Alternative Meat

Many health-conscious folks have considered scaling back their consumption of beef. Easier said than done. Unless you are a vegetarian or a vegan, beef probably comprises a hefty portion of your protein intake. It’s readily available, even hard to avoid, and most omnivorous Americans eat it on a weekly basis.


Beef is not always the healthiest meat to eat. The meat industry cares more about profit than public health. That much is clear. According to the Seatlle-Post-Intellegencer, “American beef industry officials earlier this year opposed a congressional measure to ban downer cattle from consumption.” They have since changed their attitude when a downer cow was found to have made its way into the food supply infected with BSE. But the recent scares were probably just that, scares. It’s the

antibiotics, hormones and disregard for safe procedures that makes our beef less than optimal. This is true for our other common sources of meat as well. The poultry industry has its own issues with antibiotics, cheap feed and overcrowded cages, not to mention inhumane practices one hears about like the debeaking of chickens and the chaining of cows in small stalls.


So if health concerns have you running scared what are your options?


Take a look around your local grocery store. There, among the beef, pork and chicken, you’ll find lamb, goose, duck, bison. All have one thing in common. Besides being less common, or perhaps because of it, all have resisted attempts at (or been regulated against) mass production.


The eating of lamb is quite common in other countries, but is a bit of an alternative meat in America. Flavourful and simple to cook, lamb is a great source of protein for the dinner table. Most lamb is pasture-fed, making it higher in nutrients than animals fed commercial feed. Lamb can be prepared in many the same ways as beef. Ground lamb can be substituted for ground beef, and lamb stew meat can be used in place of beef stew meat and has the added advantage of cooking more quickly than beef. For some interesting ways to cook lamb, try an Indian cookbook. You’ll find such simple recipes as Ground Lamb with Peas or Lamb with Onions and more complex dishes such as Rogan Josh, an Indian restaurant staple made with lamb chunks stewed in an aromatic yoghurt sauce.


Lamb is not your only choice of interesting meats. My local grocery store carries frozen goose. The prices are comparable with turkey and organic chicken and the meat is a tasty alternative. I had to look to British chefs to find any good recipes for this traditional Christmas meat, but it was worth the search. A properly cooked goose is highly flavourful and extremely moist without being fatty. It’s also a great conversation piece for a dinner party! If recipes for cooked goose aren’t readily available to you, try using your favourite roast chicken recipe. Just buy more pounds per person, as goose tends to render less meat per pound than the average grocery store chicken. Roasting a goose has other advantages over chicken. The rendered fat from a roasted goose is quite copious and can be saved to use when roasting potatoes or even frying eggs the next morning.


Similar to goose, duck meat is highly flavoured and very moist. It does tend to be a fattier meat, though, so save it for your low-carb dinners. Duck takes a bit more preparation, but the results are quite amazing. The night before you cook a duck, take it out of its wrapper and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator. This causes the skin to dry out which allows it to crisp up in the oven during roasting leading to a bird with moist rich meat under a crispy delicious skin. The fat from a roasted duck is also excellent for roasting potatoes although you will get less than you would from a roast goose.


Bison (buffalo) is probably the most unusual of the unusual meats. I found it frozen in my local grocery in the frozen fish section of all places! Bison meat is quite close in flavor and texture to domestic beef. It can be used in place of beef in any recipe and your diners will probably not notice the difference except perhaps to comment on what delicious hamburgers, meatloaf or stew you’ve cooked. Bison is low in fat and high in protein, making it a healthful alternative to beef. It is also a minimally processed meat. It says on the package of frozen ground bison that I have in my freezer that according to F.D.A. regulations, no growth hormones can ever be administered to Bison. According to my local news radio station, sales of bison are on the increase so if you can’t find bison in your local grocery store now, keep checking.


If you still can’t bring yourself to give up beef but are concerned about the way it is processed, consider limiting your purchases to unground meat. If ground beef is on the menu, have the butcher grind it for you from a good, lean cut of beef. For that matter, find yourself a local butcher you can trust. If you develop a good rapport, he’s likely to point you toward the freshest cuts available. In addition, check to see what breed of cow your beef is coming from. Hereford cows are not among the breeds to have been found with BSE. In addition, Hereford steaks tend to be the tenderest, most flavourful cuts available.


In short, if you are worried about mad cow or hormones in your meat, think outside the box! Who knows, your guests might arrive for you next dinner party and find Pot-Roasted Partridges with Juniper Stuffing on the menu!  

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