When the sun finally battled through the incessant barrier of clouds, I put on and old pair of jeans and my mud caked garden shoes and dove head first into outdoor projects. With complete abandon I attacked the weeds that had uninhibitedly taken over; relishing the feel of warm rays soaking into my back and shoulders and letting the sun hit my face to revitalize the freckles that hibernate through the winter months. I had myself so completely convinced that this was the big break of springtime that I even dug up the barbeque and set up the outdoor grilling area. I was ready for warm evenings, the smell of caramelized sweet onions and barbeque sauce. That night the first hand packed burger would sizzle as it hit the hot grill and I could hardly contain my anticipation.

As rain came in the form of a torrential downpour around dinnertime, rain boots, coat, and a bit of a frumpy attitude accompanied me to the grill. I was simply unwilling to postpone the burgers, especially because I had already thawed a package of ground “cow”, as I have come to call the gigantic 1/3 of an animal we received, butchered and packaged as part of a local grass fed beef cooperative. What some may think is plain old ground beef was, for me in this moment, none of the above. If you have ever had a hand-packed grass fed beef patty grilled to perfection you know the feeling. The burgers, steaks, roasts and even stews I had made from this well raised and well fed animal were relished, I imagined, like Hindu cultures worship the bovine deity.

The burgers, although mildly dampened with rainwater, were nothing short of delectable. If you have never had the fortunate opportunity to compare a grass fed patty to the conventional counterpart I highly recommend it, rain or shine. Not only do you get a tender and fresh flavor, grass fed beef is also a much healthier indulgence.

Feedlot cattle that gain up to 2-3 pounds per day eating corn, soy and grain before slaughter experience abnormally rapid weight gain that destroys beneficial nutrients and loads on the saturated fat. Grass fed cattle, on the other hand, produce beef that is high in nutrients, packed with health benefits and safer for consumption. A grass fed patty not only tastes better, it is better for you, the cow it came from and the environment that supported its growth.

A few Grass Fed Facts:

  • Grass fed beef has 7 times more beta carotene, 3 times more vitamin E, 1/3 less cholesterol and ¼ less saturated fat than grain fed beef.
  • Higher levels of vitamin E prevent oxidation of cells and higher concentrations of vitamin K2 help ward off heart disease and support brain function.
  • Each bite contains more heart healthy omega 3’s and less artery-constricting omega 6’s.
  • A powerful antioxidant called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is only produced by grass fed ruminants and helps build muscle and ward of cancerous cells.
  • Studies found up to 6,280,000 more e-coli cells in the stomach of feedlot cows and 58% of feedlot cattle tested positive for campylobacter bacteria.
  • Grain feeding cattle requires more than half the world’s supply of grain, which requires an immense amount of gasoline consumption, fertilizer, and land monopoly for production.
  • Cattle have digestive systems specially designed to digest fibrous grasses. When fed grain the cow’s stomach becomes excessively acidic, causing ulcers and allowing harmful bacteria from the stomach to leek into the cow’s bloodstream. This is not only painful and sickening for the cow, it requires the use of antibiotics and other drugs that are passed down to you through the beef you eat.

Kick off your summer barbeque with a better burger, if not for the simple and pleasurable experience of tasting something the way only your great grandparents may have remembered it, maybe for the sanity of knowing exactly what is going into your body and knowing it will nourish and not destroy your body.

After a grand burger cook off and tasting event this weekend where friends patiently stood by as I photographed and noted the contents of various burger stacks, I have an extensive list of favorite topping combos, patty makings and burger secrets to come for Thursdays post.