The Perfect Hamburger

Photo: istockphoto.com/Jill Chen
Recipe for a greener burger, right down to the organic ketchup, mustard and relish

Recipe for a greener burger, right down to the organic ketchup, mustard and relish

Despite all the great tofu recipes out there, our love affair with the burger is not over. But no need to feel guilty — it's never been easier to create a perfect earth-friendly burger that is healthier for you and the environment.

Some penicillin with your burger?

Conventional meat is just not good for us. First mad cow followed by foot and mouth disease and now this new report released by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows a strong connection between the drug-resistant superbugs and the amount of antibiotics pumped into our livestock. The organization is recommending restrictions on the antibiotics used on livestock because of this increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They also recommend we return to having smaller, easier to manage farms.

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that at least 70 percent of the antibiotics used in America are fed to animals living on factory farms while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study showing that a strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was transmitted from reservoir animals to humans.

Happy cows

Meat from "grass fed" or "pasture raised" cows is starting to gain a following simply because the meat tastes better. Free range cows have a much nicer life being able to graze and eat a natural diet. Since corn-fed cows are not eating a natural diet, they are often unhealthier and need regular doses of antibiotics. Grass fed beef has fewer additives but is higher in Vitamin A, E and Omega-3 fatty while being lower in cholesterol.

"We are already experiencing an increase in the demand of our grass fed dairy products as this becomes the new category in dairy," says Chad Pawlak, president of Grass Point Farms currently producing grass fed dairy products.

Good for the grill and earth

Pasture-raised cattle are also better for the environment since they use fewer resources to raise. There's no need to buy or haul grains since the cows are eating off the land. With cows in the pasture there are no fetid piles of manure that have to moved using a gas-guzzling machine. Instead it remains on the land, turning into an organic fertilizer.

Speciality meats

Wild game is slowly gaining some ground in the market. Bison is a wonderfully efficient animal, more so than their bovine cousin. Bison are able to survive outside year round and that makes them more energy efficient. The meat has lower cholesterol but is higher in iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids — that adds up to one healthy burger. Read more about alternative meats in our article Exotic alternatives to beef.

Fair trade beef

Uruguay is recognized as the world-class producer of organic beef free of hormones and antibiotics. Its strict regulations require all cattle be fully traced from ranch to harvest to packaging and as a result 70 percent of production is exported.

Consider the condiments

Don't ruin your green burger by using conventional condiments filled with gluten, high fructose corn syrup, distilled vinegar and salt with a dash of food colouring. Not to mention the genetically modified vegetables grown with pesticides.

Ditch the conventional ketchup for Wholemato Organic Agave Ketchup. Sweetened with organic agave, free of preservatives, this unadultered ketchup has a pure tomato flavour. With a low glycemic index of seven, it's also suitable for diabetics. For an added kick try the spicy flavour. On sale at Whole Food stores everywhere.

Relish lovers will relish the organic sweet relish from Sunshine Farms. This company makes a whole range of pickles and their divine organic sweet relish manages to be sweet and spicy at the same time without any of the usual colouring and corn syrup sweeteners.

Round off your trio of condiments with Eden Organic Yellow Mustard, made without any artificial coloring agents, synthetic additives or refined salt and sugar. It even comes in a handy child-friendly squeeze bottle.

Add some organic cheddar cheese, top it off with a whole grain bun and you have the perfect earth-friendly burger. Read more about green barbecue techniques here.

Shelagh McNally is the former editor of Green Living Online. She prefers Bison burgers over tofu.