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Grass fed beef vs. non-grass fed? [moved from Boston board]

  • Prav Sep 5, 2007 01:15 PM
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How does grass fed cow taste in compared to non-grass fed?

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  1. I think it taste like beef, or what beef is supposed to taste like.

    The flavor, look, smell, and texture of grass fed beef is a little different from grain-fed beef. I think it also needs to be cooked a little differently that grain fed beef.

    It probably doesn't answer your question, but if you try it, you'll be able to taste a difference.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Infomaniac

      My younger brother also raises Angus cattle. This weekend he told me that one time he took his steers to PX Feeders to be fed http://pxfeeders.com/index.asp . They were fed in a feedlot, a dry lot, with no grass. He had the beef processed the same way that he always does, dry-aged 14 days. When he tasted the beef he was not very happy with the flavor of the beef, it did not have the same good flavor that he was used to, it lacked flavor. The flavor of the beef that he raised at home, that was fed corn while on grass pastures had a much better flavor. He told me that cattle need to eat grass to produce beef with the best flavor. I once thought that eating grass hurt the flavor of beef, but I've competely changed my opinion. I now believe that eating grass greatly improves the flavor of beef. Whether the animal is eating corn or not eating corn, as long as the animal is consuming enough calories to support their specific level of growth, eating grass does improve the flavor of the beef.

    2. There's a slight gaminess, but it doesn't quite approach, say, venison. It's a nice rich taste.

      1. Getting a little general, but I had a grass-fed steak at one of the "best" steakhouses in Buenos Aires a few years ago. I wasn't impressed - it was tough, and not nearly as flavorful as the best dry aged steaks I've eaten in Boston and NY.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Kip McSkipster

          unfortunately, as well as a cow may have been treated during its lifespan, it can't compensate for being abused by the kitchen before the steak reaches your plate.

        2. We've been experimenting with some grass fed beef that Mr. Rabbit ordered online (yes, online... they ship it in dry ice). He recently read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and decided that we should do some comparing.

          We think the texture appears slightly different from "regular" beef, perhaps more dense or fibrous, if that makes any sense. But we're not sure that it tastes much different, although I agree with infomaniac and wittlejosh that there are slight differences in texture and perhaps a game-y or grain-yness that might distinguish it from its grass-fed equivalent. Also, we found same or similar cuts were slightly leaner and less marbled when grass-fed. Either way, it does taste the way you would expect beef to taste.

          We haven't done enough experimenting to decide whether it needs to be cooked differently.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Rabbit

            Same here, Rabbit. I ordered some beef online from LaCense Beef and didn't find a big overall difference in taste (i.e., a bit gamier), but it did seem a bit denser than what I'd ordered from Lobel's.

          2. I just got back from Ecuador where virtually all of the beef is grass-fed. Some restaurants served Argentinian beef, also grass-fed. In every instance the beef was inexpensive, wonderful, full flavored, tender and not gamey in the slighest. My local guides and companions expressed surprise when I told them that most beef available in America was grain fed. They replied: "but cows eat grass!" Not in America, unless you're willing to spend an outrageous amont for it at Wegmans or Whole Foods. For a helpful overview of why where at this point in the food chain, read: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2004/0... , or The Omivore's Delimma.

            1. I think grass-fed beef tastes "beefier." To me, when it's raw it just has a more appealing aroma, and I'm more willing and wanting to eat a rarer grass-fed beef burger or steak just because it's so much more flavorful. Grass-fed also seems to cook faster.

              1. Judging from CH comments, grass-fed varies. I'm now eating mostly grass-fed beef, from Tallgrass and Alderspring. I find both very tasty, and the Alderspring was probably the best steak I have ever eaten, with a distinctive flavor a little "sweeter," if that's the word, than grain-fed.

                1. I like it better. I lived in Botswana for some time, where all beef was grass-fed, and it is tasty. I have begun to buy it here in Boston as well. Tonight I did a little taste test. I had some premium, free-range, organic grain-fed ground beef, and some grass-fed. I fried up a couple of patties and my wife and daughter and I tasted it. In the pan, the grass-fed beef stuck together better. The patty was denser and didn't crumble. It also developed a niver char on the outside. As for taste, the grass-fed had more taste than the grain-fed. The grain-fed also had something of an aftertaste, which I think comes from the higher fat content. The grass-fed cost about a dollar a pound more than the premium grain-fed, and probably double what you pay for normal Stop & Shop hamburger, but well worth it in my view.

                  1. If you have trouble finding grass fed beef, you could try buffalo. It's a different animal but the taste and texture are more like grass fed beef--denser, sweeter?--and you can usually find it at WF. It's delicious.
                    I used to enjoy beef in Europe but didn't like the taste of corn fed beef here in the US and stopped eating it years ago, a decision reinforced by reading the Omnivore's Dilemma!

                    1. I've been buying grass-fed organic beef freezer orders for a few years now.

                      The meat is definitely much leaner in spite of the butchers tendency to leave too much fat on the stewing beef. (grrr) The flavour is great, though. Fabulous.

                      The texture is a little different. Denser, yes, I would say so. The tender cuts are tender; the tougher cuts need slower, moister cooking, as is usual with any beef. I can't cook the ground beef without adding some oil to the pan first, it's so extremely lean.

                      I also got some extra ground beef in the spring, in addition to my usual autumn order, and I noticed a real difference between the two. The spring ground beef seemed more watery and I want to say tougher, but it only seemed that way raw. By the time it was cooked, it was fine. It was also a darker red. I assume this is the result of the spring beef having been wintered over on hay. The flavour was still very good.

                      1. It's a lot tougher with a much lower fat content so it doesn't have that wonderful flavor of s good US steak. We had to serve ours well done since they hung it outside where it was covered with flies so we either sliced it very thin or ground it in our food processor. I'm sure it's better for you but the flavor doesn't come close to US beef. No I don't like feedlots but we don't eat a lot of meat - soooo - gotta sin on occasion.

                        1. As the old saying goes, you tell me what a banana tastes like and I'll tell you what... For me, grass fed beef tastes like beef SHOULD taste! But what any individual thinks beef should taste like is very much the result of where they grew up, what their family ate, and to some extent (in today's U.S. beef economy) on how old they are.

                          The things that impact on the taste of beef even more than what the animals are fed are how long they're consumed after slaughter, and how their meat is aged (cured). In many countries, beef is eaten freshly killed and tastes very different (and is "tougher") than what we're used to in the U.S. Sometimes religion is the reason for immediate consumption, sometimes local tradition and traditional lack of refrigeration is the force. In such countries you'll find a lot more stews than steaks are "for dinner."

                          The traditional (as in "old fashioned") way of aging (curing) beef in the U.S. is called "dry cured," in which case the carcass is cleaned and hung in a climate controlled room for two to four (occasionally five for special order) weeks. During this time, the meat loses about 30% of its body weight, and the tissue of the meat allows already present enzymes to mature and tenderize it. This aging process also enriches the flavor. If you are old enough to have grown up when this was the only way of curing beef, chances are it's what you love.

                          Then there is "wet cured" beef. And this may be an adjunct to the time when that Frenchman discovered you can keep the same weight of a foi gras if you sous vide it. In any case, the principle is the same. Beef is not only dressed into the whole carcass configuration, it is then cut into its final market portions, sealed in cryovac bags and aged under refrigeration. As with a sous vide foi gras, the cryovac doesn't allow for any weight loss, and so the profit margin is maximized. Wet cured beef tastes very different than dry cured beef. I think it's more difficult to produce a good tasting anything with wet cured beef. I find that neither my stews nor my steaks taste like they should. But that's because my palate has been trained by a lifetime of dry aged beef.

                          Grass fed beef is the ultimate of what all beef should be. When cattle are allowed to range free and feed on grasses (as nature intended!) they produce omega 3 fatty oils in their tissue that they do not produce on any other diet. That means pretty much you get the same benefits from eating grass fed beef as you do from eating wild caught salmon. How's that for the cholesterol challenged!

                          In today's world, a USDA Prime grass fed rib roast (7 ribs) will cost you a small fortune. IF you can find one. I would guess something like three hundred bucks plus shipping. <sigh> Oh well, there goes Christmas dinner. How much did you say that turkey is per pound?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Caroline1

                            There are a few more factors that affect the taste between grass finished and grain fed. Stress before slaughter, and how you cook it. Being that grass finished cattle have up to 40% less fat you have to cook it French style. That is less heat and about 30% less time or you will end up with a tough piece of meat. Grain fed meat has a lot more fat in it which protects it during cooking.
                            Caroline1 is right in that a cows flavour is dependant on what it eats. Kind of like wines have different flavours depending on where they are grown. Hopefully one day we will be able to select grassfinished beef on areas like we do wines.