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Apr 27, 2006 02:02 AM

Where to buy grass fed beef in bay area?

  • j

I'm thinking about buying a side of grass fed beef. It's something I've done for the last few years, but I've recently moved to the Bay Area so aren't really sure about where/who to buy from here. I'd appreciate any recommendations of suppliers.

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  1. Highland Hills Farm - They sell at the Berkeley FM.

    Prather Ranch - available in the Ferry Building. They are grass fed, and fed some grain for finishing. However, they grow the grain themselves and the grain does not include corn.

    Marin Sun Farms - available at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market ... not sure which others.

    I bought some at Whole Foods the other day, but I'm not sure where it was from. Probably far away.

    Whatever anyone else says on this thread, trust me when I say that Niman Ranch is not grass-fed. Or organic. (This always comes up so I am trying to stop that "yes they are" "no they're not" conversation before it starts.)

    13 Replies
    1. re: fig newton

      fig newton-

      Perhaps you can help me out. As a guy that likes to smoke briskets, I have always been told that grass-fed cattle lead to tougher cuts of meat, and that corn-fed is the way to go, even if they are just finished off that way (ala Meyer Natural Angus Beef). Supposedly, the way to tell is by the fat-cap: the whiter the fat, the more corn used.

      Is this correct as far as you know, or do you have conflicting information?



      1. re: Civil Bear
        Morton the Mousse

        Feeding cows corn leads to marbling of fat, and a whiter fat cap which has become a desirable attribute for modern American eaters. Beef that is grass fed and corn finished has some marbling to it, though not as much as beef that is 100% corn fed. There are studies that suggest that this marbling is the source of the increased rate of heart disease we assoicate with eating beef.

        For more information on corn fed v grass fed beef check out Michael Pollan's excellent new book, The Omnivore's Dilemma.

        1. re: Civil Bear

          Something else to keep in mind when opting for grassfed meat over a traditional diet is that the meat ... well, tastes a lot like grass. I love this for goat & lamb, but have missgivings about having it for a beef related meal.
          Throwing a grass fed beef cut in to a smoker, when the brisket is coated in your favorite rub, can come out lacking what you may have been expecting, flavor. A rich, beefy flavor. It isn't there.

          Biggles no like the grassfed beefs.


          1. re: Dr. Biggles

            Monty doesn't either. And, I just don't lay awake at night wondering what they steak I had for supper is doing to my heart. Everything in moderation and you'll be just fine. Beef should taste like BEEF, certainly not grass.

            1. re: Monty

              Thanks mang, I thought I was the only one.

              Bring it on!

              1. re: Dr. Biggles

                Just remember that prior to WWII cattle were raised pretty much on an all grass diet. Post war there developed a surplus of corn and grains and so they began feeding it to animals- cattle. Like the change from a whole grain flour to a refined white flour in the 19th century many jumped on it as a fad. But it stuck. True, original, smoke cooked, artisanal BBQ and smoked beef brisket was made with grass fed beef. To get the real deal, go the source. Discover what is was and why its so good.

                1. re: runningman
                  Robert Lauriston

                  Maybe the average beef was grass-fed prior to WWII, but I think prime beef was always finished in a feedlot.

                  "Originally, Alfred's steaks came from beef fattened on sugar beet pulp from Manteca and grain-fed beef from Idaho. In the 50s, Alfred's changed to golden corn-fed beef."


                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Prior to WWII grains and corn were a bit too dear to squaunder on animals. Humans consumed what was produced. Especially considering the amount of labor that was required to produce just to meet demand. Hogs could eat anything of course as do goats. Ruminants (cows) were allowed to forage on native grasses. When there was no green grass available they were fed silage (dry) grasses (hay) which has a far lower level of nutrients and caloric value. Hence the cycle of calving and harvest of cattle depended greatly on when green forage was available. It is certainly possible that some beef was fed a diet other than grasses but since ruminants are built to eat just grass they tend to get sick when the diet strays from what is natural. Currently the standard is to limit that period to 180 days or so. If it goes much longer they may require to be given antibiotics. Which most of our "boutique" beef producers claim not to indulge in.

                    1. re: runningman
                      Robert Lauriston

                      As noted in my previous post, Alfred's served grain-fed beef from Idaho prior to WWII.

                        1. re: runningman
                          Robert Lauriston

                          My elderly relatives who were eating there from the 30s on didn't notice any change.

        2. re: fig newton

          Hi Fig Newton,

          I have checked out marin Sun Farms and they do have good quality meat, about the best I have found in the Bay Area. Now I am looking for eggs.

          About being "grass fed': Niman Ranch, while no organic, also feeds in a pasteur and finishes with grain just like Prather Ranch. This is the only way to get fat marbling in your meat, which makes the best quality meat. According to the USDA, many things include "grass" like hay, rice bran and amond hulls. Trust me, my uncle is a rancher and I grew up in the Central valley doing 4H raising our own fair steer. You should make sure you don't buy just "grass fed" but ask if they are fed on pasture, better yet, ask about the entire process. Meat that is not fed any grain at the end is very lean, and sometimes tough and chewy. If I had the money and a giant freezer I would go to the fair and buy a cow at auction that has been raised by FFA or 4H children!!

          1. re: kristinar27

            Marin Sun also sells eggs, as do several other places. Do a search.

        3. Baron's Meats in the Market Place in Alameda carries grass fed beef.

          1. In Oakland/Berkeley, Enzo's at Market Hall, Berkeley Bowl, and Whole Foods all carry grass fed.

            1. Here is a list of local sources:

              1. But the OP said she wanted to buy a *side* of beef -- presumably from the producer.

                You might want to try Highland Hills and Marin Sun directly. I may be in the minority, but I've never had a good piece of meat -- beef or pork -- from Prather: it's all been tough, poorly cut, and not very tasty.

                There was also a discussion a while back about a farm that sold grass fed beef direct -- I think this was it:


                1 Reply
                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  We're still working our way through our share of beef from Morris Ranch. I don't know if they deliver to the Bay Area; we split it with some friends who live in Santa Cruz and they brought it up for us. The beef is very good, so long as you don't overcook it (other than pieces that need a lot of moist heat). I believe we paid about $3.30-$3.50 a pound, total, although a lot of it was ground beef.