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Grass-fed beef texture

I just had a new delivery of a grass-fed cow, and I'm noticing that the texture of the hamburger is really different from the previous farmer's. I always have the processor grind up all of the steaks into the chuck because we don't care for steaks in this house. But this ground beef feels more grainy, and when I make my usual meatloaf, without any egg or gluten since we're allergic, the texture is like eating browned hamburger instead of the nice smooth texture we always had before. Any ideas about what the difference might be? They're both 100% grass-fed cows. And any suggestions about what I could add to my meatloaf to make it have a more pleasing texture? (Please note we can't have any dairy, eggs, grains or high-carb veggies such as carrots or potatoes or winter squash.) Thanks!

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  1. Is the fat content different? A coarser grind?

    1 Reply
    1. re: weezieduzzit

      Yeah, this might be it - a courser grind. Thanks. I'll look into it.

    2. Can you eat oatmeal? I know some celiacs that will eat Bob's Gluten free Oatmeal and others that won't.

      If you can you might want to try that. I like to use oatmeal in my meatballs and meatloaf. It adds a nice texture and flavor. I process in the FP first so that is is closer to "breadcrumb" texture.

      1 Reply
      1. re: foodieX2

        Yeah, we can't eat oats, even gf. Too bad! I'm sure it would be delicious.

      2. Hi there, there are any number of factors. How old was the cow? Was it a cow or steer? What was the breed? Did it come from a herd that has been on grass for generations? How was it butchered? Animal genetics? Everyone of these could and would make the texture different. Let me know if I can answer anything else for you. Hope this helps.

        1. Are you sure it is 100% grass-fed cow? Even if they are 100% grass-fed cow, they may not be the same for the following reasons:

          1) age of the cow - if it is over 30 months it can be tough.
          2) grass and vegetation that they eat
          3) breed
          4) you buy from someone who does not know cattle management and who does not know how to butcher. I have a great friend who is a butcher. I learn that if you do not know how to harvest and process, meat can get really tough. Steer can get stress in the process and change the meat.

          I love grass fed beef, did all of the research on it. :)

          6 Replies
          1. re: nagill590

            Not to get too into the 'weeds' about this but virtually all beef cattle are 'grass fed'. It's just where did they eat the 'grass'? In a feed-lot or was it truly a 'range bovine'? Big difference.
            Like others have posted there are dozens of factors that effect the texture/taste of beef.
            If I were going to purchase a 'grass-fed cow or steer I'd go out to the ranch in the spring. With the help of the rancher I'd take the ear tag/tattoo number and some photos (to show dinner guests what the little darling looked like when it was young. But actually to check the markings/numbers before it was shipped off the the abattoir). I'd discuss with the rancher if or how the animal was going to be 'finished'. In other words I'd be 'proactive'. Any rancher I'd want to do business with wouldn't mind me 'sticking my nose in' occasionally. They'd take me for someone who knew what I was doing.

            1. re: Puffin3

              This is good advice. Thanks. I didn't realize how many factors go into raising a locally raised grass-fed cow. I just figured that a farmer who raised 100% pasture-raised cows would produce good meat. Apparently not. I'll look into this further.

              1. re: makinitgreen

                There is grass and there is grass. You may be surprised to know hat some of that beautiful picturesque 'ranch-land' you see on TV is actually pretty crappy feed for any animal. This is mainly b/c the minerals and nutrients were washed away millennia ago.
                The lack of say selenium in grassland, which is common in many areas causes all kinds of health issues. These manifest themselves in crappy meat at your table.
                You have to be pretty careful when buying a whole animal.
                I suggest sourcing as much info as you can from organizations like 4-H.
                Around here there's always a long waiting list to pre-purchase the best 4-H beef calves.

                1. re: Puffin3

                  You guys are so helpful! Thanks for this. I'm in the Boston area. Would there be a 4H organization out here? I always thought of that as a midwest thing, but clearly I have some learning to do about this process.

                    1. re: Puffin3

                      There are a bunch of 4H clubs in New Hampshire. With the hard economic times north of Concord, most of the 4H animals raised in that area are now for sale to "outsiders." Generally these animals become available after the Fall fairs.

          2. Yep, fat content, grind, free ranging or mostly penned, and age all make a lot of difference. Of all these, I've found that age is the most significant factor. 20-24 months is generally pretty good, but I also find not enough farmers let the cows develop enough fat.

            Don't forget the slaughtering-butchering-freezing/storage process also should happen within just a few hours at most or the meat suffers quickly as preservatives aren't introduced like in mass-produced cows.

            1. Am I correct in assuming you bought from the same source that you have before? Is this only the second purchase from the same source, or have you made prior purchases?

              A woman I struck up a conversation with (who was buying ground bison) in the meat aisle told me that you have to be careful about so called grass fed beef, something about them being able to label it grass fed even if they only fed it on grass in the last year of its life, and that that could make a huge difference in taste, etc.

              5 Replies
              1. re: ePressureCooker

                Actually, this second purchase was from a different farmer since the first farmer wanted to focus on his dairy output and get away from raising steer for meat. I'm obviously going to have to do some research into this whole thing since my jaw is sometimes literally in pain after eating if I don't slice the rib eye paper thin.

                1. re: makinitgreen

                  If it helps any, my sister (who is really into nutrition, going organic, avoiding GMOs and the like) has started buying her grass fed beef through the internet, since local sources that met her standards weren't available. She wouldn't tell me where she bought from (I think she mistakenly thought I was snooping about prices).

                  She bought from several places, said she was avoiding beef from drought stricken areas (I'm assuming its because the quality of the feed was affected or she was worried stress would affect the meat). The one she finally settled on was grass fed beef from North Carolina, so not THAT far from you. She buys it either as 1/4 or 1/2 cow (obviously a freezer is called for) or she can buy specific items in bulk, with a bulk discount. So one month she buys hot dogs, freezes most of them. Next month she buys a bulk order of brisket, freezes most of them. And she's been having an adventure in cooking some pieces that she's never even heard of before from the cow. The place she buys from isn't organic, the certification process is too expensive, but she's checked them out, and they basically abide by organic standards (but w/o certification).

                  I'm sure that if you googled you could probably find the company she buys in. (I haven't tried, I wasn't trying to snoop.) She's been very happy with the results, and I was on the receiving end of a smoked brisket, and man oh man, was it delicious. ;D

                  1. re: ePressureCooker

                    Thank you for this! So, as I'm doing my research, what criteria do I want to look for, aside from 100% grassfed? Looks like I need to request a steer that's 20-24 months old, raised on grass free from pesticides and well watered. Anything else? Thanks!

                    1. re: makinitgreen

                      I'll ask my sister next chance I get to quiz her about it. I'm not sure all the criteria she set, that's just what I picked up through idle conversation (we talk lots about FOOD, what can I say?)

                2. re: ePressureCooker

                  AFIK, for standard, commercial beef, they are all grass fed, but spend their last months fattening up on grain. A lot of organic beef says grass fed, grain finished. 100% grass fed certainly implies that it only ate grass. As to free range, keep in mind that in cold areas cattle will be fed hay during winter, and may not be ranging much. Hay is still grass. As much as I prefer grass fed beef (and, given the choice when I cook for my family, that is all I'll buy), it does have the reputation of being very variable and inconsistent. To me, burgers are burgers...they all taste the same. If they are bad, I blame it on my cooking...(I'm not that big a burger person) but to appreciate GF beef, I like steak. And some grass fed steaks are absolutely amazing..but I've had my share of tasteless ones too. Then again, it could be my cooking.........

                3. breed, quality of grass, grind, and cuts will all make a difference

                  cut, feed, and grind make the biggest difference