LITTLE SILVER: GRASS-FED GRILL FEST

sickles grass fed beef (1)The butcher counter at Sickles Market is making room for grass-fed beef. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)

By JIM WILLIS

morsels mediumThis weekend Sickles Market in Little Silver will host a barbecue on Saturday and Sunday featuring the market’s new selections of grass-fed beef.

Grass-fed beef, for the uninitiated, differs from your typical grain-fed beef in that it’s leaner and contains a different and possibly healthier ratio of fats as a result of the cattle’s diet.  Farmers in countries such as Ireland and New Zealand raise their cattle almost exclusively on grass whereas the vast majority of cattle in the United States are fed a mostly corn-based diet.

This corn-based diet of American cattle gives us our relatively cheap, deliciously fatty, well-marbelized beef. One downside of cattle raised on this diet, according to some researchers, is that it results in beef that is higher in Omega-6 than Omega-3 fatty acids. The grain-based diet also lends itself to industrial-scale operations that can lead to questionable treatment of cattle and require massive amounts of antibiotics to be sustainable.

Owner Bob Sickles tells PieHole that it’s never been the intention of American farmers to give people non-healthy product. “Mostly the farmers are just responding to the demand for inexpensive beef, so they may do things to animals that are really no good.”

The flip side then is that humanely-raised, grass-fed beef cost more. Burgers at the Sickles Market butcher counter for example will run $1.00 – $1.25 more per-pound than their grain-fed alternatives.

“But if you’re interested in good food and healthy food, you might be interested in paying more for a product that’s raised better,” says Sickles.

While there are several local farms that raise grass-fed cattle (PieHole has eaten our weight in steaks and chops from North Jersey’s River Bend Farms), Sickles tells PieHole he chose the New Zealand-raised cattle because of dependability and reliability. “If you’re buying grass-fed, you want to know that what you’re choosing is what it says it is,” says Sickles.

Because it is leaner, grass-fed beef warrants some slightly different treatment on the grill and this weekend’s barbecue may be a good opportunity to pick up some grilling techniques for grass-fed steaks or burgers.

And while Sickles tells PieHole he still enjoys his grain-fed cowboy steak, he says having a choice is important and he’s full of praise for the grass-fed beef that will be on the grill this weekend.

“You’re going to be amazed, come and try it,” says Sickles.

The barbecue is this Saturday, April 26 and Sunday, April 27 from noon til 4pm and is free. The grass-fed beef will be on sale today through Sunday with burgers at $4.49 a pound and Flat Iron Steaks at $8.99 a pound.

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