HealthBeat: Hospitals in Laconia, Franklin bring in local beef

Last modified: Tuesday, June 18, 2013
You may not be able to make a better mouse trap, but the plethora of cooking shows, magazines and websites attest, you can make a better burger.

From sauces and toppings to cheese melted and oozing from the middle of the meat, the options are nearly limitless. But two hospitals in the Lakes Region are going back to basics and improving the quality of the meat they serve.

Franklin Regional Hospital and Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia are the first hospitals to sign up for a program bringing locally raised, grass-fed beef to their patients, staff and visitors.

The beef comes from Miles Smith Farm, where owner Carole Soule raises grass-fed Angus cattle and purchases grass-fed cows from 15 farms in New Hampshire, two in Massachusetts and two in Vermont.

The project, which launched at the beginning of the month, really started two years ago, when LRGH Room Service Supervisor Cris Rueffert organized a farmers market at the Franklin hospital, where Miles Smith Farm manned a booth.

Bringing local produce to the hospital community is one of Rueffert’s major efforts: “If you’re promoting health within your institution, you’re promoting a healthy community. Over time you just keep talking about it, you plant the seed and make small steps to a bigger generalized goal,” she said.

Grass-fed beef burgers cost the hospital 29 cents more than the previous conventional feedlot beef burgers, but for now still cost $2.75.

When I went to visit and taste-test last week, Natalie Rudzinskyj, the hospital public affairs director, and I commiserated that they had been cooked well, when we both prefer our beef “passed through a warm room,” as she said.

But the beef was still undeniably tastier than other burgers I remember. (Spicy, sweet, salty, it just had something better. I’m a health reporter, not a gourmand or restaurant reviewer. Sorry for the lack of specifics.)

In addition to a deeper flavor, grass-fed beef has lower levels of fat, calories and cholesterol and higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants than conventional feed lot beef, according to a report in Nutrition Journal in 2010.

Even grass-fed beef doesn’t have as many omega-3 fatty acids as nutritional superstar salmon and other fatty fish, but it’s summer and gosh darn it, sometimes I want a burger no matter how much I read about the better choices I could be making.

Now, visitors, patients and staff at these hospitals won’t have to feel so guilty about making that choice.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)