It’s happened to all of us at some stage, hasn’t it guys. You’re sitting there staring at a pub menu, trying to decide between the three or four steaks they have on offer. And it dawns on you: just what exactly is the difference between grain fed and grass fed. Oh the shame! Cows, well, cows are gonna be cows. It’s what they do, and they do it very well. But in terms of how they taste, how does the ingestion of one cow fed one thing over another matter when it comes to taste and texture, also known as the chewing experience?
It has been said that the longest distance in the world isn’t from north to south, but from one person’s wallet to another person’s pocket. Specifically the transfer of cash and so in essence, the basis of all financial transactions since the dawn of time (actually since the dawn of pockets, but you get my drift). But how about the distance from cow pasturing in the fields to being in my mouth and ending up in my belly. That takes some doing as well.
As it turns out a cursory glance at the Internet (basically, just googling it and spending 20 seconds skim reading the first page of results) reveals a bevy of exploratory research on the matter of cow’s indigestion vis-à-vis the taste bud and tummy experience for person ingesting cow. This is summarised thusly:
1. Cows get fatter faster eating grain than they do eating grass. This is logically explained by the nature of the eating process, whereby grain is usually eaten out of a trough (or hand, for the lucky ones), whereas for grass you’d imagine they probably have to burn some calories wandering around a field looking for a patch not yet trampled upon. Understood; and
2. Point One means people who sell cows are encouraged to feed them in such a way because they can have them slaughtered sooner and more often, and hence this form of cow has become more readily available and hence cheaper (ie economies of scale something something); while
3. Grass fed is thought to be more of an organic, healthier choice. A 2003 study by Australian researchers on Food Borne Pathogens (FBP’s) found grass fed cattle to have about 50% less incidences of campylobactor, something that causes vomiting and fever and abdominal pain. Side note but finding out that something called a “Campy Lobactor” only causes vomiting and fever and abdominal pain is probably a relief; and finally
4. It is also leaner, most likely from the aforementioned calorie-burning which, combined with being less readily available, makes it more expensive. For this reason it is often marketed at well-to-do consumers who are generally happier to pay such a premium for the privilege of being conned by terms like ‘organic’ and ‘5-star lean’.
So that’s that. No need to delve any deeper from a grass v grain point of view, not that I am bagging out anyone who actually spent time working on that thesis even if it meant a year of your life working in faeces. Kudos to you. What I’m more interested in at the time of writing is why we stopped there. I mean, go back and look at the four points above. I probably could’ve thrown in the fact that the uniformity of the grain feed makes for a strong consistency in the quality of the product, but what does that even mean. Or that grass fed cows tend to have slightly more yellow hue to their fatty bits (but then again, who among us doesn’t?). At the end of the day though we’re talking about the one percenters here really.
Of more interest would be some of the following, at least in this authors’ humble opinion:
Is there anyone reading this post who didn’t grow up staring longingly into those purple Milka ads with the cow bathed in the company’s royal colours and immediately started drooling in a fashion not dissimilar to one of Pavlov’s dogs during the bell ringing experiments of the early 1890’s? No-one? Just as I thought.
In a nutshell – a rich, creamy, chocolate tasting nutshell – if we can invoke the imagery of cows to imply a chocolate full of yummy dairy goodness, why not do the same in reverse. After all, cows are dairy products too, just like chocolates are. A warm, juicy steak with a kick of creamy chocolate goodness sounds like a real treat. Perhaps not to be eaten as a dietary staple, but something to roll out post dinner for well mannered guests. Or even better, as a ‘treat’ for behaving or otherwise easily corruptible kids. Suddenly a dreamy childhood of staring wonderingly into Milka chocolate ads feels rather empty. Wish I hadn’t thought of this one.
Does this need any further explanation? Chilli goes well with everything. Its popularity is growing exponentially. Knowing those two statements to be fact, consider putting them into bed with two other statements of fact:
1. Cows have abnormally long tongues, meaning they are likely to be less sensitive to the hot taste, since the few chilli flakes scattered across a field or mixed into a handful of grain (again, for the lucky ones) will get washed down with whatever else they are salivating over while munching away. Good times; and
2. They have approximately 5 stomachs (margin of error: +/- 1 stomach). More stomach equals more likelihood of absorption hence more likely you will be tasting it after it has made the longest journey in the world (ie excluding the distance from the farmers pocket to yours).
In fact lets just move on here because there is probably millions to be made out of this idea and I’d rather keep it to myself.
Gatorade Powder Fed
IGA Super stores seem to be popping up all over the country. And most of them are well stocked in the recession busting bargain that is the Lemon Lime or Orange Burst flavoured Gatorade. So its not like farmers don’t have access to it. Good for a whopping 10 litres of electrolyte restoring fun, this option may not significantly affect the taste or texture of your mouth-watering steak. But boy would it be hydrating. Imagine fun-run contestants scoffing down Gatorade powder fed nibblies of steak at the finish line. Talk about adding extra motivation for competitors. It would be the human equivalent of that fake hare they get to run around greyhound race tracks. Could you marinade said Gatorade powder fed nibblies of steak in a protein shake for the muscle conscious gent who’d rather spend every waking hour in the gym than run around the block for ten minutes? The Rogue Couch certainly wouldn’t stop you.
Now for the pièce de résistance. Hasn’t anyone every thought it odd that cows do have those five stomachs (margin of error: +/- 1 stomach)? Turns out its because grass and other such natural foliage is pretty hard to digest. I mean, who knew? As humans sitting triumphantly at the top of the consumer food chain, it’s a surprise that no one from the WWF or PETA ever cottoned on to how unfair this is for poor old Johnny Cow.
Anyone that has ever suffered the cruelty of a simply upset stomach – let alone anything campy – can attest just how disruptive this can be to pretty much any kind of daily functioning. But we’re ok with cow’s having this to a factor of five? Hmmm. Doesn’t seem right does it. Especially when they are the ones spending their lives living so that we can one day have them on our plate or at the very least, quench our thirst with their delicious milk (mmm, Milka).
Introducing our brothers and sisters in the cow community to meat – and by “introducing” I mean getting them turned into full blown carnivores, not just making them have a cup of coffee with one – provides a world of possibilities too innumerous to mention, so lets just focus on the three most ground breaking and we’ll do it in three quick hits. Ready, set, go:
* Goodbye feral animal populations that till now have lived off the blood, sweat and tears of our country’s great farmers;
* Double cheeseburgers and triple quarter-pounder meals now go to another level entirely; and
* For the fussiest of diners, suddenly the option to get steak ordered “half and half”, just like with pizza.
The last point in particular, I mean, I hope you were sitting down reading that. A slow-cooked-lamb-shoulder fed steak? Drizzled in lemon and olive oil? I think I just got butterflies. Your dinner companion not a massive lamb fan, however (note to reader: start looking for a new dinner partner)? Not a problem at all lets get the other half chicken-neck fed. Nice and tender. Easy as pie, the operation doesn’t skip a beat and everybody makes out.
Alas, it may be the case that some of these ideas are a little too far ahead of their time. A little too nouveau. Some ideas simply need to ‘marinade’ a touch longer than others. So until that time – and that time may never come – we may just have to console ourselves with finally knowing a few more facts in an age-old debate. And give thanks the next time our teeth bite into a juicy steak, that the longest journey has finally come to an end.