone-free beef.

“People don’t want chemicals in their food,” said Ed Walker, chair of the culinary arts program at TRU. “This meat is extremely healthy and extremely good for you. They’ve actually found that finishing beef with grain is healthier for you than just grass-finished beef.”

All dishes on the menu in the cafeteria on March 26 came from the Mitchell Cattle Company in Barrier. The beef is grass-fed, grain-finished. This means that the cattle spend their lives eating grass but during the final stage of their lives before slaughter they are fed grain. This theme was even worked into the desert, maple and beef jerky donuts.

The benefits of grass-fed beef go beyond just taste. According to information presented by students, grass-fed beef has higher concentrations of conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) which are found in fatty-acids in beef and have been linked to a number of health benefits including decreased body fat mass, increased lean body mass, reduced cholesterol and reduced blood pressure.

“A lot of people don’t know about CLA but it’s in fatty-acids and it’s really good for you,” said Emily Townend, a first-year natural resource science student and presenter at the event.

A typical cow produces a lot of greenhouse gas in a day, about the equivalent to what is produced by a car. Grass-fed beef also produce fewer greenhouse gases, said Kailey Moir, a psychology student and presenter at the event.

“Cattle produce a lot of greenhouse gases, most of this comes from belching,” Moir said. “A lot of this can be reduced by the type of environment they get raised on and the type of diet they’re fed.”

Cattle that are raised by grazing on grass produce fewer greenhouse gases because of the dietary change and because as cows graze they mulch the dead grass underfoot. This turns the pasture into a large carbon sink, Moir explained.

For students looking to get local, grass-fed, grain-finished beef, Walker recommends some of the retail meat program on campus or smaller local stores.