Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Your Chipotle Burrito, Brought to You by Australia

American taste for a high-end, healthy beef is getting some Australian flavor. Demand for grass-fed beef, derived from cows that roam and graze freely their entire lives, is on the rise. But most U.S. farms raise cattle conventionally, meaning that cows are treated with antibiotics and hormones, fed a corn-based grain diet, and usually kept indoors. So to find grass-fed beef, companies are looking nearly 9,500 miles away. Australian beef exports to the U.S. have been steadily increasing, and Safeway, Organic Valley, Stop & Shop, and other food suppliers have already turned to sourcing grass-fed beef from Australian farms. Last week, another household name hopped on the bandwagon headed Down Under: Chipotle. The burrito giant has recently begun sourcing some of its beef supply from ranches in southern Australia, Beef Central reports. The U.S. supply of domestic responsibly raised beef, Chipotle says, isn't growing fast enough to meet demand. Unlike the continental U.S., the Australian landscape is ideal for raising grass-fed cows for meat production. NPR's Dan Charles explains: Curt Lacy, an agricultural economist at the University of Georgia, says some of the reasons are pretty simple. Weather, for instance. In most of the U.S., it freezes. In Australia, it doesn't. So in Australia, as long as there's water, there's grass year-round. And then there's the issue of land. "If you're going to finish animals on grass, it takes more land," Lacy says. Grassland in Australia is relatively cheap and plentiful, and there's not much else you can do with a lot of it, apart from grazing animals...more

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