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Ground Beef Woes :(

I moved to Washington State actually Olympia in November from Oklahoma. I was impressed with all the fresh seafood, fruits and vegtables, but the first time I ate a hamburger or bought ground beef I was totally disgusted. I bought it from Safeway, Walmart, Fred Meyers and some of the local butcher shops. Always the same thing, stringy tough and chewy, and sometimes tasteless. My Oklahoma cats won't eat it raw or cooked. In Oklahoma they would dog pile you when you opened a package of fresh ground beef. Here they seem interested until you give them a piece. They sniff it and leave. I have tried making hamburgers, hamburger helper, meat balls and always the same results; chewy, stringy, tough, and dry. I have always cooked hamburger patties the same way gentily form a patty place it in a salted pan and sear it on one side until juice starts to form ontop the flip it over without mashing down or disturbing it in any way. When it juices up again flip it over once again and cook again. Oklahoma beef would just fall apart and melt in you mouth. Washington ground beef will substitute for shoe soles. Dry chewy, strings. And tastes like nothing. What is wrong with Washington Ground Beef??? Where can I buy good non stringy gristly ground beef here in Washington. My mom who grew up in Wa said the beef out here is all retired milk cows. Old dry and stringy. I'm beginning to believe her. I thought the other day I would buy an expensive package of 100% pure Angus beef 80-20. Same chewy stringy garbage. Cats wouldn't eat it. I chewed it until I gave up and just eat my green beans and macaroni. Help Me please. WA has everything I need, but good ground beef. John

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  1. You would have to go directly to a butcher that gets his beef from the farm. I do not know who that is in your area but in Walla Walla it is "Thundering hooves" only organic pasture fed beef. and the flavor is excellent.

    1. Wulfdog, Having lived in the midwest in the past, I observed the same thing. Since you are in Olympia, I suggest Stewart's Meats in McKenna. (Where you can get standing rib roasts of Kangaroo should you desire.) Stewarts also sells Veal Liver (Not Calf's Liver or Beef Liver) but you must ask for it as it is in the freezer. Cooked gently, it tastes remarkably like Foies Gras. The reason everyone raves about the hamburgers at Tom Douglas' Palace Kitchen is that he took the time to get the blend of chuck, sirloin and round right to make hamburger meat the way it should be.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Leper

        I did not notice any such change in the ground beef when I moved from the midwest some years ago.

        There was an article in the Seattle paper (yesterday?) about a mobile slaughterhouse. Not just any butcher is allowed to slaughter animals direct from the farm.

        As for the source of our beef - I bet most of it comes from midwestern slaughterhouses. Yes, western Washington has more dairy cattle than beef cattle (or so it would appear from driving some valleys around Seattle), but I doubt if they are significant part of the meat market.

        Could it be that the Oklahoma ground beef is higher fat?

        1. re: Leper

          You can always try explaining what you want to DD meats in Shoreline or AJ Seafood and Meats in Queen Anne. They are both well respected butchers ready to help and are both very friendly. If you do make it to DD you should give their homemade sausages a try they are great!

          1. re: gt1485a

            DD is in the next town north, Mountlake Terrace.

          2. re: Leper

            Oh god I'm an Okie living in London and my chili is never the same. Just made a batch right now and stumbled upon this post. It's so sad I went to a reputable butcher but...no dice. Was definitely spoiled in my Oklahoma youth!

          3. Get a farm share.
            I split half a cow with a couple of friends. The steaks are undoubtedly delicious, but the burgers really shine.

            I'd also think about getting a butcher to personally grind some meat for you instead of getting "hamburger". Generic "hamburger" can be alright from some places, but others may be throwing alot of scrap in. Get a nice chuck, some sirloin, or even a little brisket for flavor and ask for a specific grind.

            1. Wulfdog,
              You are correct about the quality of meat offered at the stores you listed above - I refuse to buy beef of any type from those stores. (I know that I sound snobby but the quality of product from the mainstreams grocery stores has really, really gone done noticeably in the past 10 years, I used to think Safeway product was perfectly adequate but the quality has decreased alarmingly) I think you need to check out some independent butchers (great one on Main Street in Issaquah) and upscale grocery stores - Larry's maybe? Personally, I also find Whole Foods beef tasteless as well. (Higher quality, better smell and texture but always missing the mark flavor-wise)

              I live in Portland (used to live in SEA) and currently purchase my ground beef from a local chain - Zupans - which sources from Harris Ranch - I've been very happy with their 20/80 and purchase it on sale several times a month for $2.99 a lb. It matches the quality of meat I grew up with in Iowa.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sebetti

                WOW! WOW! thank goodness. I just knew people would jump all over me and call me crazy. I was so releived to hear all those comments that are sympathetic to my problems with the beef here. I thought sure as the world everyone would pounce on me and tell me to go back to Oklahoma. Thank you thank you thank you for the resources and information. Several people who had been out here from OK said they didn't know how to make good sausage out here, but had never mentioned the ground beef. I knew I could make my own sausage if I had to, but found the sausage out here is not bad at all, but the ground beef had me stumped. Last night after I made the post my wife and I decided we were going to go to the store and buy some chuck or sirloin and grind it ourselves just to see if that would work. Now that you guys have given me all these resources, I feel confident I can get some good beef here some where close. Anyone know where to get it closer to Olympia or Shelton? I saw a meat marked off I-5 by Centralia and thought about stopping there, but their building doesn't look too apealing from the outside. Again thanks for the help. OH paulj, I don't think the beef is any higher fat in OK. Matter of fact the beef I used to get would stick to the pan if you weren't careful, and usually didn't require draining. I hate to admit this, but I grew up on a cattle farm in OK and after I left home and my folks sold their cattle, I never had meat as good as we used to get, but still yet the beef from local meat markets in OK was way better than the stuff I was getting out here in the Mega Marts. Can you believe at one time I remember turning my nose up at steak because I was so tired of eating it all the time at home. Man those were the days. John

                1. re: wulfdog

                  Go to a farmers market. You'll get grass fed beef, which has a vastly different flavor than the supermarket swill and you won't pay too much more for it. I get ground beef at the farmers markets for between $5 and $7 per pound and it is just wonderful.

                  Check with your local farmers market and see if they have a meat vendor. Most do these days.

              2. The big problem is often the fat content, by which I mean the lack thereof. They like it lean around here, at least in the "healthy" stores, and it's utterly flavorless. PCC sells a 9%-max-fat version, which is, predictably enough, a waste of space. Probably viewing it as a wild extravagance, they also do a 16%-max version, which is equally pointless. When I asked if they could add more fat on request, I was given all sorts of bureaucratic reasons for why that wasn't possible.

                While Whole Food deals in pretty much the same silliness, I was once told by one of their meat guys that they could do any percentage I wanted. However, when I tried sometime later to actually do that, they said I'd have to place an order in advance. Tiresome.

                I haven't checked, but I assume that the vendors at the farmers markets deal in a similar product, since so many of their customers seem to have the same anemic notions about food. So you'll probably have to resort to conventional but expert folks like A&J. Unfortunately, that usually means leaving the sustainable-humane-organic realm.

                1. Stokesberry Sustainable Farm is in Olympia and sells delicious grass-fed beef. http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M19854

                  Definitely check the farmers' markets too!

                  And I agree with out about it not being fatty enough, by the way. I often cook mine in beef tallow. I've gotten delicious grass-fed ground lamb around here though, and it's nice and fatty.

                  Debs
                  www.seattlelocalfood.com

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: seattledebs

                    Stewart's Meats (located in McKenna, past Yelm) maintains a stall at the Farmer's Market in Olympia, and you can place special orders with them and pick them up at the market (located at the Port of Olympia, at the north end of Capitol Blvd.).

                    You might also want to check out Western Meats, located on Capitol Blvd. mid-way between Tumwatrer and Olympia.

                    1. re: Steve in Olympia

                      Tried Western Meats, and got the same stringy chewy stuff without flavor, but I will try Stewart's I was in thier store back in March and bought some sausages, but didn't think to try their ground beef. I'll stop by the farmer's market tomorrow when I'm in OLY. Thanks agian.

                  2. Some of the bad taste in beef and the toughness these days is because they do not age the beef long enough before it is processed. I have been around cattle most of my life and have everything from angus and herferd to limosine and old dairy holstein. the main thing with cattle is how it is treated in the last 60 days of its life and how long it is aged. they ageing process breaks down the muscle and flavors the beef. I have had holstein that was excellent just a little larger bones and angus that relly sucked and couldn't hardly eat it because it was not treated properly. I make sure that all my beef is aged at least 15 days. some of the older ones on the blog remember the USDA prime cut. well that used to be aged 20-25 days you cannont hardly find that anymore. So when you talk to your butcher also ask him how long he aged it. it will make a big difference in flavor and texture!

                    1. Painted Hills natural ground beef is really very, very good. It's from Oregon and it's easy to find here in Seattle....I would imagine that would be the case in Olympia as well. Go to their website and find out where to buy it where you live. I've never been disappointed with the flavor or texture..and I cook it rare-med. rare. I think you'll stop complaining about the beef here in the PNW after you've tried it!

                      1. Why not grind your own? Just get some nice chuck roast and throw it in the food processor, being careful not to pulse to a paste. If it's too lean, start saving trimmings from other roasts, or add some tallow or (real) lard.

                        1. Could it be a corn-fed vs. grass-fed thing? Much beef out here is grass fed and it does have a different taste/texture.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Scott O

                            I would agree that the likelihood of getting 100% grass fed and finished beef is higher on the west coast(by that I mean outside of mega-corporate grocery stores). But I would also contend that if you are used to corn/grain fed beef, what you are used to is completely unnatural. Cows arent meant to, nor do they exist healthily on a grain diet. To put it bluntly, if you dont like the flavor of grass fed beef.......you dont like beef.

                            1. re: nkeane

                              And, more importantly, the OP said he first tried Safeway and Walmart, which certainly ain't mostly grass-fed.

                          2. Hi, John, I wanted to let you know that I live in the area, we raise grass fed, grass finished Angus Beef on the 100 year old Wilcox Family Farm. Here is my website, www.WilcoxAngusBeef.com & our farm's website (sell eggs) is www.WilcoxFarms.com. We do direct sells to consumers of our beef. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. Thanks.