Tag Archives: 100% grassfed

The Ultimate Guide to Canadian Meat Labels

By Mario Fiorucci, Co-Founder of The Healthy Butcher

In today’s urban lifestyle, consumers, generally, are disconnected from the original source of their food.  As such, food labels play an integral role towards understanding how a product came to be. Unfortunately, marketers have run rampant for decades, fabricating terms, seals, emblems, and photos that form mental associations of idyllic farm settings, even if the product came out of the worst of factory farms. Confusion is at an all time high. Organic, Grass fed, Grass finished, Corn fed, Grain Fed, Free Range, Pasture Raised, Farm Raised, Natural, Naturally Raised, Antibiotic Free, Raised without Growth Hormones, Sustainable, Humane, Ethical, Certified Angus, Kobe, Berkshire… the list of adjectives to describe meat go on and on. What do they mean?

In this issue we will take you through the most common terms found in Canada to describe meat, and what they actually mean. It is important to note that when googling any of these terms, you will more than likely land on a on U.S. web page, which causes Canadians even more confusion because the terms have different meanings in the U.S. or other countries.

Without further ado, The Healthy Butcher’s Ultimate Guide to Canadian Meat Labels…

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Veal: The Greener (and Rosier) Side

By Mario Fiorucci, Co-Founder of The Healthy Butcher

This article was originally published in Edible Toronto Magazine Winter 2009/2010 Edition

 

Introduction

volume32-veal_photo1This article was the cover story in Edible Toronto’s Winter 2009/2010 edition.  Gail Gordon Oliver, the Publisher and Editor of the magazine, asked me to write an 800 word article on “Red Veal”, a meat that has recently experienced a surge in popularity in the U.S..  Well, 2200 words later I emailed her an article and hoped she wouldn’t notice that it was almost triple the length that was allotted in her Winter edition and only briefly discussed Red Veal.  Thankfully, Gail realized the importance of the topic, published it and made it the cover story.

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On the raising of Beef, Cows and the definition of “Grass-fed”

Introduction

The term “Grass-fed” has been thrown around by retailers far too often as of late.  In this article we give you our definition of “grass-fed”.  We’ll start with some fundamentals on how beef cows are raised, then move into what “grass-fed” beef should be.

RealFoodToronto-Grassfed_Beef_Grazing

How are Beef conventionally raised?

Conventional beef production has three stages. The first is called “cow-calf.” Producers maintain herds of mature cows, mate them every 12 months and raise the calves to weaning age (about 6 months). Stage two is called “stocker” or “backgrounding.” The weaned calves are raised mainly on pasture, along with wheat or oats, for another 6 to 12 months. The beef can gain three pounds a day, reaching 750 pounds before the third stage. This is the “feedlot” stage, where beef are generally kept in confinement and fed mainly corn and grain until they reach the market weight of around 1,400 pounds.

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Dry Ageing

By Mario Fiorucci, Co-Founder of The Healthy Butcher

It’s time to dispel some misunderstandings about what “aged meat” is and is not.  To do this, let’s simply group all meat available for purchase into three categories:

(1) not aged;
(2) Wet Aged; and
(3) Dry Aged.

We’ll start with the latter since it is, in my opinion, the most important.

Dry Ageing is the process of hanging meat, usually the whole carcass or large portions as depicted in the photograph, in a temperature and humidity controlled environment for a period of time.  During this hanging time, two important processes are at work.  First, the natural enzymes begin to break down the fibres of the muscle, and in turn tenderize the meat.  Second, the water or moisture in the meat evaporates – which is why we refer to the process as “dry ageing”.  The loss of water will have the effect of concentrating the flavour of the meat; upwards of 20% of weight can be lost during dry ageing which adds to the final price tag.  Paradoxically, the loss of water actually makes for moister meat when cooked.  When wet meat, or meat that is not dry aged, is cooked the water in the meat expands as the temperature rises during cooking, thereby stretching the fibres of the meat and leaching out between them.  Further, if you plan on freezing your meat then it is wise to only freeze dry aged meat – less water in the meat means less frost bite.  Up until the 1960s, dry ageing meat was the standard.  Of course, there is a huge cost to dry ageing – both because there is a significant loss of weight (and meat is sold by weight) and cost of storing the meat in refrigerated environments.

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Sustainable Steaks

To see the butcher slap the steak before he laid it on the block, and give his knife a sharpening, was to forget breakfast instantly. It was agreeable too – it really was – to see him cut it off so smooth and juicy. There was nothing savage in the act, although the knife was large and keen; it was a piece of art, high art; there was delicacy of touch, clearness of tone, skillful handling of the subject, fine shading. It was the triumph of mind over matter; quite.

– Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit (1812-1870)

Introduction

Finally, barbeque season has arrived. This issue and the next of Live to Eat will be a two-part series focusing on one of our favourite summertime pastimes – grilling. This month’s issue will no doubt be amongst the most popular of all issues – our guide to steaks. A guide with a twist of course! We’re fairly confident our list will be the world’s first steak guide to exclude the three most popular and most expensive steaks – tenderloin, striploin, and rib steaks. Next month we will attempt to achieve the “Perfect Grilled Steak”. We will explain what happens in the process of grilling, should you use high heat or low heat, to sear or not to sear, to marinade or not to marinade… all answered next issue.

Prior to reading our rankings below, we strongly urge you to refresh your memory on the anatomy of beef – read our one-page “Breaking Down the Beef” guide, available by clicking here.

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