Montana Cows

Where’s the Beef?

Montana CowsLast week I read two ads that reminded me of how basic commodities can change and how we simply adjust to what becomes available. The first was a family promoting their organic grass fed bison. The second was an email offering half of a grass fed steer.

Growing up in America, almost every meal was centered around a healthy serving of delicious corn fed beef. In the ‘70’s, during a period of rapidly rising food prices, beef was becoming unaffordable. We stretched our ground beef with Plus Meat (textured soy protein). Hamburger Helper was introduced at this time. Some speculated that we could import Mexican grass fed beef. The consensus was that American taste would never accept range fed cattle.

Prices stabilized and we resumed our old eating habits. I once marveled at how perfect, in flavor and texture, an almost raw, quality cut of beef could be. Over the years, for some reason, cow meat began, for me, to lose its appeal. I began to fantasize about eating nothing but Prime beef. I visualized, at that time, of raising our youngest son on a diet of only Prime. I told him that one day he would be married and his new bride would prepare him a nice Choice steak to which he would respond, “This tastes like crap!” Alas, the prime adventure never materialized. My dissatisfaction grew and I would spend long moments gazing at the Prestige Meats section of the Winn Dixie butcher counter. Was this my only salvation?

In the late ‘90’s, on a visit to President Lyndon Johnson’s ranch in Texas, I discovered the cause of my lost desire. While touring LBJ’s boyhood home, adult home, and final resting place, we were guided through the working portion of the ranch. The guide told us that the breed of cattle raised there were the same that Johnson had raised, but were no longer raised commercially in America. The country had abandoned this breed in favor of leaner cattle. The root of my dissatisfaction lie not in me, but in the cows!

To add insult to injury, in Louisiana, Choice beef began to disappear from the shelf. In its place was a grade called Select. Not listed as a grade of meat, this tasteless Select classification remains a mystery to me.

By the time the threat of Mad Cow Disease (BSE) appeared, we were raising M&E. To be prudent, we discontinued eating beef. This was no great sacrifice since the meat already tasted like crap.

Now I find that corn fed beef is no longer corn fed. Corn (maize) is now much too valuable to feed to cows. Corn is now used to fatten humans in lieu of the more expensive cane sugar in processed foods. Corn is also used to produce bio fuels. Cattle are now fattened with whatever is cheap, as in used cooking oil.

The days of a good rare steak are gone. Beef has to be overcooked (like pork) to prevent one from dying of e-coli infection.

Dairy products are much the same. Milk, loaded with female hormones, is likely the cause (other than non-related adult males living in the home) of rampant precocious puberty in the little girls of America. Our daughters had to be raised on, the more pricey, organic milk to ensure they would not become the all too common eight year olds with breasts.

Even though I now live in Montana where the beef is Choice and looks appealing, I still have not regained my desire for it.

I can only wonder if others have noticed or if it is only me.

©01/23/09

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