Grass-fed Beef Flavor

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by butcherman, Oct 24, 2012.

  1. butcherman

    butcherman

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    Growing up working in a gourmet butcher shop taught me to love the flavor of good food, skillfully prepared, but especially beef.  For me, a standing rib roast or a 2" steak on the grill with, of course, the side dishes and a nice, big Red is The Ultimate.

    I was drawn to try grass-fed for its health benefits. And...what a surprise.  Whether it's on the grill, on the stovetop or in the oven, the smell of it cooking is NASTY, and the taste is worse. Exceptionally unenjoyable.  Texture is dense, tough and dry.  Switched vendors: no difference. Have consulted the purveyors, and a prominent grass-fed cookbook writer, and everyone gives me that Elephant In The Room reaction. I am looking right at an elephant, and they are cutting their eyes at me and asking, what elephant?

    And even worse.  The Missouri online purveyor has a video on his site which features a country club chef waxing eloquent about grassfed beef and, in mid interview, rips off a hunk of the raw beef and chews it. (I did that in the butchershop, but I wouldn't try it with grassfed.)  And the diners at this country club stood up, one after another, and testified to the delicious beef.  Am I nuts? Or is this a parallel universe?

    I have been lurking in the curtains, reading your Forum and reveling in the wisdom.  I signed up for one purpose: to ask this question about grassfed flavor.  What can you share with me, Cheftalkers?
     
  2. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    There is no doubt that grass fed beef has a different flavor than corn-fed.  You may be particularly sensitive to the difference because of your butcher background.  I don't have the financial luxury of buying grass fed beef often but I do enjoy the flavor of it and have never noticed an offensive smell. 

    If the health of the cows and the future of the cattle industry is of importance to you then I'd say keep at it.  Sometimes in this over processed world we tend to forget what "real" food tastes like.  Artificial flavors, colors and preservatives change our chemistry and our expectation of food.  Try to remember that grass is what cows are supposed to eat, remember that corn is not a food they process easily and often leads to health problems and is responsible for e coli.  Eventually you may get used to it.

    Also there is such a thing as grass-fed-corn-finished beef you may enjoy.
     
  3. genemachine

    genemachine

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    A lot of it just depends on your expectations, I guess - Here in Europe, massive feedlot operations were never the norm. I am used to grass-fed. My favorite beef is from a farmer pasturing them on salt meadows on the Baltic Sea cost. When I worked on a project in the US for 6 months a couple of years ago, I found the corn-fed beef decidedly weird. Not bad or nasty, but, well, not beefy enough for my taste.
     
  4. maryb

    maryb

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    I buy grass fed beef from a local farmer. They take care of cutting/wrapping/and deliver to my door cheaper than I can get in the grocery store. They do finish for 4 weeks on their own organic grain and that takes out the gamey flavor. I have had grass fed only and I think it tastes closer to venison than beef most people are used to. As far as dry and tough grass fed beef needs to be cooked at lower temps and for shorter times because it is much leaner.
     
  5. butcherman

    butcherman

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    Thanks for the responses K and Mary and Gene.

    K, I tried that "it's good for the world" chant, and it didn't work. Yuck is yuck.

    Mary, You hit the nail; grassfed tastes gamey, like venison. Actually, like venison larded with pig liver.

    Gene, I'd love to sample beef fed on that salt-meadow grass; and perhaps they are those giant white Charlois said to be so tasty?

    Therefore, the interim answer seems to be, Yeah, grassfed beef tastes gamey, nasty. (So, why are folks insisting I'm nuts; that it tastes fine?)  Interim answer # 2: Try a hybrid, grassfed and corn finished.  PS:  What are Morton's, Palm, Smith & Wollensky et al using? CAN"T be grass.

    Are any of the 500 HP professional chefs prowling the Forum?  BDL, you out there?
     
     
  6. french fries

    french fries

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    I was born in France, so eating grass fed beef. When I came to the U.S., corn-fed beef was a new thing to me. I thought it was tender but not as flavorful, a little blander. Now I'm used to it and I can eat either corn fed or grass fed, I enjoy both. I still believe that grass fed has a superior beef taste, while corn fed to me is blander and a tiny bit nastier tasting. That's what surprises me in your comments: IMO the grass fed beef tastes cleaner, albeit stronger, than the corn fed. 

    Guess this is all a question of what you were raised on. 

    In any case grass fed certainly shouldn't have a nasty odor AT ALL. Are you purchasing vacuum packed grass fed beef by any chance? 
     
  7. genemachine

    genemachine

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    Butcherman - no Charolais, but Blonde d'Acquitaine and Limousin, though I do have a source for grassfed Charolais too.

    Interestingly, those races are all rather slow-growing and do not put on much fat, yet they seem to take particularly well to grass feeding.

    You won't see any strong marbling, but that is somewhat deceptive, as they develop very finely distributed intramuscular fat. I never had a tough, dry, stringy or gamey-tasting piece of meat from the producers I buy from.

    In the end, it's about your personal taste and a rather academic discussion regarding which is "superior". I had great grain-fed beef, too, but rarely.

    My only ethical stance on the issue is that I will not touch anything coming out of a CAFO. That stuff is just wrong.
     
  8. kippers

    kippers

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    We know about beef over here in the UK after all we gave the world "mad cow" and just think of a world without Boston Legal.

    One of the rules re mad cow was the animal had to be slaughtered young, this led to farmers over here rearing the very fast growing and large breeds like Charolais which compare to an Angus or Welsh Black on the time limited  slaughter would be about 15% heavier on the hoof.

    Butcherman, what breed did your grass fed beef come from, how long had it been hung, was it dry or wet aged, what was the distance it was transported from field to slaughter, how long was it in the slaughter house fields waiting to be wacked.

    I buy what is called a choice cut over here, it is the rump, sirloin and fillet  in one piece on the bone.I pay for the chunk freshly killed, the small local slaughter house only whacks its own beef or buys on the hoof from local markets.The beef is then dry hung till its outside cut edges turns a bit black, mouldy and a bit smelly.I trim this off and feed it to my dog.The flavor is immense and you can cut it with your finger. 

    Grass/Corn fed matters not a jot if the husbandry, slaughter and the maturing is crap the meat will be crap. 
     
  9. butcherman

    butcherman

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    You folks are certainly justifying my decision to post this query here.  Lotsa good thoughts.  Thanks.

    Biggest possible Aha!:  The beef I purchased was shipped UPS, vacuum packed, frozen, packed in dry ice. At receipt, the meat had begun to thaw at the surface. Tossed the cuts into the freezer.  No idea of hang time or dry vs wet or, of course, slaughtering procedure. As I type that admission, it sounds stupid for a former meatcutter to ignore key issues like aging method, but my eye was fixed on the sacred concept of GraaaaassFed, and the (apparently valid) health negatives of consuming meat of animals which had munched corn.  The two vendors were Slanker Meats in North Texas and US Wellness in Missouri. If you Google the latter and visit their site, you can see some promotional videos that are first rate marketing pieces.  Nice people, too.

    The beef I sold (and ate!) was Choice and Prime Angus; I recall that the delivery weights specified for purveyors was at the light end of the range for a given piece (hindquarter, side, etc), the specification reflecting a preference for young animals. (Not arguing the validity, just explaining what my experience was.) The taste was exquisite; distinct beef taste with what I would describe as a sweetness overlay. Today's steak I snag at the supermarket in those stupid plastic trays is, by comparison, faint-flavored and soft-textured. But, better that than, ugh, pig liver on the grill!
     
     
  10. butcherman

    butcherman

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    PS to Gene:  I hadda go Google your term, CAFO.  Having done that I endorse your comment. I've lingered near Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in Greeley, Colorado and El Paso, Texas, and one's nose knows: this ain't healthy, for the animals, for the neighbors, for the earth, for the consumers.

    Thanks for another bump-up in my IQ.
     
     
  11. maryb

    maryb

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    I looked over both websites and no mention of what age they butcher at, what breed, and where they source the cattle from. I did have some grass fed beef that was range raised for 2 years that was super gamey and tough. Farmer I buy from butchers young to keep the meat tender and are all black angus. Look for your local farm to table website and buy direct and not from a middleman that is sourcing the beef from who knows where.
     
  12. french fries

    french fries

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    Vacuum packed would be responsible for the smell. Frozen means the texture is going to be even tougher. I never, ever freeze or buy frozen beef as I find it affects the texture too much. 
     
  13. deltadude

    deltadude

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    butcherman, I grew up on a dairy ranch, the only meat we ate is what we raised, later as an adult and father of 3, I bought either whole / half / and some quarters of range raise professionally butchered beef, however some hay was used in their feed. I don't recall in general the meat ever being tough, stringy, smelly, or having a distinct flavor difference compared to store bought fresh meat. I will say though that one of the whole steers we bought I remember the steaks being unusually tougher than normal, yet the difference was a matter of degrees, and did not make the meat unpalatable.

    So your experience does not match mine, and I can't explain the difference.
     
  14. genemachine

    genemachine

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    I'd say that only applies to bad vacuum packing. One of my sources I can only get vacuumed, but it is not off the slightest bit compared to the other purveyor selling directly. As kipper said above - if there is a mistake in husbandry, slaughter, maturing - and I may add - packaging, the product will suffer. But vacuum packing as such doesn't kill it. Freezing won't help though, I agree with you there.
     
  15. kippers

    kippers

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    In my small local village we have three Butchers shops, the oldest one with the longest queue has been run by the same man for 35yrs. He lives locally so he cant afford to sell crap meat.Every tuesday his meat arrives from the same local slaughterhouse I use, it arrives in half and whole format ie half pig,steer, whole lamb. He then keeps it in his chill room  then butchers it. I only buy his free range chickens that his son rears but I enjoy the "crack" in the queue.Packaging he uses grease proof paper.

    Freezing, because I buy and butcher my own meat ect I use a vacpac machine.The texture of frozen beef steak only comes into question if the meat is poorly hung and wet. The ice crystals within the tissue will expand and break said tissue when thawing, 

    The beef I use is hung for around 35 to 40  days so the moisture (profit) is at its lowest.

    Ps at our second home my nephew catches octopus for a living, they are bagged wet and frozen for two weeks before they are sold to restaurants.
     
  16. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    My daddy (not dad, guess it's a southern thing) raised cattle for our personal use as well as a bit of extra income.

    I married a cotton farmer (hubs # 1) and we also raised cattle for personal use.

    In both situations the animals grazed the mixture below (give or take the %, we just bought the seed, mixed it up, planted and hoped for the best).

    Hay Grazing Mix is designed for those fields where the option of making dry hay or grazing is needed. This mix contains 40% alfalfa (grazing tolerant), 25% soft leaf tall fescue, 20% late heading orchardgrass, 5% perennial ryegrass, 5% timothy and 5% improved red clover. This is a mixture designed for both grazing or hay production with improved varieties. (found this on a feed store site)

    We grazed in the summer, moving the stock when the grass got low and had a few pastures that we never grazed..just cut and baled as many times as the season would allow.

    So..grass in summer, same grass (now called hay) over winter.

    I grew up eating beef that was grass fed (never knew it had a name, lol) never received hormones (we did vaccinate for http://cattletoday.info/brucellosis.htm  ) .

    Fast forward to my world post hubs #1....had to start purchasing my beef.

    Corn fed.

    Never noticed the difference.

    mimi
     
  17. iceman

    iceman

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    I spent a number of summers living/working on a farm in Iowa. It was a pig farm, but cattle were included. Intelligence-wise, compared to pigs, cattle are stupid idiot morons. Anyway ... our cattle were raised for your basic beef-eating public. They pasture grazed and were fed a nice supplemental "feed" if they wanted it. It was funny, but to get this "feed" they only had to come in to get it. It was kinda like a "free-feed" operation. They didn't come in at any given time, just when they felt they wanted to. What we used was a simple "Acme-type" standard mix, including the simple standard 1-A-Day vitamin/antibiotic blend. Nothing was special or over-the-top. When the schedule determined, we began to pull in the "free-ranging" and fed a higher grain/corn based diet to finish them off before going to market. In all the time I was there we never had any health issues. They got top going rate prices and produced really good beef, great steaks. I've never liked "grass-fed" steaks. In my opinion, they are tough and don't have the flavor that I prefer. 
     
  18. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    Ice..did you use the same truck or horse (or ATV) when taking the supplemental feed out to them?

    They will recognize it and think...more food.. and come running.

    Anyways I called my ex MIL yesterday and asked her if she supplemented our cows (with any bag feed) at any time and if so what did she use (we ran our herd on the same land that she lived on.)

    No..no.. no bag feed, altho I would cut some corn stalks (corn harvested, stalks not cut and plowed yet) and throw them out by the water tank every other day (or so).

    So..I guess the stalks can do the same thing as bag feed?

    Who da thunk it?

    There is nothing as satisfying as raising a calf and then having ANY cuts you want, just tell the butcher and (after it is hung for a week or so to age) picking up a box full of white wrapped pakages with the contents stamped in blue ink.

    mimi
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2012
  19. iceman

    iceman

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    In actuality Flip, we didn't have enough cattle to need to use a vehicle to "bring anything out".  The barn was it. The trough (1) was right there. Every 2-3 days or so I'd throw two(2) buckets of feed and three(3) bales of some "hay-type-stuff" onto what looked like a big steel paint mixer. It would spin around a little then I would dump it into the trough. When they came in, if they wanted it it was there. It was sheltered out of the weather. It was a dry mix. They never finished it in one(1) day. If it all seems goofy to you now, it seemed goofy to me then too. 
     
  20. butcherman

    butcherman

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    Amazingly...no real resolution.

    I say to youse guys affectionately, respectfully, but pointedly: You are giving me the same Elephant-In-The-Room answers, What Elephant?

    It ain't "just a matter of taste".  This ain't like Coho Salmon vs King Salmon vs Copper River, with each of us having his/her own fave.

    Nasty Is Nasty!

    Lured by your assurances and my own uncertainty, I bought another twenty pounds of grassfed online:  Nasty!

    I propose that the fact that none of the top-line steakhouses feature grassfed, when Grassfed's Political Correctness Quotient would gain them big points with the young Wallstreeters, gotta tell you the truth.  And that truth seems to be, Grainfed is vasty superior to Grassfed, from a taste perspective, though Grassfed is probably better for your health.

    "Ohh, this Grassfed steak is soo healthy.  And good too. Umm, please pass the Lea & Perrins."