America's Priciest Steak Houses Still Serving Factory-Farmed Beef
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You have to wonder why when considering the health of loyal customers lapping up 10 ounces of beef in one sitting, washing down the seared flesh of a hormone-induced, antibiotic-injected feed lot animal with a glass of bold Cabernet.
Most of the high-priced U.S. haunts of meat connoisseurs cite several excuses for not making the shift to ethically raised, drug-free, grass-fed cattle, which scientists tell us are much healthier animals at market, and healthier food on our plates and in our bodies.
For Morton's, the rationale in selling Midwest grain-fed prime is widespread availability and consistency of flavor. It's the wonderful flavor, it says, which has famous athletes and businesspeople seeking out the ritzy restaurants in the towns they visit.
"We have to have a consistent product because we ship all over the world to 76 owned and operated steak houses," explains Roger Drake, Chief Communications Officer. "Beef is 80 percent of what we sell and we have to have the availability. With organic I know you don't always have that availability. "
Drake describes the meat as aged prime, the top 2 percent of all beef available in the U.S., and says it is purchased from two purveyors in Chicago whom the company has partnered with for more than 30 years.
"Its the best of the best as far as beef goes," he says. "In order to supply all the Mortons, including Singapore and Hong Kong, we need a large supply."
He says they have tried different types of beef, such as grass-fed, but the public company, led by co-founder Klaus Fritsch, prefers the good old grain-fed. And how do they know the beef they buy is from cattle raised ethically?
"We go by USDA requirements, rules and regulations," he explains. "Our two purveyors in Chicago have stringent rules."
Still, those trusty, longtime partnerships can be broken if discerning customers start making a fuss, according to Dr. Michael Greger, Director of Public Health and Agriculture of the Humane Society International.
A leading world authority on the link between inhumane conditions for farm animals and human health, Greger argues most consumers don't know what they are eating. He points out that the reason cattle are fed grain is to marbleize the flesh with saturated fat, which is the number one contributor to the top killer in the United States: heart disease.
"For people who have grown up eating that fatty beef, switching to grass fed is like going from whole milk to two percent and it doesn't have the same feel," observes Greger, a specialist in Zoonotic diseases. He adds that three-quarters of all emerging diseases come from the animal kingdom, including Swine Flu, Bird Flu, Monkey Pox, SARS and West Nile.
Greger says education is key to help consumers understand that their health is more important than the taste they are used to – and that grass fed can be just as appealing.
He cites additional risks involved with eating grain-fed factory beef, even those aged prime fillets that run $60 to $100 a slab, that go beyond heart disease. The cows spend the first six to 12 months of their lives in a calm existence doing what comes naturally, grazing in the field. But once they are carted off to the feedlots in crowded, hot conditions and castrated, branded and de-horned without anesthesia, the real risk begins: The mass feeding of an unnatural daily diet and preventative drugs.