James Whelan Butchers: Animals are what they eat

It had to happen at some stage but for someone in the meat business it was probably the best New Year’s gift and a great way to start 2015.  What am I talking about?  The small fact that there has been a dramatic swell in the research emerging from the US that confirms grass fed beef is full of health benefits.  Not that I want to say, “I told you so” but for years I told you so.  It has been hard to convince certain quarters of this particularly with the loudness of the healthy vegetarian and vegan messages but it doesn’t make it any less true or valid.  Does it make vegetarianism or veganism wrong?  Not at all!  Thankfully we live in a free society where I would highly value our freedoms and choices but these lifestyles are just that, choices, and should be entered into on that basis and not because they are believed to be a healthier alternative.

Pat Whelan's Wagyu HerdThe word coming from the US is that beef that comes from grass fed or ‘pastured’ animals is full of nutrients and minerals that will aid the body in its quest for energy and ultimately good health.  Grass fed beef is considered a traditional food that promotes optimal health.  Such food, (and there is much that falls into this category and not just beef), has nourished the human body for hundreds of years, long before the advent of modern food processing.

It is also important that we don’t mix up terms such as ‘organic’ with ‘grass fed’ animals; they are not interchangeable terms.  100% grass fed beef is fed on grasses, sometimes hay and of course wild plant life that they find in the field.  Naturally the soil where the food comes from is also key and we are blessed here in Tipperary to have some of the best soil in the country.  I’m delighted to say that James Whelan Beef is grass fed and therefore meets all the credentials required.

Effectively grass-fed beef is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  It’s not important to understand what they are but it’s good to know that they fight inflammation and reduce the risk of type II diabetes, thyroid disorders, and obesity.  The body will also digest and metabolise grass fed beef much easier than it will grain fed or factory reared beef.  Beef also contains a special fat called CLA (conjugatd linoleic acid). CLA is unique and sought-after because it is a nutrient that can tone up and slim down the waistline.  Yes, CLA can help you lose weight!

Grass-fed beef also has other nutrients like the fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin E and the amino acids L-carnitine and carnosine. You may have already heard about the antioxidant value of vitamin E. But why are antioxidants important?  Basically antioxidants are known for their ability to protect the body from free radical damage which in a nutshell is what leads to degeneration of tissue, aging and the inflammatory response of the body.  A little oxidative stress is perfectly normal and part of the human experience but a lot of oxidative stress can seriously overburden and wear the body down.  Effectively this all helps in the area of anti aging, something that we are all interested in.

So whether it’s cooking the perfect steak or a long slow warming stew, creating an arsenal of beef recipes and experimenting with cuts and cooking methods is good knowledge to have.

There are plenty of recipes available at JamesWhelanButchers.com which is open to all 24/7 and naturally you can drop into us at The Oakville Shopping Centre where you can pick up a variety of our grass fed beef cuts.  In 2013 I also authored The Irish Beef Book which is effectively a one stop shop for all you need to know about beef and beef cookery.

While I can’t speak for every butcher in Ireland I am proud to say that generally we have an excellent beef industry in Ireland.  We have many small farms with people who take pride in producing an excellent product.  Most of these farmers come from a long line of Irish beef producers stretching back in time and so the wealth of knowledge and tradition is strong.  We have good land and a good climate for raising animals and we have a strong community within the industry.  From the consumer’ point of view it’s about asking questions and just making sure you are buying your beef from a reputable source and that’s why dealing with a craft butcher is one way of ensuring this.

So as we start another New Year and perhaps look at our resolutions for a healthy 2015 and a more nutritionally balanced year ahead don’t forget to stick a bit of beef on the menu, it’s good for your health.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of  James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Food Market Monkstown, Rathcoole & Kilmacanogue. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers


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One Response to “James Whelan Butchers: Animals are what they eat”

  1. hello Pat – I’m very excited for the arrival of Irish beef in the US – you must let me know if you are exporting. Best beef I ever had in my life was yours & I’m hopeful I can secure some here in the near future. With warm regards, Moya

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