Costco ditches grass-fed beef, so I get my protein from tentacles
Update (3/14/13): Thanks very much to commenters Denise, John, and Jeremy (see comments section below) for sharing what they've learned by looking into this issue. In an email from Costco, Denise was told that "The organic ground beef is NOT 100% grass fed and is not labeled as such. The majority of the animals that are utilized for the program are exclusively grass fed but some of the animals are finished on organic grain. This is true and consistent throughout the US." Check out the comments for details.
When I signed up for my Costco membership, I was thrilled to see that my local store carried 100% grass-fed ground beef at a price considerably lower than the co-op at which I usually buy meat. I recently noticed that, in the section where I had normally picked up the packages of grass-fed beef, Costco was now offering "Organic Ground Beef." This beef is USDA Organic, with no added antibiotics or growth hormones, but nowhere on the package does it say anything about grass-fed, so I must assume that the cows are not grass-fed. (*see update below)
I contacted Costco via their website to express my disappointment and ask whether there was any possibility that the 100% grass-fed ground beef might return to stores. I received this reply:
We appreciate you taking the time to email Costco Wholesale.
Our buyers occasionally review the possibility of re-introducing products. I will forward your e-mail to them so they are aware of your interest, as we value our member's input.
If you are a Costco member and are also interested in seeing 100% grass-fed ground beef return to stores, call or email Costco.
Does your Costco carry grass-fed ground beef? Has it, like South Seattle, switched over to "Organic"? Let me know in the comments.
While I walked around Costco, looking at the massive amounts of the foods I used to love but no longer lug into my cart, I thought about how different my diet has become over the last few years. As a child, when I would agree to eat at all, I would only eat macaroni with butter or the stuff from the blue box, and later I grew to like Top Ramen. Costco's aisles are replete with juvenile indulgences: half an aisle offers dozens of different candy brands, including my recently-kicked addiction, Hi-Chew.
After today's Costco visit, I swung by Uwajimaya, the amazing grocery store in Seattle's International District, to pick up some chicken feet for making broth. Last month, I had been looking for organic chicken feet at the farmer's market, but nobody had them. So I decided to check Uwajimaya.
I made my way to the meat section through the back of the store, and without meaning to, I acquired an armload of stuff, much of which I can't find at my usual grocery stores: kombu (edible seaweed), $2.99/lb; wild sockeye for $8.99/lb; a bit of octopus, $18.99/lb; frozen squid, $5.49/lb.
Eventually, I found the meat counter. When I asked about chicken feet, the man behind the counter brought out a huge bin. I could have as many as I wanted. Price: $1.99/lb. I wanted a lot.
When I arrived in Seattle, I was a vegetarian. Even when I started eating paleo, I wasn't thinking about chicken feet. They feel like little hands. They'll make a good, gelatinous broth.
Although Costco offers competitive prices on some of my dietary staples, like canned salmon and tuna, these items are carried by Costco because of their popularity. I don't know the first thing about how seafood pricing works, but I do know that some species of salmon in the Pacific Northwest are in decline, and the tuna population is under even more pressure. I try to eat fish almost every day if I can, because I digest the fats in fish more easily than any other animal fats, and eating fish just makes me feel all-around awesome. But drawing from populations under pressure is not only costly, but taxing upon our environment.
Looking at the massive case of frozen seafood at Uwajimaya, I realized that there is an alternative to cutting back on salmon and tuna: there are varieties in that case about which I know nothing, and many are more affordable than my favorite varieties. Squid is not as high in omega-3 fats as wild caught salmon, but it does have some, and the squid populations are not currently in danger. NOAA's FishWatch site provides information about which populations are overfished and which are thriving. Other good choices include Pacific sardines, Atlantic sea scallops, Pacific halibut, and Atlantic herring. Check the site for more.
While I'm happy about Uwajimaya's prices and the prospect of incorporating more sustainable seafood into my diet, what excited me most about the shopping trip was leaving the store with almost nothing I had ever bought before. I definitely didn't know what to do with squid, octopus, or kombu, but I was going to have to figure it out, and there's nothing wrong with that. I didn't have any grass-fed ground beef, but I didn't care.
I compiled a list of some potentially paleo-friendly Costco items and added a few to the list today. Visit that post to see the list.