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Wed 5 Nov 2008 04:00 AM

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Nature versus nurture

As the growing trend for healthy eating causes the restaurant-going public in the Middle East to seek out more natural and organic menu options, it is important for chefs to consider exactly where their foodstuffs come from and how they are produced.

As the growing trend for healthy eating causes the restaurant-going public in the Middle East to seek out more natural and organic menu options, it is important for chefs to consider exactly where their foodstuffs come from and how they are produced.

Chefs could inadvertently be feeding their customers things such as antibiotics and growth hormones in every steak they serve unless they are able to trace the origins of their meat from field to fork, according to Dr Christoph Weder, the spokesperson and chair of marketing for Prairie Heritage Beef Producers, shareholder in Prairie Halal Foods (PHF), a partnership of seven companies originating from the Canadian province of Alberta that recently launched an office in Dubai to market and sell Halal beef, bison and elk meat to top-end restaurants in the Middle East.

All the companies involved in this partnership place a strong emphasis on natural and organic meat production.

Weder explains that most industrialised models of beef production are dependent on feeding large quantities of grain to cattle in order to promote rapid growth, but this method has a negative impact on the animals themselves - and on the environment.

"Our ranchers raise their beef without the use of antibiotics, artificial growth hormones or animal by-products," he says.

"It sometimes upsets people that we promote our beef in this way because it draws attention to that fact that as a rule, farmers do use these artificial methods to stimulate growth in their cattle and that isn't a fact producers want the steak-eating consumer to consider."

The Heritage Angus Beef that the Weder family raises on its Spirit View Ranch is produced from hand-picked cattle that graze on natural grasses.

"Commodity beef programmes are dependent on feeding large qualities of grain to cattle - as well as all kinds of unnatural supplements - in order to force rapid growth, but this method has an extremely detrimental effect on the cattle and on the environment," says Prairie Heritage co-founder Erika Weder.

"But we firmly believe that the health of the land and the health of the cattle are key to producing healthy beef - it just seems like good common sense to us."

Sarah Gain is the editor of Caterer Middle East.

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