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Common Ground: The Most Practical Meat to Eat

Common Ground: The Most Practical Meat to Eat

Ground meat has gotten a bad rap of late, and deservedly so. With reports about “pink slime” dominating the headlines, along with the various pathogen outbreaks from ground beef contaminations, and the fact that a single pound of conventional ground meat is barely traceable back to its source (likely originating from 100+ animals spread over six different states), there is substantial reason to avoid the stuff (even if you are not a vegetarian or vegan). However, for the intrepid meat eater who is not deterred by such findings, ground meat is one of the most inexpensive, flexible, and a more ecologically wise choice than those more pricey cuts of meat.

This is at least the opinion of Brian Halweil, the editor of Edible East End and publisher of Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn (and a colleague of mine) along with Danielle Nierenberg, the director of Nourishing the Planet. Both co-authored a recent New York Times opinion piece on the subject of ground meat being the “kindest cut” of meat available. The logic behind this argument is, once an animal is butchered and the popular cuts like steaks, chops and roasts are utilized, the rest of the meat is ground — 26 percent of a hog, 38 percent of a beef cow, 41 percent of dairy cows and 46 percent of lambs (science has yet to figure out how to breed a cow that is comprised of only filet mignon). Because such a high percentage of what is left over can only be ground for consumption, eating ground meat becomes a more cost efficient and practical way to consume the whole animal. As the article states, “In the same way that nose-to-tail butchery can save a household money, buying ground meat can encourage small-scale, diversified livestock farming, since it helps supplement income from the pricier cuts.”

But what about all of the pathogens, pink slime, and health risks that are associated with ground meat? Well, if you purchase and consume conventional feedlot ground meat, you are taking your chances and decidedly contributing to all of the problems that go hand-in-hand with feedlots, the mistreatment of animals, etc. However if you purchase grass-fed, local, and/or organic meat from a small (or environmentally and ethically responsible) producer, you are more likely to be consuming a safer and higher quality product (albeit a bit more expensive one as well). Still, eating meat is not for everyone (nor should it be) and the production, and harvesting of animals remains the most energy- and resource-intensive ingredient in our national diet. So if you have to have that meat fix, you are better off not paying top dollar for some top round trucked in from who knows where, and instead, source out some ethically- and environmentally-raised ground meat that utilizes the entirety of the animal.

If you are not a vegan or vegetarian and actually have a taste for meat (and are not boiling mad at this point) do you think you could be convinced to drop the steak and go ground? Is the low cost nature of ground meat unappealing to you?

Related:
Are We All Born Meat Eaters?
Can Eating Meat Possibly Be Good for the Planet?
Did Americans Always Love Hot Dogs? Not Really

Read more: Animal Rights, Blogs, Following Food, Food, Vegetarian, , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

73 comments

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4:40AM PDT on Mar 18, 2013

thanks

1:16AM PDT on Mar 18, 2013

Go Vegan

9:37AM PDT on Mar 17, 2013

thanks

6:51AM PDT on Mar 17, 2013

We have started watching for boneless beef roasts to go on sale. We buy them and ask if it could be ground up for us. The market doesnt like it and tries to discourage us by telling us we loose some meat in the process but it looks and tastes 100 % better then whats out there ground up already. our meat is red not pink with very little fat.

3:26AM PDT on Mar 17, 2013

Thanks, I heard that about sprout also.

8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

James S., thank you for not bopping me over the head with abuse as some vegans do for the "crime" of eating meat. Yes, a vegan diet does present many fascinating options, there are all sorts of exciting foods out there and I love to explore new ones. I just happen to be a person who enjoys the flavour of meat along with other options.

I know some people dislike the eating of sentient beings but part of my diet is meat which I enjoy and since plants are also living organisms we all eat something that was once alive. Since I cannot eat rock pate, an inorganic matter and survive my diet includes many things.

Some people have photo ids with the logo of "My Food Doesn't Scream!" and are in my face if I am a meat eater. Many are meat eaters and many are not. I respect the individual choices that people make for themselves and prefer organic sources, avoiding factory farm produce be it meat or pesticide laden veggies.

I have nothing against vegans or vegetarians just the ones who act as if they are better people because of their dietary choices and constantly preach at meat eaters.

8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

You are most welcome James, have a delightful 4th of July! We had Canada Day on July 1st with a lot of colourful fireworks.

Oh, oh, the Facebook link came on and then a big blank screen, will risk hitting the add comment button again and hope this isn't posted twice.

8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

i eat meat and make no apologies and do not sit on the wailing wall of shame shedding tears because I happen to be an omnivore eating both veggies, meat, fruit, nuts, quinoa, so many different things.

If one wishes to dine on plant life, veggies, fruits, grains, go right ahead but I use organic meat, avoid factory farms, go free range, naturally feed be it meat or veggies avoiding toxins such as antibiotics, pesticides, growth hormones. If one day Mother Nature gets around to redesigning our DNA so that we can exist by eating nourishing rock pate, then I will no longer eat meat, poultry, veggies and fruit, nuts and other living organisms. Everyone looking forward to evolution and dining on rock pate

2:56AM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

Thanks

7:11PM PDT on Jul 9, 2012

Yuck!

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