Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Grass-Fed Omaha Steaks!

We've talked before about the benefits of grass-fed cattle for our environment, and our health.

We've also talked about our favorite purveyor of meat-through-the-mails, Omaha Steaks. Last year in March we blogged about their introduction of vegetable meal options--a laudable effort (and hopefully a successful one for them). In that post, we also said this:

"… I'd also like to see (Omaha Steaks) offer organic, grass-fed beef and cage-free chicken, etc., choices, too, but maybe we'll get there eventually."

I was only mildly hopeful, given this statement on their website:

"For nearly 100 years, Omaha Steaks has sold grain-fed beef. Simply put, we wouldn't still be successful today if it were not the best way to consistently produce the highest quality and best-tasting steaks on earth."

We all know what that means: factory-farmed meat gives them the best bang for their buck, while meeting the expectations of the beef-buying public on what a steak should look like and taste like.

I should back up a bit. If you've ever ordered anything from Omaha Steaks in your life, you know that that is a high-maintenance relationship. If you gave them your e-mail, they WILL be updating you several times a week with new and tempting bargains. Of course, they'll have your mailing address, so expect packets of full-color and extremely glossy special offers arriving frequently, with pictures so succulent you seriously contemplate eating the paper they're printed on. What you NEVER want to do, fyi, is give them your telephone number. They pestered my 80-something father so badly he stopped answering his phone all together, and has informed my sisters and I that if we are expecting any more styrofoam boxes of meaty goodness from him in the future, we are out of luck. Thanks a lot, Omaha Steaks Pester Department.

I bring this up because recently we received one of those luscious picture packets in the mail, and what did my wondering eyes behold?

Hah! I admit to a slight feeling of satisfaction, as well as being impressed that Omaha Steaks continues to be so responsive to food trends

So that's the good news. As with anything else, quality does not come cheap. Click on this image to take a gander at those prices!

click to enlarge
According to The Google, pasture grazed, grass-fed beef is currently going for between $6.50 to $6.75 a pound on average. So by that score, Omaha Steaks' burgers (the fourth selection on the page above) is on sale for $24.99 for four six ounce burgers. That's a total of 24 ounces. There's 16 ounces in a pound, so that's a pound and half, making these burgers cost $16 a pound--quite a mark up over the going rate, and that doesn't even include shipping. Not to mention, if one fails to take advantage of the "bargain" and orders them at the regular price of $59.99, that would make your price per pound rise to, what, $36 a pound? My math skills are punking out on me here, but you get the idea.

Now if you're a bargain shopper, or, if you're a "green" shopper, you're probably not an Omaha Steaks customer anyway, so you aren't feeling my pain.

But you do have to wonder: why does it cost more to let cows eat what they find on the ground than go through the planting, harvesting, milling, and feeding of corn and grain to them?

This article, written by a grass-fed beef farmer, explains it in detail (not for the faint of heart, I might add) but I thought these statements were the most relevant (emphasis mine):

The key to profit in the grain/corn fed beef industry, which operates on extremely low individual margins is volume and speed
The sooner an animal can be brought to slaughter weight . . . the higher the volume and hence the greater the profit in the grocery store beef industry. Once placed in a feedlot, hyped up on growth hormones and grain/corn . . . the animal can be pushed to gains of of 3.5 to 5 lbs/day.
Animals finished on our grass pastures gain a natural 1.5 to 2 lbs/day.  While our cattle are still being fed and treated the way God intended, the grain/corn fed cows have already gone to market and the large producers are developing their next group of cattle.

Long story short, grass-fed takes longer, and, as we all know, time is money.

Some people, like Patrick Martins, founder of Heritage Foods USA and Heritage Radio Network, and the co-author of "The Carnivore's Manifesto: Eating Well, Eating Responsibly, and Eating Meat", believe that meat should be expensive, and that if the price were high enough, we would be getting a higher quality, healthier product, with far less negative impacts on the planet. As far as where that leaves those with less ability to pay, he reasons they would just have to eat less meat--not the worst thing in the world for their health, anyway. I understand what he's saying, and I don't even necessarily disagree, but it does sound an awful lot like "let them eat carrots," doesn't it?

Exorbitant prices aside, I think that Omaha Steaks move shows hope for the future. As Americans weaned on Capitalism, we know that supply follows demand. Omaha Steaks is throwing their hat in the grass-fed ring--many more venues have, as well. The demand is going up, and, inevitably, the price will come down (though even when it does, we probably shouldn't be eating all that much meat, anyhow).

Meanwhile, Dad has his own solutions to the price of grass-fed meat:

So stop calling him, Omaha Steaks.

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