Grass Fed Beef

Grass-Fed Beef in Toronto

Grass-fed beef may not be for sale at your average Toronto grocery store or butcher. In fact, asking for grass-fed beef in these locations tends to illicit blank stares. But a little research reveals some great sources in the Toronto area.

Okay... back up. What are cows usually fed? Well, with the advent of factory farming in North America, we've switched them on to a diet of grain because it's cheap and it fattens them up quickly.

So practically any meat you buy in the area, unless otherwise stated, is "grain-fed". It's the cheapest thing you could possibly feed an animal and brings them up to slaughter weight abnormally fast.

Farmers don't have to let the animals graze on grassland pastures; they can just pile them into stalls where they have nothing to do but stuff their faces with grain feed.

Consumers interested in where their meat comes from are starting to ask questions. Epitomized by Michael Pollen's popular Omnivore's Dilemma book, a movement is growing and calling for change.

Cow's stomachs evolved to eat grass, not grain. Pollen's book illuminates the fact that grain-fed cows are sick and their meat is not as healthy as grass-fed varieties.

Put simply, we are meant to eat animals that eat green stuff. Greens contain omega-3s while grains contain omega-6s. We all know that we're supposed to get more omega-3s.

That is why were told to eat more seafood, because fish are out in the wild are eating all sorts of green stuff.

For more detailed information on grass-fed versus grain-fed meats, check out a 2002 CBC article or this basic primer on the health differences.

While grain-fed is the norm in North America, there are still many regions worldwide where that isn't the case. For example, in Argentina all meat is grass-fed, so you can order a steak at a restaurant and know it's the real deal.

So where can you get some?

This is not an exhaustive list, but here are some local sources:

The Healthy Butcher

- Currently gets its grass-fed from Grass Roots Beef, Field Gate Organics, and Dingo Farms (below).
- Usually has at least some cuts of grass-fed, likely to have lots this fall.
- Have managed to get grass-fed to about 25% of their beef sales.

Grass Roots Beef
- Located in Durham.
- Mixed quarter bulk orders available at $3.50 per pound.
Gasparro's Meat Market
- Always carry grass-fed rib eye and t-bone veal steaks for $7.99/lb.
Field Sparrow Farms
- Brings meat in at the Sorauren Park Farmer's Market through the end of October and at the North Toronto Fresh Foods Market (on Lytton Blvd. between Avenue and Yonge).
- Offers ground and stewing beef at Karma Co-op.
- Quarters available starting at $3.10 per lb. and also 20 lb. freezer boxes available for $100.
Whole Circle Farms
- Located in Acton.
- Delivers to farmers markets in Georgetown, and Oakville.
- Mixed quarter bulk orders available at $3.50 per pound.
- Also offer grass-fed pork meat and lard.
Dingo Farms
- Located in Bradford.
- Prefer to sell halves or quarters but will sell individual cuts at a premium.
- Currently a supplier for Cowbell and Jamie Kennedy restaurants.
Field Gate Organics
- Local farmers co-op representing 39 small Ontario farms, with some grass-fed options.
-Contact them directly or check on theirwebsite for a list of supplied butchers near you.
- Always claims to have beef raised "mostly" on grass (usually means grain finished), but this time of year should have some grass fed options.
- In July I went in to the Church St. location and asked one of the counter staff "do you have any grass fed meat" and she seemed to have no idea what I was talking about. She went to the back to ask someone and came back to say "everything we have". She obviously didn't know what was meant by "grass-fed" but that might be just picking on one employee.

For more information about grass-fed meat information and finding sources, check out the stellar website Eatwild.

Photo from William Dalton's photostream.

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