There’s been a lot of debate about the benefits of a lean, ‘grass fed’ cut of meat vs. your — and it’s gotten a lot of steak afficionados and butchers, like superstar Pat Lafrieda, pretty riled up.
But one of New York’s most prominent butchers, George Faison, says the grass fed vs. grain fed debate on beef is just semantics. The real, and more dangerous issue is about how meat is labelled, and how Americans are lead to believe it’s raised.
Faison is the Chief Operating Officer of DeBragga, ‘New York’s Butcher.‘ You can find his meat in in some of New York City’s hottest restaurants, like The Mercer Kitchen, Tao, and Tom Colicchio’s Craft. Business Insider caught up with him over the phone while he was in Upstate New York checking out the farms where DeBragga sources its meat.
The debate on “grass fed” beef is really about how the meat is “finished” Faison explained, it’s about the last few months of an animal’s life — maybe the last year and a half if it’s Wagyu beef.
And when you’re talking about such a short amount of time, you can’t just think about the grass that’s being eaten, he argued, you have to think about the environmental impact of the petroleum that’s used to power farming equipment (like tractors, turbines) and the cost of shipping grain around the country.
“The (grass fed v. grain fed) debate is ongoing,” he said, “but it’s very obvious we can’t be unmindful of the true cost of grain fed beef.”
What’s worse about the argument, though, is that it takes away from the most important debate about meat in our country — naturally raised (grain or grass fed) meat versus “commodity produced” proteins of any kind.
We’re talking about big farming here.
To Faison, it all starts in the labelling — the information that’s getting to the public. For example, chicken and pork can be slapped with ‘no hormone added’ labels even if the animals have been fed anti-biotics their entire lives in order to survive the cramped conditions of industrial production.
That’s a practice called “sub-therapeutic administration.” Farmers administer these anti-biotics as they know animals will get sick because of how they’re raised.
That is how it has come to be that 70 per cent of all antibiotics in this country are given to animals, according to NYT Food writer, Mark Bittman. You can imagine the pharmaceutical industry is happy with that one.
Then there’s the fact that the word “natural” appears on most beef or poultry labels, but according to regulation, the only stipulation for slapping that word on a package of meat is that the animal was not given any chemicals at the time of slaughter.
Anything before that is a non-issue.
“I consider that government sanctioned fraud,” said Faison. “People aren’t getting the information they need to make the decisions they want to make.”
And that’s bigger than a little bit of grass.