Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Where's the beef?

Do you know where your beef comes from?

Paso Robles rancher Coco Collelmo.
I do. Last week I met rancher Coco Collelmo. She raises a small herd of grass-fed New Zealand Angus seven miles up Adelaide Road from our house in Paso Robles.

Coco’s father started the business in 1959. In 2001, Coco met David Foss of New Zealand who brought a new breed of Angus to the ranch. They share a philosophy of cattle ranching based on sustainable farming and healthy food. They work with the land’s own resources, using superior cattle, managing stock humanely, feeding only fresh grasses, and never using antibiotics or hormones.

These animals evolved over tens of thousands of years to feed on grasslands, not to be fattened up with corn and food by-products, like you find most places. We humans evolved to hunt and eat animals raised on the plains, not feedlots.

I decided to look for more local, healthy alternatives for our family and to cut back on what the industrial food complex is selling us.

A bull at Fair Oaks Ranch
So, last week I drove up a narrow dirt road to Coco’s Fair Oaks Ranch to pick up our quarter-share of steer. Her ranch is one of many community supported agriculture (CSA) programs in town.

After the steer was cut and trimmed the yield was about 400 lbs., not counting the lard, organs, etc. Our share was 1/3 steaks, 1/3 roasts, 1/3 ground beef. It cost us $8 per pound.

This was our second year and we doubled the order. Last year the supply lasted a few months. We should make it farther this year. Surprisingly, the 100 pounds of beef only uses about 4 cubic feet of space and fits well in our regular freezer in the fridge.

Grass-fed beef is good
1. Perennial grasses are better for soil.
2. Animals that are grass-fed their entire life are healthier — and their meat is safer for you. 
3. Grass-fed animals produce the right kind of fat.
4. The corn fed to feedlot cattle is fossil-fuel intensive and heavily subsidized. 
5. Perennial pasture reduces flooding and pollution-laden runoff.
6. Grazing animals don't need the large quantities of antibiotics that feedlot cattle do.
7. Perennial pasture is a carbon sink.
8. Modern grazing methods match the efficiencies of industrial-scale grain production.
9. Pastured animals are treated more humanely.
10. Grass-fed is more expensive, so you eat less.

"The meat you buy in the store comes from cattle that have been fed corn, grain, or feed byproducts," Coco says. Cattle that are fed in confinement are routinely fed high carb diets with low doses of antibiotics and added hormones to make them bigger, quicker.

Their diet changes the composition of their fats from being high in omega 3, which is a natural anti-inflammatory, to being high in Omega 6, which does the opposite. 

Factory farms fatten their cattle in crowded feedlots where they sometimes get sick. Then the sick animals are forced into slaughterhouses with electric prods, forklifts and bulldozers. If you think you can stomach it, watch this video, Slaughterhouse Investigation: Cruel and Unhealthy Practices.  I don't really want to eat sick beef.

Commercial ground beef is usually blended parts from dozens of these factory farms. This increases the chance the meat is contaminated with E.Coli or another pathogen. To prevent tainted meat, some factories add ammonia, according to a New York Times article. Mmm… tasty ammonia.

How to cook grass fed beef
Grass fed beef cooks faster. It stays redder in color even when it is medium temperature, so be careful not to overcook it. Because it is low in fat, I like to drizzle a little olive oil on my steaks to keep them from sticking to grill.

Grass-fed shoulder roast. Yum!
With the ground beef I make burgers, tacos, meatloaf, meatballs and meat sauce. I love to add diced onion, garlic and fresh herbs like cilatro, parsley, dill and basil to my burgers. I’ll usually add a raw egg, some olive oil and a dash of hot sauce, too.

The roasts I slow cook in the oven or crock pot with broth and vegetables.


  1. Wow, great post and thank you for sharing our story with your bloggers. I love seeing our program through the eyes and thoughts of others...and you did a fantastic job.

    Hope you are enjoying the beef and thank you for your business.

    fyi, we will be opening up beef sales this week so if anyone is interested just have them go to our web site www.forbeef.com We will have 4 beef available Aug-Sept. and that will be if for 2011.

    Keep up the good work on your body. So enjoyed your story about health and I wish much success and fine running days.



  2. Did I mention that the beef tastes amazing! We are always getting rave reviews from friends and guests.