Savoring the deliciousness of a burger can be an unparalleled experience, but for those who prioritize health, fast-food burgers may not be so appealing. The thought of processed ingredients and the repercussions of consuming high levels of fat, sodium, and sugar can quickly dampen the appetite. Moreover, the mistreatment of cows for the sake of a fast-food burger is a troubling reality. However, there is a glimmer of hope in the fast-food industry: grass-fed beef. But does anyone actually use this healthier alternative? Let’s take a closer look at the restaurants that embrace grass-fed beef and the reasons behind their choice.
Conventional Beef vs. Grass-Fed Beef
Burgers, fries, and chicken nuggets are designed to please the masses. Mass production, however, often compromises safety and ethics. Conventional beef comes from cows that are primarily fed grain to promote weight gain, while grass-fed beef is sourced from cows raised with greater care.
Treatment of Cows
To meet the demands of fast-food chains, beef suppliers and meat factories resort to cutting corners, mistreating animals, and producing lower-quality beef. The conditions in which cows are raised and the ingredients they are fed significantly influence the meat’s quality. Unfortunately, cows are sometimes overfed in confined spaces, provided with corn or grain mixed with antibiotics and hormones. This excessive feeding leads to overeating and unsanitary living conditions. Moreover, cows often lack proper veterinary care, resulting in premature deaths.
Not only do cows endure mistreatment throughout their lives, but the end product humans consume can be equally unhealthy. Preservatives and chemicals are added to beef to ensure its worldwide transport and enhance its flavor.
How Do You Know If It’s Really Grass-Fed Beef?
Fast food chains are legally required to label their ingredients. However, these labels can be misleading, creating the illusion of entirely grass-fed and organic beef. To decipher these labels and answer questions like “Does ‘natural’ mean ‘raised without hormones’?” or “If chicken is labeled ‘fresh,’ how can it be so rock hard?” the United States Department of Agriculture provides a set of meat and poultry labels.
Who Uses Grass-Fed Beef?
While the fast-food industry embraces healthier and less processed ingredients, only a few restaurants genuinely use grass-fed beef for their burgers, burritos, and other dishes. While many fast-food places advertise terms like “all-natural,” “low-fat,” and “farm fresh,” few can truly back up these claims.
Chipotle, often under scrutiny due to E.coli outbreaks and its GMO-free promotions, sources grass-fed beef from Australia. According to Chipotle director Steve Ells, the beef produced by these ranchers is truly “grass-fed.” The cattle graze on pastures or rangelands, consuming only grass or forages. The beef meets or exceeds the husbandry standards set forth by the American Grassfed Association. Additionally, the cattle are raised without added hormones, antibiotics, or growth promotants, aligning with Chipotle’s commitment to humane animal husbandry.
Another restaurant that prides itself on using grass-fed beef is Elevation Burger. This smaller, newer fast-food franchise founded in 2002 has gained international success by offering 100% organic, grass-fed, free-range beef. They aim to elevate the standard of typical burger joints.
BurgerFi, initially founded in Florida as a “fast-casual” restaurant, has expanded nationwide. They specialize in grass-fed beef burgers, alongside chicken and veggie burgers, and natural-beef hot dogs. BurgerFi continues to raise the bar for fast-food beef while maintaining quality and flavor.
Additional Options If You Can’t Find Grass-Fed Beef
It is evident that most fast-food joints do not offer grass-fed beef or similar alternatives. Instead of consuming conventional beef filled with chemicals, preservatives, and hormones, it is advisable to opt for meat-free menu items, such as vegetarian and vegan options.
For more information, check out these top-selling vegetarian options.
This article has been written in cooperation with Ambassadeur Hotel.