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Our grass fed beef tastes like fish, why?

We splurged this last year and bought 1/4 of a grass fed cow. I am fine with the slightly tougher texture, etc, but neither hubby nor I like the taste of this meat. I have had grass fed before from Whole foods and liked it, but this stuff tasts like FISH (it is very reminicent of the aftertaste of fish oil capsules taken for health). The taste is especially strong near bones (our prime rib at Christmas was a disaster because of this, we pretty much filled up on potatoes and tossed the beef). No matter what cut, and no matter how I prepare it, this taste is dominant. I have never had trouble making beef dishes before, but this stuff we can barely choke down. No eating pleasure in it at all.
Fortunately, this batch is almost gone and I am looking to buy another 1/4 of a cow. How do I avoid this again? What would have caused this, should I fault the farm or the butchering or none of the above?
Thanks in advance for any tips:)

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  1. Hi, ansluasi:

    It could be any or none of the above. What *kind* of grass was the animal fed? Sweet Timothy or alfalfa will taste different from prariegrass, scrub or weeds. Who killed, butchered, cut and wrapped, te rancher or a third party? I cannot prove, yet I *swear* I've had meat from others' animals end up in my freezer when I paid for it to be MY animals that I fed.

    Another possibility is that your prior experiences with "grass fed" were not entirely so. Chains and their vendors are not above passing off grain fed and grain-finished beef as grass-fed. So this may well be your first experience with purely (or largely) grass-fed. Personally, as a 3rd generation cattle guy, I prefer grain-finished.

    Still another possibility (albeit doubtful) is that your animal was actually fed a protein supplement that included fish byproduct. This happens.

    What was the breed and was your quarter a front or hind? How old was the animal? These are also important variables.

    Finally, if what you're used to is grain-fed or grain-finished beef, grass-fed is going to taste different despite all the other variables. Folks who've *only* eaten grass-fed sometimes have similar comparable complaints about grain-fed. I'm not a food chemist, but experience raising and eating my own animals tells me that the increased Omega -6 and -9 fats in grass-fed may remind you of some similar fat profiles in fish.

    My suggestion is that you try a small amount of a recognized premium brand of grass-fed and see how it compares to what you bought. Start eliminating the variables and ask questions. It's worth it in the end, because the grass-fed is better for you, the animals, public health and the environment. But if you don't like it, please don't feel compelled to buy it.

    Hope this helps.


    9 Replies
    1. re: kaleokahu

      Whole Foods in my area sells a product out of Missouri. I can tell you by looking at it that it's not entirely grass-fed, and that's the case with a lot of so-called grass fed beef. In MO the ranchers move the cattle to fields when the grass begins to seed (which makes it grain). They also plant cereal grains for forage and hay, the latter harvested at the seed state. Many producers raise 100% pastured cattle that get a heavy dose of grain in the diet. I personally don't have a problem with this, and I think the beef tastes better, but the whole grass vs. grain debate is so misinformed, it's a shame this kind of deceptive marketing has to happen

      That said, you're probably tasting iron. Do you notice a metallic taste?

      1. re: kaleokahu

        I am not sure what they were fed on. I did visit the farm, and did see the cattle out in pasture. To my inexperienced eyes it looked like very high quality grazing, very green, very lush, few weeds, no scrub, etc. Definitely wasn't alfalfa. I am guessing a high quality pasture grass mix, but I now know to ask next time:) The cattle were Angus and it was a young animal.
        Pretty sure that it isn't just a taste aversion to grass fed. I have had it from Whole Foods, like I mentioned, and also had some at my parents' house in WNY. Loved all of it. It does taste a bit beefier to me, but I enjoyed it. This weird fishy flavor in our poor cow is dominant even in things like curry and taco meat with lots of seasoning added.
        After reading all the replies on here, I think the blame might lay at the processing end. Is grass fed ground beef supposed to be mushy? Ours is, when thawed, and looks more texture wise like it came out of a food processor than a grinder. Even my KitchenAid grinder attachment makes more normal looking ground meat. The steaks and roasts seem VERY bloody when thawed too.
        It was a mixed 1/4, both front and hind. The weird taste is throughout all of the cuts, especially near the bones, where it is flat out inedible, even to my husband who will eat almost anything.
        I won't give up though, we are lucky to have several grass fed farms in our area so I will keep trying:)

        1. re: ansluasi

          I've noticed from the last 3 farms I've talked with that their grass-fed beef was grain-finished. I bought from one of these farms. But I'm not sure whether I will buy grass-fed beef with a grain-finish again. Not because of the taste, but when I pay the price, I want strictly grass-fed.

          Many years I didn't eat beef because it tasted gamey. Growing up on a farm, I never noticed a gamy taste. I haven't noticed a fish taste on the meat we recently bought.

          I have wondered if we got the meat we paid for, mainly because it does seem inconsistent. I "believe" it is the law here in VA that a grower of beef has to have it processed by a processor - other than the grower.

          1. re: Rella

            Another issue with grain finished is that it is not grassfed any longer. Almost all cattle are on grass a portion of their lives, that does not give the seller they right to call them grassfed although they do because they understand the power of marketing. They understand what the consumer wants so if they can redirect your attention from the finish to what happens prior to finish then you will buy their product feeling better about your purchase. I have been involved in meat studies of beef that we have raised, both grass finished and grain finished. We also tested some animals that were grassfed and finished on "mostly" forage but with distillers grain added to the ration since the starch is removed from distillers there are some that say it qualifies as grass finished. I no longer agree with that idea because, the testing shows that the meat fed distillers had the same basic CLA and Omega 3 levels as grain feed animals, much less than pure grass finished animals. Don't be fooled by the marketing, only grass and green forages qualify for grass finishing, no grains if you want the benefits of the grass finishing process. I work every month to educate producers on how to properly raise grassfed beef. It is not rocket science but it is an art. The art is in the grass production not the animal production, grow excellent forage and you will have excellent beef as long as you have the right genetics.

            One problem with genetics is that we have increased the average size of the animal for bigger and more meat as we do most things in the US. Although this trend goes to most corners of the world. The problem with bigger animals is that the bigger they get the less efficient they are with feed. Bigger animals require more feed. Makes since right? It is hard to fatten an animal on forage the is "designed" by genetics to be too big, they put on size instead of meat and fat, in other words they don't finish leaving a lean product because they are not finished. This probably more than you wanted to know but this is a good discussion and I hope that you can learn something that will help you be a better and more educated consumer. We have a food epidemic in the world that is killing us with unhealthy food. The more you know the better you will feed your family and the healthier we will all be. A good question for a producer is to ask them why they do what they do. Someone who can express their passion for healthy food and a healthy community is a good one to consider buying from.

            1. re: GrassfedNetwork

              "Someone who can express their passion for healthy food and a healthy community is a good one to consider buying from."

              There lies the rub. Most farmers I have spoken with do express their passion in this way, and raise their beef in a responsible way and generally talk the talk. But when one continues talkng with the passionate farmer, it always ends up with the conversation regarding the 'grain finish' whether cows or chickens.

              1. re: Rella

                Sounds like you are doing more of the talking than they are. I talk with ranchers all the time and most will show their colors fairly quickly given the right questions and allow them to talk. Grain is a problem for cows, not chickens, chickens were designed to eat grain although if you have the space to truly free range they generally do just fine. We have never feed our chickens. Understanding a ranchers or farmers background is a good place to start. If they have grown up in the conventional world it is very hard to make the transition even if they want to. They have to have a reason for their passion first, then they can learn how to make it actually work. :-) There is definitely a limited number of true grass finishers all that being said.

                1. re: GrassfedNetwork

                  Yes, I must form my questions correctly and allow them to talk.
                  Thanks for your help.

                  1. re: Rella

                    My guess is that you passion is fairly apparent so anyone selling to you is going to show the same passion ... if they are at all smart. You probably need to hold your cards a little closure to the vest when talking with ranchers/farmers. :-)

                    1. re: Rella

                      Another point is that of semantics. See, grassfed is a buzz word these days so many independent ranchers are trying to figure out how to use the word in their operation and especially if they direct market. The semantics problem is that they may be using the exact same words that you are but obviously have a totally different meaning than you do. You may want them to clarify what they mean by words they use even if you think you know. It is always important to understand what they mean by what they say which may be very different than what you understand. So, the result is you have an entire conversation with someone and think that you are talking and agreeing about all this stuff only to learn later that you don't see eye to eye on more than one or two points. Clarify the words that are being used. :-)

        2. This grass-fed beef site has a FAQ section addressing that issue:


          "Wild fish taste fishy because of their high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. All grass-fed meats taste fishy, grassy, or gamy because of their high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids."

          3 Replies
          1. re: ferret

            I'm not sure why the beef is fishy, but I can say with reasonable certainty that it ain't the omega-3. Grass fed beef and omega-3 fat is nothing but propaganda. But, the grass fed has 60% more than grain fed! Yes, it does. But, 60% more of what original amount? Therein lies the catch that's never brought up.

            Red meat just isn't a good source of polyunsaturated fats (plenty of saturated!). A serving of beef is going to have less than 1 gram and even a smaller portion is omega-3. How much smaller? under 100 milligrams. Now, if you've got a super palate, you may be able to pick up that little amount, but it ain't happening for most of us.

            To take some wild/complete guesses on the strange flavor, I'd wager it on processing or storage, with a side bet on something extra (not grain, but not grass) being added to the diet. And, I suppose a bit on the refined palate factor.

            1. re: ediblover

              I suspect you're right on it being a processing issue. As I mentioned in a couple other replies, the meat seems very bloody to me when thawed (they put in those little absorbant pads but it way overflows those), and the ground beef is very mushy. Very hard to form into hamburger patties. I wish I had more experience form other suppliers so I had more to compare it to.

              1. re: ediblover

                More than half the fat in even a conventional, feedlot sirloin steak is poly and mononunsaturated, actually. It's not just Omega 3s that matter; it's the ratio to Omega 6, the higher CLA and lower arachidonic acid. It's also the recduced health risks from superbugs bred by antibiotic usage to overcome the sickness caused by grain feeding.

            2. Hi Ansluasi,

              No, you are not crazy but I will tell you that the best advice is going to come from a grassfed producer. I would tell you that you should not buy from the same rancher again. The finishing as well as mineral deficiencies is what has caused the off flavor. Beef should NEVER taste like fish no matter what texasgrassfedbeef.com has to say. Someone that tells you that is trying to SELL you an inferior product. Always ask a lot of questions of your producer. The only reason to know age is to gauge the level of finish and tenderness, not for flavor. Many producers do not properly finish their animals, that is why you always hear that grassfed beef is lean, it is only lean because if improper finishing or poor genetics. Grassfed cattle should not be lean when slaughtered. If possible, it is a good idea to visit the cattle that you will be buying. This is to insure proper handling and care of the animals and sanitary conditions (you'd be surprised at some operations). You want to ask what supplements have been fed if any and what the rancher is finishing on. What the animal is eating can and will have a huge impact on the flavor profile. Unfortunately, the average consumer is used to going to the store and buying meat whenever they want. Grassfed beef is a seasonal product so you want to buy animals that have been butchered in the late summer or early fall finished on grasses and not cover crops. Unlike what has been mentioned here, very few "grassfed" producers are feeding seeded out grass. To think that this is happening on a large scale shows the lack of knowledge of the protein and fiber content of grasses. At the seed stage the grass has very little nutrition left so few producers are going to wait until their grass seeds out to put their cattle in. This does happen some on stock piled pastures but there are also very few grasses that spread by seed, most spread by rhizomes so this is simply miss information. Do some producers do it, probably so but not very many and there are some excellent grassfed producers in MO. Good grassfed beef will taste "beefier" than its corn fed counterparts which I think is a good thing. I don't understand someone wanting beef that doesn't taste like beef. :) By the way, you cannot tell by looking at meat whether it is grassfed or not, grassfed cattle can have as pure a white fat as corn fed, depends largely on breed and feed prior to slaughter. The best grassfed finishers are going to be British breeds and no, Angus Beef is not just a marketing ploy. Although there are many other breeds that taste as good and maybe better than Angus, the Angus Assoc has done the best job of marketing by building a level of expectation in the consumers mind. If possible, always try a sample of beef before buying a 1/4. Most 1/4's Kaleo are mixed 1/4's with meat from both the front and the back. Whole Foods is not my favorite store, but I happen to know their international meat buyer and he would not knowingly market corn fed beef as grassfed. You can finish in early winter with stored feeds but the quality of beef goes down (not flavor just Omega 3's and such) as the winter draws on and feed gets older. A finished animal should not be showing any rib and have fat on either side of the tail head and along the spine. A fat cover of 3/4" is a minimum on the sides. Hope that helps a little.

              As to the beef you have left, try making some Vietnamese soups with fish sauce and the beef as flavor in the soup. That should mask the flavor some. :-)

              9 Replies
              1. re: GrassfedNetwork

                Had to laugh at your last line! Haven't tried Vietnamese dishes with it yet, but we have been eating LOTS of curry and spicy tacos, LOL:)
                I suspect it is, as you said, the processor. I am wondering if they bled it properly, it seems to have a lot of blood in it compared to supermarket beef, and the ground beef looks more like beef that was put through a food processor than beef that went through a grinder (you know, that classic spiral-ish look?) Very mushy in texture when thawed, not dry-ish like supermarket ground beef. I wish I had more experience buying it so that I had some sort of baseline to compare it to. I will definitely get a sample first next time.
                I did go see the animals before slaughter (they were Angus, BTW) and they looked good, grazing on really nice acreage and in very clean, well cared for shape. They were rotated between fields, so always had nice quality grass to munch on (the owner was a Joel Salatin intern so seemed to know his stuff pretty well).
                I don't mind the beefier taste, that's what the Whole Foods stuff taste like, and my family really enjoyed it. I don't even mind a bit of a metallic taste due to higher iron, but fish is a definite no (I don't even like real fish, so fish flavored cow is definitely a gross factor for me:)

                1. re: ansluasi

                  I know of the farm of which you speak. I'm curious, as I can't seem to find it in your postings, did anyone from Joel Salatin's mention whether or not the Angus were grain-finished?

                  As you can read from my previous posting, I mentioned that here in VA (your purchase was made in VA if it is Joe Salatin), will be under law permitted only to process outside of the farm. I understand this farm is allowed to butcher and sell his own chickens - correct me if I'm wrong.

                  1. re: Rella

                    The farmer was an intern with Joel not Joel himself. They are in Ohio I think. But to answer your question, beef and chicken have totally different processing guidelines in all states.

                      1. re: Rella

                        Yes, Joel Salatin is in VA. The farm I bought from is run by a man who interned in VA with Salatin and then came back here to OH to run his family farm after finishing his internship. He uses the concepts he learned in his internship, but is independent of Salatin.
                        The beef I bought was 100% grass fed and finished.

                        1. re: ansluasi

                          That's good to know. I know of a farmer who has interned with Salatin here in the Valley (VA), but I don't know whether he grain-finishes or not.

                          A question for "GrassfedNetwork:"

                          Is it just almost impossible for farmers here in this climate/zone of VA and Ohio to be able to grass feed up to time of slaughter; therefore the reason for grain-finish.

                          I have seen one farmer that I have bought from - but not their beef -- when seeing their teensy calves eat, it is some kind of pellet, which I assume is a grain-pellet.

                          How can a farmer say that his milk is "whatever" free, when he has fed the calves pellets. I would think that the milk would not be qualified for anything other than perhaps pesticide free or perhaps some other "... free."

                          I really don't like to see calves fed grain pellets. I wonder how many beef farms do before they actually go to pasture.

                          1. re: Rella

                            Good Question Rella,

                            Climate and Zone are not the issue, desire and genetics are the issue. Every zone and climate save those that don't ever green up and have a growing season, has the potential for finishing cattle. The problem is that it generally takes longer to finish an animal on grass, meaning that the animal will be 24 to 30 months old and you can slaughter a grain feed animal at 16 - 18 months old. The almighty dollar is the problem. The reason that grassfed beef costs so much more generally, is because of the longer growing period so the rancher has to charge more to cover all the cost involved in keeping the animal longer. Part of what we are trying to teach is how to reduce those costs so that the price can come down while profits go up.

                            Milk, I have owned and run both a goat and cow dairy. What you feed your calves has nothing to do with the milk you produce or sell. The reason that the calves are feed pellets which could be just alfalfa or it could be distillers grain, is because the rancher needs to sell all the milk to make a profit so they wean calves at 8 - 9 weeks to keep as much milk as possible. I prefer to wean when the calves are ready to graze on their own and keep them on milk until then but that still has no bearing on the milk that you buy from the dairy. Most beef producers wean later because weaning means more work. Conventional producers (read that grain fed producers) will wean and then feed a pellet usually and it is usually a mixture of alfalfa and distillers grains depending on what part of the country they are in. Some parts of the country mix in wheat chaf and others will use beet pulp waste. They typically use whatever waste product the area produces, if that doesn't say enough right there. Yuk!!! Let me know if that doesn't fully answer your questions. :-)

                            1. re: GrassfedNetwork

                              You say,
                              "What you feed your calves has nothing to do with the milk you produce or sell..."

                              I can't wrap my head around that. Do not calves grow up to produce milk out of these bodies that have been fed certain grains that I might have an objection to?

                              1. re: Rella

                                If you are referring to a grass based dairy then there should be no grains fed at any time, even to calves. You are presuming that the calves grow up to be milk producers for the dairy. When we had a dairy, most of the calves were sold and did not stay in the herd. I didn't choose to feed them any differently than my herd but if I had, it would have had not bearing on the milk I produced.

              2. Thanks everybody for responding. I am suspecting it might be a processing issue, so let me ask this, how long should it take to process a cow, from slaughter to hanging to cutting to freezing? We bought ours pre-frozen in vacuum sealed bags, and it was ready 1 1/2 weeks after slaughter. How long should it age, and shouldn't it be dry-ish? Ours has copious amounts of blood when thawed, far outsoaking the little absorbant pads they froze it with.

                12 Replies
                1. re: ansluasi


                  I wish your story were a little funnier but for what you spent on meat (better than the store but still), it isn't very funny. I have been in the grassfed beef business for 13+ years and have never experienced your issue. I hate to tell you this but if that meat was in my freezer it would be expensive dog food! Mushy ground beef is definitely a processor problem as is excess blood. I prefer my beef dry aged a minimum of 14 days. So, let's break that down. You kill and process animal for hanging day 1, two weeks later they pull the meat from the hanging locker and cut into your cut sheet then they put it in the freezer for at least 24 hours. So at the very best, it should be 15 days (usually not this fast) before your meat is ready and many times I age for 21 days. It sounds like your meat was not bleed out, was not aged properly and given the off taste and mush, not frozen properly. Has it caused any "off" feelings in stomachs? I would not be comfortable with that meat at all and like your husband, I can eat almost anything (you know, 8-9 days in the fridge but no off smell or things growing, I'll eat it) but your meat crosses the line I am REALLY sorry to say. My wife wouldn't even want to feed it to my dog, but I would. Have you told the rancher about this problem and has he offered a solution? Give him a chance to fix it. Who knows, the processor may have given you another animal. See what the Rancher says and if he is using the same processor and let me know. I am happy to consult. :-) Fishy beef is definitely a problem!! I don't want to eat fish that smells like fish either but I do like fish ... fresh fish and fresh beef!

                  Oh, pretty pastures with no weeds is not always a good thing. Ask what he does to his pastures, if he treats or uses any chemicals; he could have used fish emulsion right before slaughter. Also ask about chemicals and drug use in the animals. Don't let anyone tell you that drugs are necessary. 24 month is about the youngest an animal can be harvested properly unless they have really improved their genetics and forages. Being a good marketer does not mean you are following the most appropriate husbandry practices. Read more about grassfed on eatwild dot com.

                  1. re: GrassfedNetwork

                    Yep, I am inclined to agree with you. For what it cost, we had to struggle through most of it (on a very tight budget as a SAHM) but I think that what remains might become cat food. If they'll eat it (but then our cats like fish, so perhaps it is a perfect match). We never have gotten sick from it, or I would never have kept cooking it, but it sure hasn't been enjoyable.

                    As far as the farm end, I am really pretty certain that there was nothing untoward going on. The farmer is a young guy, very committed, very hardworking, and trained under Joel Salatin. Definitely no chemicals, antibiotics or drugs involved (not sure about fish emulsion though). He seemed to be doing everything right, based on what I had read about raising grassfed cattle, such a shame that his hard work ended up being wrecked at the processors.

                    1. re: ansluasi

                      Mr. Salatin is a great chicken raiser and marketer, in the grassfed beef community he does not have the same reputation. Outside of the grassfed beef community is simply what he markets and as the consumer you buy. I would not be so quick to lay all the blame on the processor. Is your meat really lean; roasts, steaks? Again, as I mentioned earlier, when a producer is trying to convert cattle to cash, they often cut corners and that usually is in underdeveloped beves going to slaughter which causes lean usually tough meat.

                      1. re: GrassfedNetwork

                        The meat isn't too lean. Leaner than cheap fatty supermarket beef, but it has a nice bit of marble and the roasts cooked up to be really tender. The steaks had a good mouthfeel too (even the not so good typically cheaper cuts), not chewy, just a good texture that lets you know you're eating beef. If it wasn't for the nasty taste (and mushy hamburger), I would be really happy with it.
                        I have found another couple of grass fed sources in our area and am going to see if I can buy small amounts from them to test it out. One of them uses the same processor that we got the 1/4 from, so it will be a chance to see it is any different.

                        1. re: ansluasi

                          Go tour the processor! I am questioning if the meat you got is from your rancher. Ask the processor how he manages his inventory to insure proper delivery.

                    2. re: GrassfedNetwork

                      I believe from reading the later posts that this farm (Joel Salatin) has one of the best reputations - see Omnivore's Dilema (sp?) written about this farm, a best seller.

                      1. re: Rella

                        Not sure where the confusion entered in here, but I did not buy beef from Joel Salatin and do not live near him. I live in OH and bought from an OH farm. The owner of the farm that I purchased my beef from trained under Salatin as an intern. The reputation of Salatin's farm has nothing to do with my issue here, since he was not responsible in any way for the product that I bought. I only mentioned Salatin to explain the background/training of the farmer I purchased from. Other than that, Salatin is really irrelevant to the issue with this beef.

                        1. re: ansluasi

                          Thanks so much. I quite understand.

                    3. re: ansluasi

                      Hey ansluasi, have you considered asking the people you purchased from? If they care to keep your business they might be willing to comp you something.

                      1. re: joonjoon

                        I haven't, guess I am being chicken about it. After the way that this stuff was so awful, I wouldn't buy for them again anyway, so a future discount or whatever wouldn't be of interest. Plus, at first I thought it was just us not being used to it and that we might develop a palate for it, and now it seems like just too much time has gone by since we bought it. We ate enough of it to get our moneys worth so I am chalking it up as a learning experience. I understand that there are a lot more factors that i need to consider now before I commit to another purchase of this scale.

                        1. re: ansluasi

                          We raise our own animals for meat and we also sell some that have been processed locally. We want to know what our customers think of the meat we sell and if someone is unhappy with the product it is important to us to fix the problem. I think that if your farmer truly cares about his product he would not only want to know, but he deserves to know what happened in your situation. If he doesn't know that his processor might be slaughtering incorrectly, not aging properly etc., he won't be able to change for future customers.

                          1. re: earthygoat

                            I completely agree Earthygoat. A manager of any business can only fix what he knows exists so a conscience consumer will let the manager know. The managers reaction will often determine whether you want to return to do business with this business. Even if you don't want to rebuy from him Ansluasi, he deserves to know why so he can try to correct it in the future.

                    4. I was surprised that the Omega-3 point (which is real) didn't come up at once, though it _doesn't_ by itself explain fishy taste, I've had good local grass-fed beef that might be called a little more gamy but not fishy. Omega-3 fat structures after all occur also in plant foods that no one calls fishy. Our bodies evolved to rely on Omega-3s in natural ancestral diets, and can substitute Omega-6 fat structures (found more in modern commercial foods) if they can't get Omega-3, with some physical side effects. This isn't some pet crusade of mine, but I was enlightened by a remarkable recent medical survey paper summarizing the wide variety of medical literature on this, and its upshots. (If I can find an online source I'll post it.) The range of roles where our bodies use Omega-3s preferentially is jaw-droppingly wide. One physician commented to me that a certain fraction of his patients (a third or something like that) with unfavorable blood lipids (HDL vs LDL cholesterol levels etc.) improve them dramatically simply by taking a gram or two of supplemental omega-3 "essential fatty acids" (EPA and DHA) in daily supplements.

                      Any basic authoritative book on dietary fat chemistry, such as Enig's _Know Your Fats_ (2000, ISBN 0967812607) will brief you on the fat structures that the body uses. The subject, like most of nutrition, is clouded somewhat by ideologies, fads, commercial hustles, and medically unsound earnest-looking Web sites and profitmaking "Health Letters" which all my medical-faculty friends at Stanford and UCSF are always warning me away from, so I suggest to stick to noncommercial scientific sources for at least basic info. Enig, a respected lipids biochemist, had something of a crusade against earlier simplistic fashionable unexamined condemnations of saturated fats (at least some quantities of some of which, I gather, you'd die without).

                      Which leads to my main point. It seems to surprise some people that cattle, like other herd animals, graze, and that they grazed for food for almost their entire history. That's why they have those complex multi-stage stomachs. Grass-fed cattle were the kind our ancestors mainly ate, what we are evolved to eat if we consume beef. (Many more of us had ancestors who ate lamb, but that's another topic.) Only in the last few decades have many cattle been raised in feed lots, fed sugar and corn and shortcut chemical agents like growth hormones and shotgun antibiotics (cheaper than veterinary care) because it produces the product and price that the consumer market prefers. I drive along Interstate 5 in central California and witness literally tens of thousands of poor beasts, each allocated some theoretical space by law, but in practice huddled pitiably in their hundreds and thousands often shoulder-to-shoulder amid their own byproducts. The sight and smell (for ten miles around) could convert some folks to vegetarianism. So grass-fed beef isn't new -- it's the "CAFOs" (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) that are the actual novelty, with the less well understood side effects.

                      (ETA:) The whole historical reason why the Americas developed much more meat-heavy diets than the places where their old-world immigrants came from -- why Italian-American and Chinese-American cooking use far more meat than their home-country cuisines, why Argentine gauchos on cattle ranches traditionally consume eight pounds or so of meat daily -- is grasslands. The Americas had endless plains where herd animals could graze and this led to red meat being far chaper relative to lands heavily trodden and farmed for millenia, where in some cases, e.g. Greece, much of the original arable land was gone, once the soils had been depleted enough that the complex ecosystem necessary for crops died.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: eatzalot

                        It was actually a trip out West that got me going on trying to break my family's dependency on supermarket beef. One look at the CAFOs driving through Nebraska and my heart just broke. We raise our own meat chickens, so I have no problem with raising animals for food and slaughtering them, but the conditions of those poor creatures was just appalling. Knee deep in their own filth and plainly miserable. Aside for the ethical problem it poses, there is also just no way that it is healthy, for the animal, for the environment, or for us. I feel good eating our home raised chickens because I know that they got to enjoy fresh air, sunlight, tasty bugs and lots of fresh sweet green plants and nutritious, drug free feed while alive, and that they were killed quickly and cleanly (and oh, they taste soooo much more delicious than store bought, the gravy is to die for!). Next year we are hoping to add a pig or two to our mix in our back acreage so as to get quality, healthy pork too. Hopefully I can find a good beef supplier so I can say the same of the beef we eat.

                        1. re: ansluasi

                          "they taste soooo much more delicious than store bought" [ansluasi]. Amen to that! There seems to be a general principle that animals that lived well taste better. With poultry it's dramatic.

                          My parents cultivated small livestock (chickens, rabbits; the goat was for milk) even in relatively metropolitan Berkeley, where it was highly unorthodox (maybe illegal) at the time, a minor consideration to people serious about food. All animals are inefficient sources of food unless their feed is "free" via scavenging -- it takes several times as much usable plant protein to yield a given amount of animal protein ("protein factories in reverse," as Frances Moore Lappé very famously expressed it 40 years ago). Rabbits I'm told are the least inefficient common livestock, followed by poultry. We kids did put up a fight about slaughtering the rabbits. (Our goat was very gentle and friendly too.)

                          1. re: eatzalot

                            Rabbits have an inherently inefficient digestive system -- but they're autocoprophagous, so the food gets several passages through! Of course, the coprophagia is one reason some people (not including me) won't eat rabbits.

                            1. re: drongo

                              That wasn't why we raised a fuss about slaughtering rabbits when I was 8 or 9 years old! I'd forgotten all about it until much later, as an adult, being reminded by my father. (A certain difference of assumptions concerning the rabbits' exact role in our household surfaced when the time came -- we had many "other" pets that I haven't mentioned here. My parents relented. Much later and retired to the country, my father resumed raising rabbits and they no longer had any such protectors.)

                              1. re: eatzalot

                                LOL, this made me laugh. My husband and I have discussed raising rabbits for meat, for ourselves and our pets, and the issue of how to break it to our daughter (she's 3) is what proved to be the sticking point. She doesn't get too attached to our chickens once they pass the cute fuzzy chick stage, but we weren't quite sure how to explain how a fuzzy Easter Bunny lookalike disappeared and ended up in the stew pot. If only there was an ugly hairless wrinkly variety of meat rabbit or something not quite so cuddly and child endearing:)

                      2. I think the omega-3 content of grass-fed beef is a red herring (excuse unintended fishy puns). The "fishy" taste of fish is ascribed to trimethylamine (TMA). TMA is unrelated to omega-3 fatty acids (the latter have no nitrogen at all, yet it's nitrogen that's at the center of TMA).

                        On the other hand, TMA can be generated from beef -- e.g. see Table 1 in the following paper: http://www.tmaufoundation.org.au/scie...

                        TMA is a protein degradation product, and also can come from an animal's feed.

                        I don't know what's going on here... though I'd suspect integrity of the cold chain.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: drongo

                          If this is the case, and it sounds likely since "off" fish is exactly what it brings to mind, then the meat must have experienced a temperature out of its range for maintaining the cold chain integrity resulting in TMA production. We got the beef frozen solid and it went right into our deep freeze, so perhaps this happened during hanging or cutting?

                          1. re: ansluasi

                            The must not have gotten the meat frozen fast enough or it was hung at too high a temperature. Wouldn't have happened during cutting.

                            The rule in our house is all animals that are for food can be named, but they have to be named food names (ie. ribeye, t-bone, porterhouse [porter], etc.)

                            1. re: GrassfedNetwork

                              Haha- I used to school horses for a cattle rancher who once allowed me to raise an orphaned calf, which I promptly named "Veal".

                            2. re: ansluasi

                              "We got the beef frozen solid and it went right into our deep freeze, so perhaps this happened during hanging or cutting?"

                              You mentioned in an earlier post that you bought it pre-frozen. Perhaps your freezer isn't working correctly? Could be a temperature issue. Ground beef that has been thawed even slightly and re-frozen will turn to mush. The fishy taste could also be blamed on a freezer that is a bit too warm. You may be smelling it before you taste it and have told yourself it is fish. :-)

                              Most folks when describing a bad smell have "fish" in the sentance.

                              Check that freezer.

                              TC, Robin

                            3. re: drongo

                              Is there a reason why this taste would be especially strong and noticeable near bones? Not sure if that could be due to the bone itself, or perhaps the bone marrow that may have released its flavor into the surroudning meat when the bones were cut through open during the cutting process?

                              1. re: ansluasi

                                I have asked a Scientist friend of mine and will give his answer when he gets back to me but ... You mentioned the excessive amount of blood that is in the meat. It may be possible that the lack of proper bleeding is the culprit here for both the off flavor and the mushy ground beef, not to mention it wasn't aged long enough. Blood, as we all know, is produced in the marrow of the bones which is why the marrow is so healthy for to use in broths. I obviously can't say for sure but this could be the problem.

                            4. It sounds to me like the animal was stressed before killing it. LACTIC ACID builds up in an animal that is stressed and it will cause an off taste and toughness. To properly get good tasting beef the cow should be trained and get used to being in a trailer. This new environment is very stressful and farmers don't like to take the time to do this EXCEPT for their beef. Think about the effort that is taken with Wagu cattle. Everything is done to keep them relaxed. When I recently had a cow killed the "death house" had a pen that they kept him in for a few days so he could de stress. I also bought a case of beer for the cow to enjoy.
                              For you hunters out there think about how a deer that has been chased by dogs taste so much different than one killed with a single shot from a rifle while grazing. The taste of these two meets side by side can be a "eye opening" experience.
                              Thank you for your time.

                              1. I accidentally purchased some wrasse fed beef once. Very fishy.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: nsenada


                                  If you did buy 'wrasse' fed beef, I would think it would be fishy, since a wrasse is a fish! :)

                                2. Okay Ansluasi,

                                  Here is what my scientist friend has to say:

                                  "There are a number of possibilities for the "off" flavor:

                                  1. The finisher could be using fish meal or a fish oil emulsion in the finishing diet, or applying a lot of fish oil emulsion to their finishing pastures. There are quite a few folks out there promoting the use of fish byproducts on pastures as fertilizer.

                                  2. The forages in the finishing pastures may be too high in protein during the finishing phase. Too much protein will create a pH imbalance and cause excess uric acid excretion due to too much nitrogen. This imbalance in the diet does create an off flavor in the meat. Most describe it as a "liver-like" flavor, but she may perceive it as "fishy".

                                  3. Her grassfed beef supplier may be dry aging the product too long. This can also create a number of off flavors that are perceived differently by different people. Most would describe an aged flavor as "musty". Aging too long, coupled with poor trimming technique will certainly cause flavor issues.

                                  4. Feeding a diet too high in supplements like Flax seed or flax meal will also create off flavors. This too is a possibility."

                                  He agrees that is partly if not mostly a processor problem but he would not buy from that producer again. As I mentioned before, for that style of raising animals, chickens are probably good but beef is not desirable and not recommended by anyone in the grassfed beef industry save Joel himself and his proteges. So, other than the education I am not sure how any of that helps you with your current meat. Hopefully it will help you avoid this problem in the future. In the off chance it does happen again, immediately contact the producer and give them a chance to make it right. In this producers case, it might all taste the same. :-)

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: GrassfedNetwork

                                    Thank you so much for the EXCELLENT info. That was very kind of you to contact your friend about it for me. It definitely will help me to formulate questions to ask future producers about their practices so i can hopefully avoid this again. Luckily I have found another farm near us this weekend (different processor too) and am going there this week to look it over and buy a variety of cuts to try. After a year of eating faux fish, hubby and I are REALLY looking forward to a steak that tastes like beef:)

                                    1. re: ansluasi

                                      It just occurred to me. One of my clients has buying clubs in your area. Go to honoredprairie dot com; I highly recommend these folks. You will definitely not be disappointed with their products and their husbandry!!! These folks will solve your problems and they do almost everything; beef, lamb, pork, turkey, duck, wild caught salmon, chicken (you don't need), grassfed raw cheese, raw honey and maple syrup. Let me know if you decide to check them out.

                                      1. re: GrassfedNetwork

                                        Great, I am off to go look at their site now. Thanks:)

                                        BTW, I am attaching a photo I took of a steak (thankfully one of the last) that I took out of our freezer last night and thawed in our fridge. Our camera isn't the world's best, but hopefully it shows how much blood I am talking about, please let me know if it seems normal or excessive. I don't have a lot of experience to go by and maybe my estimation is wrong.

                                        Thanks again for a great lead:)

                                        1. re: ansluasi

                                          That seems excessive but it also looks like the beef may have freezer burn because that doesn't look like only blood. Unless that is a 10 lb sirloin that is too much liquid.

                                          1. re: ansluasi

                                            Is the blood in your picture from one package of meat that was wrapped in butcher paper?

                                            1. re: Rella

                                              The blood is from a fully thawed 1.4 pound top sirloin steak. There is also an absorbant pad that they put in with the frozen meat and it was soaked as well. It was thawed in its unopened vaccum sealed plastic packaging in the fridge. Not freezer burned, that's just my lovely crummy camera's special effects, LOL.

                                              1. re: ansluasi

                                                I asked about the packaging because all of the meat that I bought was specified in the "contract" as "paper" wrapped, with the exception of the ground beef which was packaged in some sort of plastic tube.

                                                A few years ago I bought a vacuum sealer and bought the rolls of plastic sealing plastic that went with it. I can't remember the exact taste that it was remiscent of, but after a short while, I realized that everything I ate from this packaging was 'foul.' I was quite adamant about discontinuing its use, as I had some money invested in the different size rolls and boxes.

                                                This is certainly valid - for me, anyway. It might be an idea to consider. Or ask at the next purchase.

                                    2. This seems to be a pretty clear case of improper handling during the processing. there are several things that may have gone wrong. The SOLUTIONS: Insist on your money back whenever you get bad meat. Give the farmer a chance, ONE chance to make it right. At the least bit of resistance on the farmer's part. Go Directly to the health department and ask for an inspector to review the process. This is what they are paid tax dollars to do, they work for you.

                                      I've raised and eaten 100% grass fed beef for many years. In the future, if you ever get bad meat, don't settle, get a refund or replacement immediately. And, since this seems such a blatant case of mishandling you should contact the health dept. regradless of the outcome. And if at all possible get them a sample so they can run tests. this is serious stuff, this is a health hazard.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Realbeef

                                        Whoa there Realbeef, we are trying to build a community not shot the community members. Since it is impossible to know the source of the problem at this point and in this discussion, don't be so quick to shot the producer. Building community is how we develop a market, we do not build community by being so accusatory. Since Ansluasi didn't want to address it with the producer and it has been a long time since her purchase, this is a case for many people to learn from. She is not interested in a discount or replacement on future meat. I do suggest she let the producer know why she will not be buying from him in the future and I do agree that she should share her concerns with any producer immediately in the future. But to start calling the health department I would not recommend and I don't believe Ansluasi has any desire to harm this mans business. If the processing facility is a USDA inspected facility then it will already have been addressed, at least one would hope. I too have been in the 100% grassfed beef business for many years but my desire is to educate not eliminate. There are far more people doing this grassfed business wrong than are doing it right. If you and I want a market to market to, we do that by education of both producer and consumer, not by accusing other producers of illegal activity and no this isn't a health issue as she has already said that no one every got ill from eating the beef, they just didn't like the goofy "off" taste and I don't blame them. I commend her and her husband both for being such troopers and trying to continue to eat the beef even though it tasted like fish. I don't recommend this kind of heroics in the future though. :-)

                                      2. I am in OH too and wish we had PM so you could tell me the name of this place so I could stay away from it.

                                        That being said, I do think you should contact the farmer and tell them of your displeasure and issues. They are legit, and if they are swatted away as nitpicking or crazy, then you know it's a bad farm/farmer, no matter how happy the cows looked in the field, and can steer others away from it. And if they are open to hearing the issues, no reason for you to buy from them again but they WOULD want to know for other customers. Give them a chance to react, you could be helping others and helping them from going out of business if they can change their ways or get to the root of the problems and fix them. I think it all depends on how they react. I bought some grass fed once at a farmer's market that was very, very, very bloody like yours too, and it turned us off from eating it. We did eat it, but found it to be tough and gamey. It's a big waste of money and you should let them know about it. Maybe they would even give you a partial refund. Stop trying to find uses for the rest of it and give it back.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                          Was your beef was packaged in plastic also. And as to beef being mushy, is there a possibility that these vacuum packers are maximum strength so as to mush-up the meat causing more blood?

                                          1. re: rockandroller1

                                            I completely agree that this farmer needs to know, especially if he really cares about his product. He'd probably be embarrassed knowing that there is a whole thread on how bad his beef was. I truly believe that if he doesn't know that his processor is destroying his product, if that is the case, then he will continue sending his animals to be slaughtered there, and therefore, keep giving grassfed beef a bad name. This problem will never be solved if the main person involved has no idea.

                                            1. re: earthygoat

                                              I have sent him an email tonight, not explaining the issue in depth but simply telling him that I have an issue with the beef I bought and asking him to call me about it (gave my info so he can). I'd rather discuss it over the phone than in an impersonal email, hard to judge tone, etc from email sometimes. I still have some beef left and plan to offer to let him try it for himself to see what I am talking about. As Grassfednetwork stated, I don't want my money back or anything at this point since so much time has elapsed. If I get a negative response from him or a dismissla/brushoff, then I will leave feedback about my experience with his products on a local producers site that he is listed on. Otherwise I will just inform him, let him know nicely, and move on.

                                          2. In response to the old tuna ad "chicken of the sea", farmers are starting new marketing that beef is the "salmon of the land." Nuff said?

                                            1. I just bought some organic certified, grass-fed, grass finished ground beef from a Minnesota farmer. And it has a fishy taste. Not overwhelming, but I notice it. So like the original poster, I too am wondering what is causing it. And it if it is safe to eat.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: seamist

                                                Reading this whole thread should answer your questions and also tell you what to ask your supplier.

                                                1. re: seamist

                                                  I'm trying to get a handle on this by asking again a previous question. Was your meat packaged in vacuum-sealed plastic.
                                                  Hope to hear from you and your answer. Thanks.

                                                2. Its all syfy. They can now cross a salmon with a cow. High Omega 3

                                                  1. My two cents - your grass-fed beef shouldn't be tougher. You probably got an older animal. Grass-fed beef is just as tender as grain-fattened IF the animals are of comparable ages.

                                                    The animal's diet directly impacts its flavor, so if he occasionally grazed wild onions or some other pungent plant it could have affected your beef. It isn't likely that a grass-fed beef producer is supplementing with a fish-based proten.