Fat has many virtues, one of which
is to provide warmth on cold days.
Fat on the backs of these cows insulates them from inclement weather. It offers a form of protection, enabling livestock to reside in fresh air and full sun at all times, despite freezing temperatures. We are selecting cows who store enough back-fat to make it through the winter without pampering, while nursing calves at the same time. Fat provides shelter.
On the left, note how big the two calves are in the foreground. They are four months old and are obviously receiving plenty of butterfat from their dams to withstand these temperatures without loss of well-being. Fat on the back of the cow enables her to provide essential calories to her calf.
Fat also provides essential taste. I recall thirty years ago my mother was told to go on a low-fat diet to reduce risk of heart attack. She loved dairy products and meat fats, but nonetheless, faithfully obliged, bowing to prevailing medical wisdom. Suddenly margarine showed up in the kitchen, and I remember tasting it on toast, and by the third bite it had given me a headache and I never touched it again. Margarine is a polyunsaturated fat made from soybean oil that is a total stranger to our bodies. In contrast, our bodies recognize monosaturated fats from animals, as we have been consuming them since man slayed his first wild beast.
Prevailing medical wisdom of the past fifty years has sought acceptable explanations for rising incidence of heart attacks and strokes. It chose animal fats as the source of evil, and launched a well-orchestrated and charismatic campaign against it. Data provided was casually selected and not replicable, but in the absence of resistance and a credible alternative, the campaign won the day, making its way to the USDA pyramid of healthy foods, where meat and animal fat were essentially dismissed.
What wasn't being acknowledged during this time was the rapid growth of processed foods being introduced into the dietary culture of Americans. These included refined: breads, cakes, crackers, chips, and cereals, as well as the growing market for "soft drinks". In conjunction, agricultural economics began promoting confinement-feeding of ruminant and non-ruminant animals, to consume ever-swelling supplies of corn being grown in the humid Midwest. So, all of a sudden, grain-fed animal-fats, high-fructose drinks, and refined cereal products swamped the American diet, enriching food processors, while starving the populace of traditional basic calories. The result has been obesity, heart attacks, and strokes way above historical norms.
In concert, American fashion adopted during this era an aesthetic bias toward a skinny body-type, particularly for women, severely injuring the self-image of our daughters, by conveying that they should be other than they naturally were, causing generations of pain for women and families. If Ralph Lauren wanted to make an enduring rather than fleeting contribution, he would change the shape of the women walking down his runways.
Mankind has been eating grassfed fats for two million years, while eating grain-fed fats for about fifty to sixty years. The former is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, as are wild fish, and the latter high in Omega-6 fatty acids. We readily digest the former and have trouble with the latter.
Grassfed animal fats are part of our DNA. Our bodies recognize them and depend upon them to thrive. The trick is finding animals today that will provide this fat for us, while eating only grass. The quality of grass has to be high and the genetics of the livestock have to respond, to generate intra-muscular fat, which gives meat flavor and calories. So many breeds have been altered for grain-feeding that good grazing animals are now hard to find. But we are slowly finding and raising them.
A well-researched book on the subject of the American diet is: The Big FAT Surprise, Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, by Nina Teicholz. It is a bit dense, but she has clearly done her homework to reveal the damaging fraud wrought upon our dietary culture by the medical, academic, governmental, and agri-business communities since about 1960.
The picture on the left is of a recent rendering of gelatinous bone broth. The layer of fat at the top is being skimmed off and saved for cooking. (Almost all of our cooking is now done with animal tallow rather than vegetable oils.) On the right is curried lamb, made with stew meat from the fatty shoulder, underlain by Basmati rice.
As a side note, I entered our walk-in freezer this afternoon, set at 10 degrees Fahrenheit, to collect ground beef and lamb for chili, and found it warmer in the freezer than it was outside! That was a new experience.
We look forward to seeing you this Sunday the 22nd and next Sunday the 1st at the Hyde Park Farmers Market at Clark Montessori.
You may order on-line at: http://grassrootsfoods.biz/on-line-purchasing. Next delivery is this Wednesday the 25th at 4:00 at the corner of Pape & Bellecrest. The ordering window closes Sunday evening.
In honor of our mothers and daughters, may we celebrate the ancient habit of savoring fat from grassfed animals.
Drausin & Susan