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Grassfed Beef

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We have been buying meat at Costco, especially steaks because they are priced right and easy to freeze and store. Our favorite cut is ribeye.

So recently we also bought a (much more expensive) ribeye from a producer at our local green market. The steak was grassfed, shrinkwrap packaged and frozen. i didn't have very high expectations for this steak: it wasn't very marbled (how tender or tasty could it be?).

Last night I made two ribeyes -- one from Costco and the grassfed, naturally raised ribeye. I used the exact method for both: seared in (the same) cast iron pan over a high flame (at the same time), flipped and then finished in a 500-degree oven.

And the difference was stunning. The naturally raised beef was extraordinary. it was tender, flavorful and very rich and pure tasting. By contrast, the Costco beef was fatty and had an "off" taste that we had never noticed before.

Any one else had similar -- or different -- experiences with same-cuts, but differently raised beef, lamb or chicken?

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  1. "Any one else had similar -- or different -- experiences with same-cuts, but differently raised beef, lamb or chicken?"

    Absolutely - grass fed, pastured anything is a wonderful and superior product. It's often better for the environment, tastes better, and is better for you. Your experience is common and many people are often amazed at the difference - I know I was. You have to remember that cows were not meant to be raised on corn and grain. They will eat it, don't get me wrong, but their natural diet is grass, grass, and more grass.

    Sometimes people don't like the taste of grass fed beef but that's ironic beause it's how beef is supposed to taste. The grain that is used to feed the cheaper supermarket cattle is the one that doesn't taste right!

    1 Reply
    1. re: HaagenDazs

      That's so true. My parents get their beef from cut-rate Chinese grocers, and once I brought some grass-fed beef from one of the Vermont farms over, and made a simple stir-fry with it. They commented that the beef was too gamey for them! Ha ha, that means more beef tasting of rich, beefy goodness for me!

    2. I've never found a great deal of difference in poultry. "Free" range poultry are often not raised "free" range. More often they're caged and have the option to leave the cage and strut around a bit if they choose to. Otherwise, they're housed like most other commercial poultry. But I have found a significant difference in beef, lamp and pork. I was raised on the left coast and didn't travel outside of the state much until I was an adult. On my first trip to the the mid-west I experienced beef, lamb and pork that was amazingly flavorful and tender when compared to what I was accustomed back home.

      1 Reply
      1. re: todao

        You're correct that the term free range can be misleading but what you can look for, especially in your local community is pastured poultry. With pastured poultry the birds are allowed to roam free, forage for bugs, scratch at the dirt, etc. ...As with grass fed beef, they tend to eat what comes naturally to them, not what is placed in front of them, which is often corn too, by the way.

        Hmm, this is starting to sound like a familiar trend isn't it?!
        Feeding corn to animals?!
        Corn being used for ethanol because it's PERCEIVED to be environmentally friendly?
        Corn prices going up as a result?
        Food prices going up as a result of increased feed cost?

        ...the list can go on and on.

      2. Gourmet, Diary of a Foodie did a show on this very subject. Ever since then I have really wanted to try it, but the butcher they highlighted is in upper state NY and they don't ship. Bittman had a show about naturally raised beef that are raised in No Cal. Closer to home, but still not easily accessible... I'm jealous! Both shows mentioned the pure taste of the beef and that you won't want to go back to corn raised beef again.

        2 Replies
        1. re: janetms383

          There are numerous sources for grass fed beef so keep looking online or in local stores. We can get grass fed beef at ANY of our local Whole Foods markets here in the Atlanta area.

          1. re: janetms383

            Hey janetms383 - I'm not sure where you live, but you might want to check out local farmer's markets, butchers, or meat processors and ask if they have grass-fed beef available. I've found great sources at farmer's markets in a) a small, southern city, b) a medium-sized university town, c) a small northeastern city, and d) a tiny, rural town. In all cases, the beef wasn't advertised as such (until this past summer), and I had to enquire to discover its origins. Also, I have the fortune of living 5 minutes from a source, but a friend who lives in a big city where grass-fed beef is usually expensive and/or from Whole Foods, drives up here once a summer to purchase a few dozen pounds of beef and carts it back home herself. Might be an idea too, if you can find a source within a reasonable distance. I personally think it's worth a drive (and possibly a chest freezer :))!

          2. For those of us who live in Latin America where the beef is all range and grass fed, eating beef in the US is generally to be avoided.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              I'm assuming this includes Argentine beef? During my last years in Miami, we used to get wonderful Argentine beef from a butcher there.

              1. re: MMRuth

                Argentinian, Uruguayan, Brazilian, Colombian, Peruvian, Venezolano, Bolivian, ... and more. All range fed and grown with natural and improved grasses supplemented with legume forages, minerals and vitamins, and sometimes silage if needed.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Not too sure re. Argentina. As this article from the Clarin newspaper in Buenos Aires shows, 5 million cows are currently fed in feedlots, up from 2.1 million in 2001.

                  http://www.clarin.com/suplementos/rur...

                  1. re: RicRios

                    Didn't know that. The 2007 beef cattle herd size was about 52 million; so about 10% are feedlot finished.

                  2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    my god that sounds beautiful :) does anyone know where to find grass fed beef in Montreal, QC? or lamb or dairy for that matter? I have been searching and asking without success ...happy eating, oana

              2. I just got in an order of Alderspring
                Ranch grass-fed beef this morning. They
                have the best steaks I've ever tasted.
                Even the filet mignon has a lot of
                flavor.

                1. Oh yeah.

                  Since my first meal with grassfed beef (and lamb) grain-fed meat tastes like rotten meat that had been left to sit on a grocer's shelf for a week past it tastes horrible, half rotten.

                  I generally buy free range poultry as well but the difference in taste isn't as noticeable because while the chickens may be allowed to range, there's no controlling what they actually eat once they get out on the range. I still think they're healthier not being in cages and the free range birds are generally the ones that are hormone and antibiotic free.

                  1. I definitely agree with others that grass fed tend to have more flavor. I also think that because you got ribeye, the cut was more marbled and hence the steak tasted great. I heard that restaurants sometimes don't want to serve grass-fed steaks because the they tend to be leaner and not ideal for tender steaks (unless you use ribeye or cuts with higher fat contents but then the cost is higher) Therefore, a lot of them try to serve grass fed burgers or such.

                    There is a stand Grazing Angus Acre Famr at Union Square farmers market here in Manhattan and they sell all grass-fed angus beef. The taste is amazing!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: kobetobiko

                      All of Dan's products are great. Not cheap, but great. I love his pastured chickens and the eggs have the best yolks. Not sure if you got his email, but for January he's got a guy (Doug) bringing his stuff down to the market on Friday's only. If you have a special order you can call or email him by Wednesday night. I picked up a "retired laying hen" for soup yesterday as well as a beautiful piece of brisket.

                      1. re: adrman

                        Hi adrman,

                        Seems like you are a regular customer of Grazing. Just wonder if you know if I can order special parts, like tongue or organs.

                        Besides beef and chicken, do they sell anything else?

                        1. re: kobetobiko

                          It would probably be best to email them and ask about the organ meats. I seem to remember him having liver, but I'm not positive. Even though I love offal, my wife hates it, so that's usually a restaurant treat for me or I save it for when she's out of town. I'm pretty sure he's exclusively beef, chicken and eggs at the moment. It goes along with his philosophy of grazing the beef, then pasturing the chickens where the cattle have grazed. Their website for the email is grazinangusacres.com.

                    2. We switched to sustainably-raised, pastured, grassfed beef for eco-reasons, and the quality was an added bonus. To get the benefits of the Costco-style volume purchase, we split a quarter share of an animal with another couple, which got us 50 lb, butchered to our liking, frozen, and delivered for 30% less than conventional beef at retail. And it only takes up 2/3 of a 2'x2' chest freezer. Best food decision we've made since switching from iodized to kosher salt.

                      1. Unfortunately, I didn't have a great experience the first time I tried cooking grass fed beef. Word on the street is that traditional cook times/methods are out the window with grass-fed b/c it is generally leaner.

                        I cooked a ny strip grass-fed beef steak using my standard cook times/method. I seared it in a cast iron skillet for two mins, flipped it and then put it in the 450 degree oven to finish to med-rare for 2-3 mins. (http://www.chow.com/stories/10857). The steaks came out overcooked and tough. We couldn't eat them. Later, I found out that I should've decreased the cook time b/c I was using grass-fed beef. I was disappointed the farmer at the farmers market didn't tell me this as these were quite expensive. Oh well, live and learn. Glad you had success with your first attempt.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: lynnlato

                          Fwiw, I've had some pretty lousy grassfed beef from the farmer's market. The problem is that in a rush to get their product to market, many of the producers don't let it mature enough to develop decent marbling. Then you get the advice to cook it over low temperatures, don't sear, etc... There is some great stuff out there though. However, even when it's nicely marbled, a grass fed steak doesn't take well to being cooked past medium rare.

                          1. re: adrman

                            Duly noted. I'm wondering if maybe the grass-fed beef I got just wasn't quality stuff. I'll have to pick up some grass-fed beef at Earthfare and give it a try. Thanks!

                            1. re: lynnlato

                              The Fresh Market has been carrying Whole Grass Fed Tenderloins. I usually prepare 1/2 as a roast and slice the other 1/2 into steaks. Both have been excellent.
                              I have had grass fed beef from the same farmers market source. I find the flavor is good but tends to be tough. I have had good luck marinating fattier cuts like skirt steak and even short ribs. I cut them of the bone and then sliced into thin steaks. Marinate overnight and then grill on med high heat.

                              1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                Thanks GFL. I'll try The Fresh Market. Yea, I think we both know which farmer I bought from... funny thing is I liked the flank steak we got from him. But I had marinated that. I suppose that it's like adrman said that in a rush to get to market they don't allow for maturing and decent marbling.

                                1. re: lynnlato

                                  Rangefed beef is mature (and takes longer than feedlot beef). Marbling is never as pronounced if not feedlot finished. I had my first (skirt) steak in a long time in the US yesterday. I was amazed at the amount of fat and at the lack of taste.

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    I've had really good steaks in Argentina, no doubt. But I still prefer real corn-fed beef. Not the feedlot stuff, but corn-fed.

                                    However, I don't know of any commercial source. Guess I'll have to keep raising my own.

                                    1. re: vtnewbie

                                      "Not the feedlot stuff, but corn-fed"

                                      Well, it turns out ALL corn-feeding happens in feedlots:

                                      "In the United States, cattle in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are typically fed corn, soy and other types of feed that can include "by-product feedstuff". As a high-starch, high-energy food, corn decreases the time to fatten cattle and increases yield from dairy cattle. These cattle are called corn-fed or grain-fed."

                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn-fed...

                                      1. re: RicRios

                                        Why couldn't vtnewbie be raising his own cattle and feeding them corn as he claims?

                                        1. re: KTinNYC

                                          Excellent question!

                                          Amazing how Wikipedia has made so many experts on so many subjects.

                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                            It seemed vtnewbie referred to some pre-existing category of commercially available beef. If the reference was to a wish-list, then the misunderstanding is entirely my fault. Sorry about that.

                                            Also, I find references to publicly available and publicly reviewed sources such as Wikipedia to be very convenient as a way to provide further info or to stress a point. I can hardly see how providing references to a statement can be understood as claims of expertise.

                                            1. re: RicRios

                                              Sorry about my intemperate response.

                                              And it's not a wish-list, it's a daily chore. :-)

                                          2. re: RicRios

                                            The Wikipedia article is correct; the conclusions you draw from it are not.

                                            Most feedlot beef is corn-fed. But there are exceptions to this rule. For example, Maui Cattle Company has a small feedlot in Waikapu where they finish their beef on pineapple and sugarcane sileage.

                                            And most corn-fed beef comes from feedlots. But it's absolutely untrue that feedlots are the only source of corn-fed beef. Many small farmers will finish a steer with grain on the farm where it was raised.

                                            If you really want to learn more about the subject, go to the County or State Fair and talk to the kids that are showing their cattle. They're well-informed, enthusiastic, and willing to talk about what they've learned. You'll even have an opportunity to buy one of the cattle, but the prices can be a bit daunting...

                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                              Alan is correct. a lot of small farmers do finish previously grass-fed cattle on the farm, in more enclosed, but still outdoor areas-- "yards" as they are usually called. many farmers at one time took great pride in finishing their own cattle on their own grain, grown on their own land (or purchased through small scale grain mill cooperatives which were basically groups of neighboring farmers). this is going away with industrial ag and the loss of small farms/livestock operations.

                                              a new source of feed for feedlot beef is the ethanol plant "sludge"-- which is corn slurry after the sugar/alcohol has been removed to make fuel. most of the slurry is shipped to the california dairy feedlots, but some is being used for cheap cafo beef feed as well.

                            2. I started buying naturally raised beef at a farmers market this spring. There's a big difference. Where I found the most difference is when I make burgers. The ground beef is so much beefier.

                              DT

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: Davwud

                                I find the grass fed much beefier too. I think the secret is not to cook it more than medium less it gets dried out, as it has less fat.
                                I have become a big fan of Bison or buffalo. Lower in fat, calories and cholesterol than even white meat chicken and even more beefy tasting than beef!

                                1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                  That is a great alternative. Oddly enough I have never considered it. Thank you for putting it forth GodfatherofLunch.
                                  Happy eating, Oana

                                  1. re: oana

                                    I have been getting frozen Buffalo burgers at Trader Joe's, They are very beefy tasting, great flavor.

                                    1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                      great thank you so much.
                                      happy eating, oana

                                      1. re: oana

                                        if you are interested in getting bison from a local or small-farm source, the national bison assn. has a nice database. there is quite a lot of local selection in some areas. they also have a list of online bison retailers and more info on the meat. one of our co-ops now offers freshly ground bison just as they offer freshly ground beef, & i vastly prefer it to frozen patties.

                                        http://www.bisoncentral.com/index.php...

                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                          I love this site :). Thank you so much soupkitten.
                                          Happy eating, Oana

                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            Bummer, There is no one in Charlotte, NC. Its times like this that I am grateful for frozen.

                                            1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                              yeah, those buffalo need to roam & like those prairie areas :) unfortunately i think that bison would be a much more popular meat if it was locally available to more people. it's certainly healthy and delicious! good for you, seeking it out in your area. i did not know that tj's sold frozen bison patties. do you know if any other national grocers carry bison products? or are we getting too OT, away from grass-fed beef maybe. . .

                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                I have only found Bison Burgers at TJ.'s
                                                I am not bothered either way, but its funny how Bison is so much more commercial of a name than Buffalo.
                                                I like the taste of deer and antelope as well, hate to disturb their play but they make for good eats.

                                            2. re: soupkitten

                                              Interesting. They don't include our local (Southern Oregon)organic rancher Full Circle.
                                              Good Stuff:
                                              http://www.fullcirclebisonranch.com/d...

                                  2. I get my grass fed beef from North Hollow farm (they do ship). I'm currently saving up so I can buy a whole side. :)

                                    http://www.vermontgrassfedbeef.com/

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Morganna

                                      Wonderful source thank you Morganna.
                                      Happy eating, Oana

                                    2. One thing to keep in mind is that pasture-raised beef is not monolithic. The variations in quality are as great as those in cattle raised or finished in CAFOs. If you compare the meat from a well-bred, well-raised, healthy grass-fed animal to USDA Commercial beef from a feedlot, the grass-fed beef will certainly taste better. By the same token, a USDA prime ribeye from a grain-fed steer will taste better than a similar cut from an underweight, unhealthy grass-fed animal.

                                      An animal's food source is a major factor in how its meat will taste. But it's just one factor. The best bet is to know about the particular animal you're eating; next best is to know your provider. If enough people begin insisting on grass-fed, you're going to start seeing a lot more inferior grass-fed beef produced by indifferent agribusiness types.

                                      1. We've been having grassfed delivered for about two years (after Mr. Rab freaked out having read the Omnivore's Dilemma). About two weeks ago I really wanted a slab of steak and we picked up a grocery store offering. We were both astonished to find that our taste really has adapted to the grass fed meat, which is distinctly different in taste and texture.

                                        Kinda reminded me of when I switched from Skippy to a more natural peanut butter. It's different stuff.