Fire up the grill for some healthy grass-fed beef

Skeptical about the source of “healthy” food products such as grass-fed beef? Visit the cattleman. Visit the cows. Not practical? Following is an in-person report on one rancher’s operation. 

Jared Holve, 58, a former minor league baseball player and lifelong coach, has been “doing the cattle thing since high school after showing a steer that won.” At six-foot-six, he looks like a walking testament to eating healthy. Holve raises grass-fed beef under the name Springville Ranch.

On a recent Saturday, about a dozen adults and a half dozen children were treated to a slide show at the Springville Ranch with narration by Holve on the benefits of his product before going out to see the cows along with some chickens, ducks and turkeys, all free range of course.

Holve says his grass-fed beef operation is the largest in California. Benefits of eating grass-fed beef include: it is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids;  it contains high levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (which aids in weight loss); lowers the risk of  such diseases as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, type II diabetes and Parkinson’s;  grass-fed beef is lower in fat and calories, and rich in beta-carotene and vitamins A and E; the cattle are raised without antibiotics or hormones; it is dry aged and 100 percent natural—the way nature intended.

“Grass-fed can mean this much,” Holve said, spreading his hands apart like one describing a large bass they have caught. “All cattle in the U.S. are grass-fed and then they go to a feed lot and are corn fed.” This can take 90 to 120 days. That’s where they put the fat on, the marbling that helps keep the meat tender, but is not “good” for humans. Holve says not only is grass-fed beef much better for human consumption than grain fed, but this meat is “far more healthy than farm-raised fish” (which is dominating the seafood selection in your supermarket these days) because farm-raised fish are fed grain.

 Cattle are ruminants; their stomachs are better at digesting grass, not grain. To increase marbling and rapidly increase weight gain, “the contemporary beef cow is being selected for the ability to eat large quantities of corn and efficiently convert it to protein without getting too sick,” according to “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan.

The cows we visit are standing knee deep in a field of rye grass, a variety that grows year round. It is irrigated with water from the local Tule River, fed by snow runoff from the Sierras. To keep the grass tall, the herd is moved to different sections by simply running an electric fence, just one strand attached to slender metal poles, around a given area.

 Holve began by managing a cattle ranch in Springville almost 40 years ago, mostly Herefords. He said there was a big transition to European breeds in the 1970s and ‘80s. “I followed the trends a little bit but then stopped and ended up just doing commercial cattle, middle-of-the-road type cattle.” The majority of his stock is purebred Angus. Two years ago he started selling beef locally, to buyers looking to purchase half a cow. Last November he began selling his grass-fed beef at farmers markets as fresh-from-the-farm T Bone, New York, Rib Eye, Porterhouse and Sirloin steaks, and most other cuts including roasts and ground beef.

The thing to remember is that very lean steaks should not be cooked past medium rare (generally the preference for beef eaters) or it will become “something akin to shoe leather” according to the Springville Ranch. First coat the meat with Virgin Olive Oil then place over a medium-hot fire, searing both sides for a minute. Then reduce the heat and continue cooking at temperatures close to 200 degrees F, or until the internal temperature is 150 degrees or medium rare (about six minutes on each side). To your good health.

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