Greek Tacos with Kale and Creamy Feta Sauce

P1018121.jpg
 Put a Greek spin on classic beef tacos with braised kale and a creamy yogurt-feta sauce.

Everyone has heard the old adage "you are what you eat," but did you know it applies to your food too?

There are only a few carnivorous recipes on my blog, but on the few I have, you'll notice I call for grass-fed meat. It's not only to make you spend more money at the store. Grass-fed meat really is worth the extra money, both for your health and that of the planet.

When you think of raising cattle, it's likely the bucolic image of cows grazing in a pasture comes to mind. Maybe you thought all cows ate grass? Not exactly. While all cows are raised on grass for their first 7-9 months of life, most cows are finished on grains in densely packed feeding lots, which allows them to rapidly gain weight. Without this practice, the average American wouldn't be eating 113.5 lbs of beef each year. Economically, it's highly beneficial to the cattle industry, who makes a huge profit producing massive quantities of beef for very little money. But at what cost to the consumer?

Nutritionally, there is a big difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef, mainly in the fat content. Because grass has a lower energy density than corn and takes more energy to digest, grass-fed beef is leaner. Grass-fed beef also has a healthier composition of fat, with about twice as much omega 3 fats as grain-fed beef (although neither is close to the omega 3 content of fatty fish). Being significantly leaner and containing a greater amount of omega 3 fat significantly changes the proportion of fats found in grass-fed versus grain-fed beef. And although all beef contains a significant amount of saturated fat, grass-fed beef contains more stearic acid, a type of saturated fat which does not appear to raise cholesterol. It is also has more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, especially carotenoids, which gives the fat it's characteristic yellowish hue.
Between the fossil fuel needed to produce grain to feed 1.5 billion cows, the massive quantities of methane released from cow belches, farts and manure lagoons (surprisingly, the greatest source of methane emissions), and the 12,000 gallons of water needed to produce a single pound of beef, eating conventional beef is one of the most destructive habits to our environment. Small scale production of grass-fed beef, however, can be done in a more environmentally friendly way. It typically uses methods like pasture rotation to fertilize the soil and eliminates many of the resources used to grow grain. Imagine the environmental impact if everyone switched to grass-fed beef. Now, you wouldn't still be able to eat 100 plus pounds a year, but that's a good thing!
Another surprising benefit has to do with food safety. Working in a hospital, I'm painfully aware of the proliferation of antibiotic resistant bacteria, like MRSA. Doctors often get the blame for overprescribing antibiotics, but did you know 75% of the antibiotics produced are used in the production of meat? Grain-fed beef requires huge amounts of antibiotics, as the switch to grain from grass causes digestive problems that are treated with a steady supply of antibiotics.
Many people feel they can't afford grass-fed meat and it's true, many can't. But for most, I think you'll find it's quite affordable when you follow a mainly plant-based diet. Conventional beef is inexpensive, but if the price tag truly reflected the cost to your health and the environment, I'm willing to bet you'd put it back on the shelf.
Greek Tacos with Kale and Creamy Feta Sauce
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: Makes 8-12, to serve 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup organic Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup mint, chopped
  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 lb kale, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 lb grass fed ground beef
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 8-12 corn tortillas
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, mix yogurt, cucumber, feta, mint, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 minced garlic clove and juice of half a lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic and kale, tossing with the oil to wilt. Cook about 7-10 minutes, tossing frequently, until wilted and tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. While the kale cooks, heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the beef, onion and 1 clove of minced garlic. Cook, crumbling the meat with a spatula as it cooks, until browned and cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. To make tacos, warm tortillas in the oven, microwave or over a flame on a gas stove. Stuff with kale, beef and top with feta-yogurt sauce.