Is Grass Fed Ontario Beef Worthwhile?
This week I have been able to feed myself with a thick pan seared steak three days in a row.
Monday, it was a CAB (Certified Angus beef, USDA Choice) strip loin from Loblaw.
Tuesday, a prime rib, AA, from Foodland.
Wednesday, a prime rib, 100% grass fed Ontario beef, 1.5 year old, unrated but well hyped by the farmer.
The Loblaw butcher said 90 % of his beef is USDA at this time.
The Foodland steak says AA,but may also be USDA at this time.
Both were tender, juicy, and flavorful cooked med/rare on cast iron.
The grass fed steak, also med/rare, was tough, sinewy, and not as juicy or flavorful.
I think the major difference is due to the age of slaughter, 10 months for feedlot finished and 18 months for the 100% grass fed beef. The grass fed steak was not well marbled, but had many tiny strips of fat. This locally grown product is hard to recommend at this time.
The taste of grass fed beef depends on both the age of the beef, the breed and the cooking method. Did you cook all 3 exactly the same? Grass fed is cooked differently (you can google to find how to cook grass fed).
I have had grass fed beef many times (pretty well the only kind I eat when I eat beef, which is rare for me - no pun intended) and it's always been far superior to grain fed.
There are benefits. other than taste, to grass fed which are nutritional and health related. It has more of the antioxidants Vitamin E & Beta Carotene, more CLA - Conjugated Linoleic Acid, which apparently aids in cancer prevention, less fat & saturated fat and less omega-6 and more omega-3, which is a more natural balance.
It is interesting to note that before about 1950 or so most cattle were grass fed, not grain fed. Grain fed beef is a modern invention that resulted from the high demand for beef that started occuring about then. It is not natural for cattle to eat a diet consisting primarily of grain. Argentina is one of the few countries where most of the cattle is fed grass.
My experience with grass-fed beef has been really mixed. I think about half the grass-fed that I've eaten was like you described, and yet the best steak I ever ate was a grass fed strip loin.
It's always a lot leaner, and it's always got a chew to it, and I love that extra beefy flavor. But sometimes it just comes off as stringy and awful. Maybe it's just that we grew up eating grain fed so it's what we are used to.
I'm not sure, but I suspect that the really great grass fed steaks I've had were not 100% grass, but were supplementing with grain.
I wish I could recommend a local supplier, but I've got nothin.
I've checked with farmers and grass-fed beef is not strictly 100% grass fed because it simply is not always available in the depths of winter and so '100% grass fed' is supplemented with a minimum of grain sometimes, as it indeed also was during the first half of the 20th century (you can't let your animals starve because grass is not available). So maybe at times the proportion was higher than normal.
And, yes, I do agree that eating grain fed beef our entire lives sometimes makes it difficult to adjust to grass fed as it is an unfamiliar taste. But, I do like the taste better (as well as the other benefits). Each to his own.