Apr 18, 2010
Finally sustainability defined…or not.
I was eating at a popular, locally-owned steakhouse in downtown St. Louis last week. Along with the normal fare of large, prime steaks you’d expect at a white-tablecloth restaurant., the menu included a list of “Grass Fed” steaks. Each was labeled as “grass fed, organic, sustainable.” Being the inquisitive journalist I claim to be I asked our waitress, Audrey what sustainable meant.
“Um, well, I really don’t know. I think it means they’re basically treated better than other cows before they’re, well you know…”
“OK, better than what? Are you saying the other ‘cows’ are treated poorly before they’re slaughtered?” I asked. You almost could hear the crickets chirping.
After explaining to her what I do for a living I asked to speak to the manager to see if he could shed some light on the menu claims. (I had to assure her I wouldn’t complain.)
Soon the manager showed up and I posed the same question. He had a little more to offer, but not much. He said the steaks were from a single supplier about 100 miles south of St. Louis, and the cattle were raised only on grass…including “having goats, or something like that, go through the fields before the cattle to eat all the weeds and stuff. So the cattle are only eating grass.” That was it.
He couldn’t tell me if the meat was select, choice or prime. In fact, he had no idea what that meant and why it would make a difference in the flavor or tenderness of the beef.
Now, I don’t begrudge any farmer for raising and selling grass-fed beef. I don’t hold it against a restaurant for selling it and distinguishing it from traditionally-raised meats on their menu. I do question though if the wait staff should be a little more informed of what they are selling and have some answers for their customers before they sell it.