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‘Healthy’ beef: ‘Ethical eating, sustainable practices’ and great burgers

The burgers at Grassburger are not vegan.

They aren’t made out of soy, they aren’t baked in an oven, and they won’t really help you with your diet.

The grass in Grassburger, in fact, refers more to the cows’ diet than yours – every patty is made from 100 percent grass-fed beef grown on a farm in the state (or just across the border in Colorado). The difference is more than just the taste – grass-fed beef is leaner, but it’s also better for you and the planet. It has one-third fewer calories than grain-fed beef, and according to Grassburger’s menu, it may help lower the risk of cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and many other ailments.

It’s also more environmentally friendly to produce a grass-fed burger than a grain-fed one, and because ingredients are sourced locally, they don’t require as much energy to transport.

Grassburger at Montgomery and Juan Tabo NE is the company’s second location. The other is in Durango, Colo. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

Albuquerque’s Grassburger, at 11225 Montgomery NE, is an offshoot of the original in Durango, Colo., and it’s approaching two years in business in New Mexico.

The motto is “Grass Fed & Darn Healthy,” the second half of which is darn dubious – you’re still eating red meat, the potatoes are still fried in oil, the soda still contains sugar (if not high-fructose corn syrup). But Grassburger is remarkably different from a fast-food burger joint because of its commitment to what it calls “ethical eating and sustainable practices.”

Everything inside Grassburger is recycled or renewable, from the food ingredients down to the napkins. Potatoes are fried in non-GMO sunflower oil. The soda – indie hipster brands Stubborn Soda and Caleb’s Kola (both $2.50 a pop) – is made from fair-trade cane sugar and not highly processed corn syrup (though the difference in effect on the body is still a point of debate in science).

How does all this translate into taste?

The cheeseburger is lean and tasty, with a bigger patty than bun, and the produce is fresh and crisp. The fries ($2.75) are mildly seasoned, and they go great with the chipotle mayo on the side (it has a slight kick). The sodas are delicious and sweet, too. There are a few more options when it comes to fries – $3.25 for sweet potato or $3 for a mix of both.

The big difference, though, comes after the meal – you feel satisfied, not full. You feel like you got away with splurging.

Service and atmosphere are great, too; walk-up ordering is simple, the menu isn’t overwhelming, and the food is served with the speed of a drive-through. The Albuquerque location also has plenty of green chile-centric fare for local tongues, like green chile beef tacos and the green chile bowl.

Another advantage: a more healthful burger that doesn’t necessarily cost more money. A quarter-pound cheeseburger will set you back just $6.95, and you can add a fountain beverage and fries for around $10 total. Not bad for a business lunch or a dinner on the go.

If you’re a vegan-burger kind of person, actually, you’ll also find love on the menu. Theirs is made of quinoa, flax, oats and something called psyllium. (I was raised on a cattle ranch, so I’m sure the vegan burger is just lovely.)

Kids are welcome, too, with healthful choices for a younger palate. The chicken hot dog combo ($6.95) sounds promising.

A burger and fries at Grassburger are “healthy” in the sense that it’s healthy to eat food when you’re hungry, but they aren’t health foods per se.

Instead, Grassburger is delicious, indulgent food that is less unhealthy for you than the alternative, and it’s commitment to sustaining life on the planet is indeed healthful for your mind and soul.

In fact, it actually does taste better knowing the beef you’re eating was treated humanely.