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Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011

Bill Kurtis' Healthier Way of Eating

Better beef and the push for a more natural diet

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With his warm yet decisive voice, Bill Kurtis is best known for his long career in television journalism, where he's served as a news anchor and the host of documentary shows including "American Justice," "Cold Case Files" and "Investigative Reports." When he appears for a free lecture at MSOE's Todd Wehr Auditorium on Dec. 7, however, he'll be discussing one of his primary interests outside of journalism: healthy eating. Kurtis is one of the more prominent advocates of a natural-eating campaign that's known simply as the "food movement"—a response to the over-industrialization of agriculture that is at the root of America's unhealthy, hyper-processed diet.

"It's a movement that's growing quickly," Kurtis says. "Michael Pollan of The Omnivore's Dilemma is carrying the ball nicely, and with Food, Inc., the PBS documentary, it seems to be spreading, so people are more interested in healthy food. This notion that Americans are over-processed, over-salted and over-sugared, which contributes to obesity in this country, is really, in my estimation, the new tobacco for this century."

It was Kurtis' interest in healthier, more sustainable eating that inspired his side business, Tallgrass Beef, one of the country's largest distributors of grass-fed beef. Grass-fed beef is better for the environment, since grass removes carbon dioxide from the air and regrows each year, unlike corn, which must be replanted annually and requires a great deal of energy to tend. It's also more humane for the cows, which are left free to graze instead of being confined to feeding pens. And it's healthier.

"Grass-fed beef is significantly higher in omega-3s than regular beef, so it's a good alternative to salmon," Kurtis says. "It's lower in cholesterol, lower in calories and, most importantly, lower in saturated fat, which is key. It was the saturated fat in red meat that was corn-fed that gave red meat all the bad press."

Grass-fed beef is still a niche product—most Americans simply don't consider what the cows they eat are fed—but Kurtis says he has one key thing working in his favor: Grass-fed beef tastes better.

"All of us have grown up with the notion that corn-fed and marbled steak is the best we could get; they have to be shown that there's something else that's healthier and tastier," Kurtis says. "But once they are introduced to it, there are many converts, because the next time they go to have a steak, the corn-fed steak will be bland compared to the grass-fed steak, which really has the true taste of beef."

Tallgrass beef is available locally at Sendik's stores and is served at Sobelman's Tallgrass Grill, 1952 N. Farwell Ave. Bill Kurtis gives his free lecture, "Eating for the Earth," on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 11 a.m. at MSOE's Todd Wehr Auditorium.