Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Our Farmers Say No Thanks To GM Alfalfa

Over the past several days there has been an uproar in the organic food world regarding the USDA’s approval of the use of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa. This has been an on-going debate over the past several years both in court and in the blogo-sphere. Organic food activists claim that the unregulated use of GM alfalfa will hinder farmers’ ability to produce organic dairy and meats because of seed contamination among other issues.  Monsanto claims that GM alfalfa will increase yields and assist farmers in developing nations who have little or no access to insecticides and herbicides.  I have concerns about the unknown effects of GM alfalfa on our herds and human health.

A good thing for all of us at brgr, and everyone who eats our burgers, is that we don’t have to worry about the unknown side effects of GM crops because our cows do not, and will never, eat GM alfalfa. The farmers who work hard every day to get us 100% grass fed beef for our burgers are aware of the issues surrounding GM alfalfa and honestly, they’re far less concerned with this than the throngs of tweeters and bloggers foretelling the end of organic food as we know it. For one thing, they’ve told me that alfalfa doesn’t really need pesticides or herbicides, thus diminishing the comparative advantage of GM alfalfa. Secondly, Monsanto seeds are far more expensive than normal seeds. So why would a farmer pay more for a plant that doesn’t actually require protection from weeds and bugs? Not really sure.  But our cows won’t be eating the stuff and right now that’s what matters to me. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Back To Work

The only way I know of to get over yesterday’s disappointment, is to roll up my sleeves and get back in the kitchen. Every day all of us here strive to make brgr the best company it can be and that means serving the best guilt-free burger on the face of the planet. This week we’re working on creating a new patty for our burger. While our burgers have always been made with fresh, never frozen grass-fed beef and cooked to order. It just is not in my nature to ever be satisfied. “Good enough” is not part of my vocabulary. I want brgr to be the best.

We have a lot of ideas about how we can make a great burger and today we’re going to start trying them out. A tweak to a grinder here, an extra dash of seasonings there, and you really never know what could happen. But since brgr is about pleasing everyone that walks through our doors, I really want to know what you would do to improve our burger. Leave a comment, tweet, hit us up on our facebook wall, or just come in and let us know what you think. Have a great week NY.

Friday, January 21, 2011


This has been a great week at brgr. The Jets thrashing of the Pats on Sunday really got my week off to a good start. All of us at brgr have become rabid Jets fans ever since their head chef started serving the team only 100% grass fed beef. It’s clear that the Jets’ culinary team shares our passion for sourcing the absolute best products on the market as they obtain their grass-fed beef from the same farms we use to create our delicious burgers !

The Jets’ defense clearly benefited from a healthy dose of mind-sharpening Omega-3 fatty acids and lean-muscle building CLA’s when they sought out to ruin Tom Brady’s day. I would say they did a pretty good job. Hey Tom, next time you’re in New York with Gisele, stop by one of our two locations, and we’ll hook you up with a brgr!

The Jets appreciate the nutritional values of grass-fed beef so highly that they have it flown to their away game locations too. Pittsburgh, you’ve been warned.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Our Grass-fed Decade? Century? The Mainstreaming of Grass-fed

The last decade has been big for grass-fed beef.  In 2000, grass-fed was hardly on anyone’s radar, while 2010 kicked off with one of the nation’s most trusted voices—Oprah—sharing the goodness of grass-fed beef with her viewers.  Her guest, journalist and food expert Michael Pollan, spoke about the virtues of grass-fed, both for beef and dairy, and we couldn’t help but agree.  Yes, we can’t help but notice—and be delighted—that everywhere you turn people are rethinking how they eat and what they eat.

Pollan also brought up some other points that we at brgr think a lot about too, and for which brgr is creating solutions:

  • Why don’t we know where our food comes from?  Modern life is all about ease and convenience, but the downside of that is that we often replace health with haste.  Shopping for the right ingredients, taking the time to prepare them properly, those things take a little longer, but the end result is food that’s tastier and healthier.  I know that people sometimes feel that they have to wait a little too long for the brgr, but I don’t want to give you a pre-prepared burger.  I want you to have a freshly-made, grass-fed beef brgr that tastes delicious and is better for you.
  • Why is food so cheap?  Pollan offers up an interesting statistic:  Americans now spend less on our food than “any people who ever lived, than any people anywhere on earth—9.5 percent of our income.”  That’s just crazy.  Think about how important food is to your life, to your day—it’s pleasure, it’s community, it’s family.  Then think about how much those are worth to you.  You’d probably say a lot more than 9.5 percent of your income if I asked you, right?  While I’m not saying that I want to pay through the nose to have good food, I do think that it’s worth it to pay a little bit more for food that is better for you, so that you can know where your food came from, and so that we all can feel that our choices are better for ourselves, our families, and our environment.
  • Why do processed, engineered, and shelf-stable products pass for food?  I’m not really sure.  And neither is Pollan.  The fact is that all of those foods that can sit around forever, that have ingredients you can’t pronounce, and are loaded with sugar, bad fats, and sodium really don’t have a place in our diets.  Food should be fresh, it should spoil when it’s not.  brgr’s commitment to grass-fed beef and dairy is about health, and it’s about knowing where your food comes from.  All the beef we serve is fresh, we know where it comes from, and it’s nothing but real, good food.
  • Is fat really bad for you?  Somewhere between the fat-free craze and over-processed fat-filled foods, Americans have gotten the message that all fat is bad while we’ve simultaneously gotten fatter as a nation. What gives?  The reality is that a lot of fat-free products are so loaded with sugar and calories that they’re going to make you fat even if they don’t actually contain fat.  And the fats in processed foods are bad for you, but that’s because they’re bad fats, not because fat is bad for you.  In fact, there are good fats that your body needs for good health and proper functioning that we should all strive to eat.  Grass-fed beef and dairy are rich in healthy fat.  Sure, that doesn’t mean you should eat them all day every day, but it does mean that they bring value to your diet and health to your life.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what brgr’s New Year’s resolutions will be, and though it would be great to narrow my goals down to some neat bullet points, my sense is that any resolution I have for 2011 won’t look so different from what my goals for brgr have been all along.  The fact is I simply want to keep doing better.  I want brgr to bring you more excellence and value along with better service, all while advancing our commitment to your health and healthy environment. 

"It's not that hard to eat well if you're willing to put a little more time into it, a little more thoughtfulness into it and, yes, a little bit more money," Pollan told Oprah. 

We couldn’t agree more.  Here’s to hoping that as we head into 2011, grass-fed won’t be the exception, but the rule!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Birthdays, brgr Style

Those of you who read my earlier blog post know that our grass-fed beef brgrs are nutritious and environmentally friendly to keep kids healthy and happy.  Which means that your kids get brgrs, fries, and milkshakes (the things they love), and you get to feel good about what you’re feeding them (the things you love).

It also means that while brgr’s a great place to drop into any time, it’s also a great destination for parties.  In particular, the UES brgr (on Third Avenue between 60th and 61st Street) is in the perfect location, with countless things to do and places to go with kids right outside our doors.   All that makes it easy to plan for a meal at brgr with your group before or after your city fun.

Some nearby ideas:

  • This time of year, who can resist the Central Park Wollman Skating Rink?  With plenty of space on the rink (as opposed to the rink at Rockefeller Center), you can make plans for even big groups.
  • Right next to Wollman Rink is the famed Central Park Zoo.  What better way to spend a birthday than playing with seals and tropical birds in the middle of the city? With five acres of land, the zoo is an ideal party venue.  With brgr is just a short walk away, there’s no need to hunt for options in the park. 
  • I know my kids are thrilled that Dylan’s Candy Bar is nearly across the street from brgr.  We’ve spent hours wandering this candy mecca, and the combination of sweets from Dylan’s and brgrs from brgr make for one pretty great birthday. Plus, you can feel good that you’re giving kids healthy brgrs full of omega-3s and Vitamins A and E—that should help offset all that candy! Dylan’s Candy Bar offers party packages—just let them know you‘re planning on lunch at brgr.
  • Another great option for this time of year is a tour of the city’s holiday windows.  Start at Macy’s on 34th and Broadway, make your way up to Lord & Taylor on 39th and 5th.  (Fun fact: Lord & Taylor was the first store to have windows decorated with moving scenes for Christmas.)  From there, walk up 5th Avenue to see Saks, Barney’s, and Bendel’s.  Make a stop at 59th and 5th to see the 32-foot tall Menorah, then head on over to Bloomingdale’s on 59th and Lexington.  Before you know it, you’ll be a block away from your destination, and some nice, hot brgrs and fries.  Ahh…

Whether brgr’s your destination in its own right or the fuel for your fun, nothing says “Happy Birthday” quite like a brgr, fries, and a milkshake.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

First of all, the important stuff: both brgrs will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, but we’ll be open—and waiting for you to come in and take a load off (and fill up on something other than turkey)—on Friday, and for the rest of the weekend.  At Third Avenue (between 60th and 61st—right around the corner from Bloomingdale’s) we’re even opening a couple of hours earlier on Black Friday—at 9 am instead of 11 am—to accommodate any shoppers who might need to fuel up before, after or while they hit the sales.

Now for actual Thanksgiving Day…  While Thanksgiving might not exactly be a brgr holiday, as we head into Thursday, I confess that I am looking forward to turkey as much as anyone.  Sure, that’s partly because brgr is closed that day so I have to look for other options, but it’s also because there are really great turkey choices out there.  While there is no such thing as a grass-fed turkey, I have been looking into turkeys raised with the same core values as our grass-fed beef.  (Why, you might ask, have I been doing research on this?  Well, as you know we have three delicious turkey brgrs on our menu, and I’m currently working on finding a farm that can provide us with the same sustainable product that’s in keeping with the values we bring to all of our grass-fed beef brgrs.)  The general rule is to avoid turkey that is raised in confined spaces and fed only a grain diet.  Basically, you want a turkey that’s spent it’s life on pasture (and been moved to fresh pasture every day) eating grass, clover, insects, worms, and anything else they come across.  This diet has the same effect on turkeys that a natural, grass-fed diet has on cows:  it makes their meat tastier and healthier.  And, of course, it’s better for the environment. 

I know that many of you likely have your turkeys already, but if not—or in planning ahead for next year—there are a few things to look for when shopping for a more responsible turkey:  1) Look for a heritage turkey.  These are genetically diverse birds that are of the same species that existed in the past. They’re raised outdoors on a natural diet. 2) Look for organic and/or sustainable choices at your local butcher shop, or 3) Check out your local farmers market.  You might be surprised at the local, sustainable choices.    

The availability of good options when it comes to turkeys and beef makes me optimistic that we’re beginning to embrace real change in the way we eat, our need to know where our food comes from, and our desire for all of our foods to be grown and raised the way nature intended.  Those are brgr’s values, and it makes me happy to see them becoming mainstream rather than exceptional.

Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope to see you on Friday—loaded down with shopping bags and ready for a tasty grass-fed beef brgr.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No Kidding—Why Grass-Fed Is Good for Kids

There are few things that are more important to me than being a good dad. That means getting home in time for games, acting as chauffeur when required, being there to help with homework, counseling through crisis—the list goes on. And as you might expect, I can’t help but have my family—and what’s good for them—in mind when I think about what’s good for brgr.

It was a flurry of articles about problems with traditional meat processing—stories about E. coli, tainted meat, and hamburgers made from things that I certainly wouldn’t want to feed my kids—that got me interested in grass-fed beef. Because while grass-fed is the better choice for everyone, it’s a particularly great choice for kids. Why? 1) I know better than anyone how hard it can be to get your kids to eat things, but most (with the exception of one of my sons) kids are pretty happy to sit down with a burger. So if you can give them a healthier option for food that they’d eat anyway, that’s pretty great. And 2) Kids are one of the most vulnerable groups out there—they’re fragile, they’re susceptible, and the idea of feeding them something that might hurt them is just not okay for me. From farm to table, we at brgr know exactly where our meat comes from, how it was handled, and what’s in it. Eating a hamburger shouldn’t feel like a risk, and I like the idea that our grass-fed brgrs are genuinely good food.

Plus, the basic fact is that there is a lot about grass-fed beef that parents can feel good about:
  • High levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. These essential building blocks for body chemicals promote cell growth, blood clotting, brain development, and cholesterol and fat metabolism. They are also necessary for a child’s brain and nervous system to properly develop. (A side note: Studies have shown that low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to attention deficit disorders. Children with low levels were significantly more likely to be hyperactive, have learning disorders, and to display behavioral problems. http://www.mercola.com/beef/adhd.htm)
  • Lots of beta carotene. Yes, yes, you know this is good for you. That’s why you eat your carrots. But since grass-fed cows eat lots of natural forage that’s rich in beta carotene that gets passed on to our grass-fed beef brgrs. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A (retinol) by the body, which is necessary for good vision and eye health, and helps build a strong immune system.
  • Contains the cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Whether you’ve heard of CLA or not, it’s worth knowing that experiments have shown that CLA lowers body fat percentage in children between the ages of 6 and 10. It may also reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.
  • Virtually no risk of E. coli. Since kids are especially susceptible to any illness, it’s important to feed them the safest burger possible. While food-borne illnesses can be terrifying, studies show that grass-fed cattle, with their low levels of stomach acid, have dramatically fewer E. coli in their intestines than grain-fed cattle. That means there is virtually no-risk of E. coli in grass-fed meat.
I know these facts aren’t going to thrill your kids (but the thought of a brgr and a milkshake will!), but they are pretty thrilling to a parent. I’m not sure when it became the norm to accept a certain amount of risk when enjoying a simply hamburger, but my feeling is that’s just not the way it should be. I should be able to take my kids to a restaurant where I feel good about what they’re eating. And that is behind everything we do at brgr.