We could go on about the morality of eating grass-fed beef (if you watched Food Inc., you know cows confined to feedlots eating corn aren't very happy or healthy). But a better argument for buying grass-fed simply may be better taste and nutritional value.
It was the taste of U.S. beef, or shall we say, the lack thereof, that got Argentinean-born Pablo Liberato to start importing South American beef into the U.S. in the 90s. That and his interest in leading a healthy lifestyle. Grass-fed beef is said to have less saturated fat and more Omega-3 fatty acids - a.k.a. good fat.
While Liberato began by selling wholesale to supermarkets in New York, we have the economic crisis to thank for enabling us to buy directly from his company, Gaucho Ranch.
"The economy started getting complicated and supermarkets started paying me later each time so I changed my strategy," Liberato said. "I said to myself, I'm going to have to work more but if I bring in a higher volume to sell to a supermarket and I have to wait until it pays me, the operation of my company is going to suffer."
He now sells his beef retail online at GauchoRanch.com and out of his Miami warehouse, which he opened in early 2008. He also supplies several local restaurants.
Gaucho Ranch's beef hails from a ranch in the Uruguayan plains, where Liberato says gauchos (loosely, cowboys from the Argentinean and Uruguayan grasslands) still tend to the cattle with care and without damaging the environment.
Approximately two tons of beef are shipped from Uruguay each month in temperature-controlled containers named LD3. The beef is vacuum-sealed and lasts about 90 days from the packaging date. Liberato keeps it in a refrigerated storage facility and brings only what's needed for shipments of online orders and restaurant deliveries to the warehouse.
Different cuts of beef are sold in four-packs (skirt and ribeye) and singles (skirt, strip and ribeye). If you're so inclined, you can also splurge on a tenderloin ($84). Ground beef is sold in five-pound packs but Liberato tells us he will soon be selling it in smaller quantities. He also sells chorizo and chimichurri prepared by Don Julio, an 80-year-old expert in Uruguayan-style grilling, who caters events, including Liberato's Friday invite-only tastings for clients, chefs and friends.
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"I like that the food industry is very social," Liberato tells us. "You don't have the rigidity of the corporate world. It's more human. I like that."
We like that too.
Gaucho Ranch beef can be purchased online at GauchoRanch.com or at the Gaucho Ranch warehouse (7251 NE Second Avenue, 305-751-0775). Open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call before you go, sometimes they're out for deliveries.