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Thursday, April 4, 2019

From shit to ritz, are these really the 'best' hamburgers in all of Bergen County, N.J.?

LESS IS MORE: A Pacific Salmon Burger and a Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burger, both from Costco Wholesale, are all the burger I need. I slipped them into a warm Syrian pocket bread with a slice of reduced fat Swiss Cheese, organic greens, pesto and Dijon mustard, and had Costco's Ultimate Fish Stick and a Campari tomato on the side.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- With few exceptions, newspapers, magazines, morning TV shows and other media have done a great job of hiding the secrets of how food is churned out on America's industrial farms.

One of the darkest chapters involves beef, according to Consumer Reports, The New York Times and a few others.

But that doesn't stop The Record of Woodland Park, its affiliated (201) magazine and others from grinding out article after article on the 5, 10, 15 "best" burgers and hot dogs, usually made with mystery meat raised on harmful antibiotics and growth hormones.

I recall the shock I felt when Consumer Reports magazine reported in 2015:

Unlike grass-fed cattle, "in the feedlot, corn and soy are the primary foods, but conventional cows also may be fed candy, chicken-coop waste [including feces], and the slaughterhouse remains of pigs and chickens."

"They also may be given plastic pellets, which are used as a substitute for the fiber they'd normally get from grazing on grass," the magazine said.

Harmful antibiotics

Why should you be concerned whether the 100% beef hamburger you love came from an industrial farm?

"Many factory farms use and abuse antibiotics," according to Consumers Union, the policy and action division of Consumer Reports magazine.

"Here is why this is so dangerous: 70 percent of the most important antibiotics -- the ones we need to survive deadly illnesses -- are used on animals instead of people in the U.S.

"Overabusing antibiotics accelerates the process of antibiotic resistance. Already, more than 23,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant superbugs," Consumers Union said in 2017.

Blake Horton, described as an "intermittent faster," is the cover model for (201) magazine's April 2019 issue. He was photographed at an Englewood restaurant after he "hadn't eaten in 18 hours." Freaky.

(201) magazine

On more than a dozen pages in the April 2019 issue of (201) magazine, Esther Davidowitz and Rebecca King engage in the hard sell on "BERGEN'S BEST BURGERS" (Page 50).

Davidowitz is the food editor and King a food writer The Record, my local daily newspaper, and on North Jersey.com, and their constant nagging may have something to do with why readership has plummeted since Gannett Co. took over in 2016.

On Pages 50-58 of the magazine, readers find close-up photos of the 15 so-called best burgers and the places that serve them, including a double cheeseburger from White Manna in Hackensack I don't hesitate to call shit.

I read and searched, but could find no mention of whether any of the 15 are made with grass-fed beef free of harmful antibiotics and other nasty stuff.

Veggie burgers, more

But just when you think that's all there is, Davidowitz throws a few morsels to people like me who don't eat meat with photos and descriptions of three veggie burgers.

Then, to really confuse matters, that's followed with a two-page feature on "the man behind North Jersey's best burger," Steve Chrisomalis Jr., owner of Steve's Burgers in Garfield.

His burger was shown among the original 15 on Pages 50-58, but not identified as best of the best.

There's more

If you don't have enough heartburn, that's followed by another feature on Chef Peter Loria, identified as the man who makes "Bergen's most gourmet burger," The Matisse Burger (with sirloin, short rib and brisket).

Let's call it the ritz. Still, that burger is omitted on the pages describing the original 15.

And that's not all.

On Pages 92-93, in Travel, Davidowitz describes a baker's dozen of burgers she claims are "worth the drive ... calories ...and grease stains" -- available as close as Hawthorne and as far away as Morristown.

One served in Manhattan is made with sirloin stuffed with foie gras and truffles for $35.

All I can say is I'm glad I long ago stopped eating beef and poultry, and now focus on a diet of wild seafood, whole grains, vegetables and fruit.

I got agita just looking at all that beef, bacon, full-fat cheese and greasy fries.

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