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The Secret Grass Fed Burger

March 8, 2011

Cows eat grass. Well, perhaps I should rephrase that. Cows are built to eat grass. Their teeth are shaped just right to chew it and their digestive system is optimized for the challenge.

Do you know what happens when cows eat grass? They take longer to get up to market weight, they generally require fewer antibiotics, and they cost a whole lot more when sold as meat. I’m one of those people who think it is worth the extra money to eat animals that were allowed to live a life for which they are physiologically suited.

And it’s not because I have money to burn. I don’t. By trying to eat more expensive meat, I end up eating less meat. But I think that’s okay.

Still, it’s difficult to maintain this desire to be an ethical omnivore when eating out. Precious few restaurants serve sustainably raised grass-fed beef, and those that do often charge a princely sum for it. That was one of the reasons I was so excited to see a grass-fed burger in the cafeteria of a museum on my recent trip to D.C.

Well, I stumbled onto another grass-fed burger, this time in the Capital Region. But you might not know it to see it.

Max London’s restaurant in Saratoga Springs launched a new lunch menu in January. Yes, I know it’s March. But if chef Dan Spitz had read my Open Letter to Capital Region Chefs, he could have had this story up here a long time ago. Still, I take full responsibility for depriving you of this information. I will try to do better in the future.

Anyhow, the menu doesn’t list a grass-fed burger. Rather it states simply:

Grilled Cheeseburger
Mayo, Sheldon Farms frites + pickles 13

To the untrained eye, this just looks like a very expensive cheeseburger with some special fries made with presumably local potatoes. But way over yonder, at the bottom of another column of the menu is a listing of the restaurant’s “Featured Farms.” There we learn that the restaurant’s ground beef comes from Lewis Waite Farm in Greenwich, NY.

Well, that helps explain why the burger is expensive. But that’s as far as the menu goes. It names the farm and tells you where it is.

My guess is that most people are simply happy knowing their burger is coming from a nearby farm and that the meat didn’t come from a factory farm. Heck, I’d be tickled to enjoy a burger like that anytime. It fits within the guidelines of my Meat Sheet.

But Lewis Waite Farm is given short shrift on the menu. Their meat is a lot more special than just being local. Lewis Waite Farm specializes in dry-aged, grass-fed and grass-finished beef.

I’ve got a lot of love for that. Which is why Max London’s has made the list of Good Stuff.

$13 for a local grass-fed and grass-finished burger is expensive, but by no means is it unreasonable. I can’t wait to get up there and try it for myself. In the meantime, I hope you can go and enjoy this rare treat. And feel free to tell your friends. A burger this special shouldn’t be kept a secret.


8 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    March 8, 2011 10:56 am

    Interesting – the menu used to clearly label this as the “Mack Brook Farm Cheeseburger” during the summer season. Mack Brook’s meat is super expensive (well, at least the priciest at Honest Weight), so I’m assuming they changed suppliers to Lewis Waite to save on cost as their stuff is a little more affordable, but just as good and certainly of the highest quality.

    Daniel, have you seen this?

    If a college cafeteria can serve up grass-fed beef, I’m not sure why most higher end restaurants in the area are unable to, especially with the vast number of grass farmers in this area.

  2. March 8, 2011 11:48 am

    I’m a burger fiend. I would like this burger.

  3. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    March 8, 2011 12:00 pm

    The key word here is “grass-finished.” That is the real deal. Far too many purveyors, including The Meat House, label their beef “grass-fed,” implying that it is grass-finished as well but, alas, it is not. Most grass-fed beef is in fact corn-finished.

  4. March 8, 2011 1:44 pm

    I don’t go out to eat very often, but I noticed at a recent visit to Midtown Tap & Tearoom that they have a 100% grassfed burger from a Vermont farm on their menu. So there’s that.

  5. March 8, 2011 7:01 pm

    Meat labeling can be very confusing. If something is going to be sold as grass fed, I don’t understand why it would be corn finished. It would seem to defeat the purpose. I would imagine saying “grass finished” could imply a near lifetime of corn and 1 month of grass.

    That said, we raise a few steers and they get a small scoop of corn in the morning and another in the late afternoon. Other than those 2 small scoops, all they eat is hay or grass. I don’t want to get into an argument about which is better (corn vs. grass fed) but just wanted to point out that grass fed only is not necessarily the sole indicator of “happy.” I think our cattle are very happy. They often run and play together. They once even kind of played their own version of soccer. It was quite a sight.

    And these steers LOVE corn. I would not have believed it unless I saw it, but in the summer when the cows are out in the pasture, all it takes is a loud “C’mon” calling them to the barn to set them off running for their scoop of corn.

    • March 9, 2011 10:18 am

      In a former life, I was a dairy farmer’s wife and after we sold off the dairy herd, we grew beef. I can totally confirm what Jon is saying. All summer long our ‘beefers’ would hang out in the pasture eating grass and hay. In the winter their diet was supplemented by corn.

      The meat was wonderful. It had a sweetness to it.

      My office is just down the street from Max London’s. I’ll have to check out the burger.

  6. March 8, 2011 8:28 pm

    Nice post. Both Mack Brook & Lewis-Waite have great grass-fed beef. It’s nice to see either on local menus whether as hamburger, steak or another fashion. I’m curious, though. Why the “presumably” in front of local when describing Sheldon Farms potatoes? So far as I know, they are most definitely local – from Salem in Washington County.

  7. January 21, 2012 1:46 am

    Just came back from a late night (for me) burger at the bar. You have got to try their burger, it’s so frigging good. And when you say medium rare, it’s perfectly medium rare. So good.

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