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Standards of USA Beef vs The World

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In another thread, a Chowhound wondered if the government standards for beef in Brazil are as stringent as ours - in the USA. The quote is "I'm assuming the standards in this country [USA] are higher."

Personally, I have no knowledge about government standards of beef. In the USA or otherwise.

The only thing I do know is that not everyone shares the same opinion of beef in the USA. I have worked with many people from all over the world within the international community here in DC, and on several occasions people have voiced their displeasure with beef in the USA. Mostly because it doesn't taste as natural as at home.

So I throw this question out to you: how stringent are our standards, and is it correct to assume that we have higher standards?

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  1. Thanks, Steve.

    May I toss in another question? Do "standards" have anything to do with taste?

    3 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      I think it does.Why pay a premium for a prime piece of meat if it isn't going to taste better than the cheapest grade? What criteria does the USDA and their counterparts in other countries use to determine the grade?

      1. re: mucho gordo

        I'll let Steve define what he means but to me there's a big difference between government standards and USDA grading.

        1. re: mucho gordo

          USDA grades are described here:
          http://blogs.usda.gov/2013/01/28/what...
          A significant part of the grading is a visual inspection, looking at the marbling. Fat interspersed with the muscle both makes it tender, and more flavorful (in so far as many flavors are fat soluble). If you want the best steak or roast, choose a higher grade. For other uses, like braising, and grinding, high grade is less important.

      2. I think fat content is important in this equation. When I was growing up a being "trained" by my steak-loving father, we always chose the steaks with the most marbling. A ribeye was supposed to be sumptuously loaded with it. Even a prime ribeye these days is almost dry with a lack of fat.

        1. If by "standards", you mean things like safety procedures, how the cows are fed and medicated, etc., then I think asking such a question of a bunch of anonymous people on the internet is not a particularly useful exercise.

          43 Replies
          1. re: carolinadawg

            I often find there are professionally knowledgeable folks on Chowhound on a variety of food topics, including how beef is raised. So it depends on who is tuning in at the moment.

            Just take a look at this beef thread which includes some insider knowledge:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4008...

            1. re: Steve

              My point is that it's impossible to verify anyone's identity, or credentials, on an anonymous website.

              1. re: carolinadawg

                "If by standards you mean"

                In N. America, the "standards" you alluded to are spelled out to the letter and easily researched. The degree of compliance to those standards is a more debatable subject.

                As for other major beef exporting countries on other continents, who known what the standards are & the compliance rate. Lead paint on infant toys is food for thought.

                1. re: Tom34

                  China is supplying our beef? Since when?

                  1. re: mcf

                    I have read my post several times and a fail to see where I stated China is supplying our beef.

                    1. re: Tom34

                      So this was total non sequitir, off topic? "As for other major beef exporting countries on other continents, who known what the standards are & the compliance rate. Lead paint on infant toys is food for thought."

                      That last is what happened with Chinese exports.

                      1. re: mcf

                        I don't see it that way. As much as we are critical of US consumer regulations, at least we have them. As many who live in other countries have pointed out on this thread, their countries have very few regulations. The lead paint issue was just an example of that fact.

                        1. re: Tom34

                          I'm not sure you are coming to the right conclusion about food regulations in other countries. I believe there was some indication that places in Europe do not grade their meat for marbling because they don't care about that.

                          No country outside of Europe has been mentioned except for an anecdote about lead paint on toys in China.

                          I do know that restaurants in China display a health code rating prominently at their establishment, at least from what I saw. That system does not exist in the US, so they are 'ahead of us' if you care about that sort of thing.

                          1. re: Steve

                            And we should all just trust what they post right? In spite of the gross negligence and mismanagement of things like pet food and infant formula that caused unnecessary deaths, illness and destruction? Not a believer.

                            1. re: Steve

                              My issue Steve is with people that trash the food supply system in the US. Its not perfect and like any other industry, unforeseen problems & accidents have occurred. In the US, these incidents are extensively analysed and when practically feasible laws are changed/adopted to prevent future incidents.

                              Our laws are so extensive that many business hire compliance officers or consultants.

                              To bring the variety of food products to the shelves for 300 million people in the US and exports to billions abroad is nothing short of a miracle.

                              1. re: Tom34

                                Yeah, it's not as if we have to recall millions of lbs of sickening, tainted meat ever year, right?

                                1. re: mcf

                                  Less than 1% and at least we recall it.

                                  PS: "Imported" coarse ground that gets blended with domestic has also played a role in recalls.

                                  1. re: Tom34

                                    Really, how many times? Which recalls, please list them.

                                    Because the superbug e. coli that sickens people and especially kills chidren is found in our agriculture facilities before anything else comes in. And 70% of factory farmed U.S. poultry tests positive for campylobacter and salmonella.

                                    1. re: mcf

                                      AS PER THE EUROPEAN UNIONS RASFF FOOD SAFETY ALERT SERVICE, SO FAR THIS YEAR:

                                      Imported meat from Brazil was contaminated with Escherichia Coli and banned by several countries.

                                      Imported meat from Australia was seized by Italian officials after E Coli was discovered.

                                      EU alert for E Coli in locally produced beef in Belgium

                                      RASFF reports overall increases of Salmonella.

                                      Thai frozen chicken contaminated with Salmonella.

                                      Banned sale of contaminated Czech processed pork products where German pig meat was used.

                                      Salmonella alert with infected Belgian Chickens.

                                      Salmonella contamination found in Belgian Cordon Blue Pork.

                                      Spanish Salami w/excess nitrates.

                                      Excess levels of Trimethoprim in Danish Pork.

                                      Excess Zinc, Copper & Selenium in Polish exported dog food.

                                      THIS IS JUST WHAT WAS "DISCOVERED" BY EU COUNTRIES SO FAR THIS YEAR.

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        And what's the contamination level for non-factory farmed?

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          Depends on how it's farmed instead, doesn't it?

                                        2. re: mcf

                                          Brazil's JBS is the largest multinational food processing co in the world. More recalls than you can shake a stick at but usually under a product label of a subsidiary.

                                          Canadian Co's have had more than a few too as have Mexican producers.

                                          1. re: Tom34

                                            It seems the bottom line is that until we can break many people's addiction to cheap beef, it's probably impossible to have truly safe beef.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              Or sprouts, spinach, scallions, lettuce or any of the other veggies (many from EU) that have been subject to recalls due to deadly pathogens on them.

                                              Boy, if we could only break people's addiction to food, then we'd be truly safe.

                                              1. re: acgold7

                                                Well, since this is about beef, I'll leave those other things for another discussion :)

                                                1. re: acgold7

                                                  And in the U.S. Organic spinach, too, IIRC.

                                                2. re: c oliver

                                                  I have a relative who is a retired CEO of a multinational energy company and several years ago we had a discussion about a recent explosion at one of his refineries that left many people seriously burned and dead.

                                                  After a truly fascinating discussion on the history of the industry, what the industry has learned....... what they can do to prevent accidents & what they can't do to prevent accidents...... his answer basically was that from the upstream exploration end to the downstream refining end the energy business is a very dangerous industry and human error & mechanical failure can never be completely eliminated.

                                                  I think the food supply system suffers a similar fate with contamination. As we have discussed, ground beef is particularly vulnerable.

                                            2. re: Tom34

                                              Latest controversy involves allowing Brazilian steer into this country. To date they have been banned because they STILL have not eradicated Hoof & Mouth disease.

                                          2. re: Tom34

                                            Your point is well taken, I jus didn't want anyone to assume that the lack of grading in European beef meant that their overall standards are lower.

                                            I suppose nobody on Chowhound is familiar with the situation in Brazil or Argentina.....

                                            1. re: Steve

                                              Although as we don't grade our meat, and America does, then I'm not sure how anyone could evidence whether our overall standards are lower ot not. Certainly not objectively.

                                              All I can do when I go to the supermarket, the butcher or the farmers market, is look at the meat and decide if it looks of sufficient quality that I want to buy it. I know, of course, that it should be fit for human consumption following a carcass examination by Food Standards Authority meat inspectors at the time of slaughter - but certification that it's wholesome does not give the consumer the same detail as would be available to an American customer.

                                              That said, do I care that we don't have a grading system? No, I don't.

                                          3. re: Steve

                                            How can you say that this country doesn't have a health code rating system? I believe it began in CA and is now in NV and NY

                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                              Restaurant health codes/inspections are handled at the state/county/municipality level, not the federal.

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                The point is that the system DOES exist here.

                                              2. re: mucho gordo

                                                I believe Steve was talking about Europe.

                                                @paulj, I'm pretty sure that restaurant inspections are local but meat is federal.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  The USDA has had slaughterhouse inspectors for many decades.

                                                  But it is worth keeping mind that grading beef for marbling (premium, choice, etc) is quite different from dealing with health issues like salmonella contamination.

                                                  http://www.oregonlive.com/health/inde...
                                                  but this article points out that the USDA has limit powers when it comes to recalls, especially for bacterial contamination.

                                                  FDA and CDC are other agencies that can be involved in one way or other in meat safety issues.

                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    Here's a really good summary of what each agency can do and does:

                                                    http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/consume...

                                                    And here's one about grading meat:

                                                    http://meat.tamu.edu/beefgrading/

                                                2. re: mucho gordo

                                                  Since I live in the DC area, I am consistently in three jurisdictions (MD,VA, DC) and I have yet to see signs on restaurants with their health grade. Haven't noticed it in recent trips to Florida or Pennsylvania either.

                                                  Notification, displayed prominently on the exterior front of the restaurant, is the system I was referring to.

                                                  Not that I care.

                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                    Steve, I think mg has perhaps confused restaurant inspections with meat inspections - two entirely different things.

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      I think we're all a little bit confused!

                                                      It's good to know about E Coli alerts so we can all make informed decisions. But I am not sure that has anything to do with whether someone is pleased with the flavor of beef in the USA vs beef from elsewhere.

                                                      1. re: Steve

                                                        I agree Steve but many folks from the grass finished beef crowd like to diverge from discussions on flavor to sensationalized unbalanced discussions about Feedlot beef health concerns, often citing information from radical extreme fringe group web sites that are so scientifically unsound that its laughable.

                                                        1. re: Tom34

                                                          Sensationalized and unbalanced? Last time around I provided you with citations from the CDC to refute such silly and flame baiting comments.

                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                            Its been a while MCF but the fact remains as per the European Union's RASFF report, contamination with mass produced food such as meat is a global issue and not limited to the US feedlot.

                                                            1. re: Tom34

                                                              I never said it was. Straw man.

                                                    2. re: Steve

                                                      http://doh.dc.gov/service/understandi...
                                                      is the DS description of food establishment health regulations. Establishments are inspected, given notice of things that need to be corrected, and the data is entered in a public database.

                                                      I don't know if the establishments have to post the inspection report anywhere. If they do it is more likely to be posted in the work area, as opposed to up front where customers can peruse it.

                                      2. re: carolinadawg

                                        Go to the link I provided above and check out this post:

                                        Alderspring May 12, 2007 09:36 PM

                                        Are you saying that the poster was making it up? Who cares about specific identity or credentials.... even people with credentials might have different opinions, but it does not mean the info or viewpoint they are providing is not from a professional source or inauthentic.

                                        1. re: Steve

                                          I'm not on any other boards but when I research things that credible CHs post I generally find it to be as described. But it's always a buyer beware situation. I'm not going to risk my life over non-pro, anonymous advice. So, yeah, Steve, I agree with you.

                                          1. re: Steve

                                            Alderspring is not a regular contributor, IIRC. If someone is selling something and promoting it here, I'd not take their word for much.

                                    2. The US & Canadian grading systems are pretty similar and easily researched. I can't speak to the S. American beef.
                                      .
                                      IMHO, there are 2 main camps when it comes to beef: (Grass fed, feedlot finished) & (grass fed, grass finished).

                                      Consensus seems to be Feedlot finished has more marbling and a milder "beef" flavor (vs) grass finished has less marbling and a stronger beef flavor. Which is better is up to the individual.

                                      The leaning out of beef and the changing of the grades is yet another discussion.

                                      Wet aged boxed beef vs dry aged hanging beef is yet another discussion.

                                      16 Replies
                                      1. re: Tom34

                                        I know I ventured from government standards but there as many or more factors other than government standards that influence beef quality. Very subjective subject.

                                        1. re: Tom34

                                          Tom, I assume you deliberately left out the camp of all grain raised and finished?

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Hey Oliver,

                                            Most N. American beef is grass raised & feedlot finished. I am not sure what grain raised / grain finished is. Possibly extremely young super marbled Kobe?

                                            1. re: Tom34

                                              Years ago, beef was proudly labeled, "corn fed'. Not sure for how long it was corn fed, though.

                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                And, of course, now we know that we're killing those cows on that diet :( That's why they have to pump them full of antibiotics.

                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                  I think some of the labeling was misleading. The feedlot has a diminishing return. It quickly fattens but is very expensive. Kind of a fine balance. Also digestive problems with prolonged grain/corn diet which Oliver points out.

                                                  IMHO, biggest difference (now vs then) is the change in the grading & wet aged boxed beef vs dry aged hanging beef. Japan's deep pockets for the best also limits availability of top prime.

                                                2. re: Tom34

                                                  I guess I'm thinking in terms of how long they spend in CAFOs. We had neighbors who were small scale ranchers who "finished" them on grain but it was a very short period of time. The feedlot cattle can double their weight on grains. But that's probably not the point of this thread.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    It may not be the point of this thread, but as you say, Gov standards are only one part of the quality equation.... Breeding/genetics, quality of forage, age, time on the feedlot, small farm vs commercial operation.....many many factors....some of which Gov standards regulate, some of which they don't.

                                                3. re: c oliver

                                                  Um, there's no such camp of all grain raised and finished. As Tom34 points out, nearly all North American beef has grass in its diet at some point until it goes to feedlot. And while I've said "nearly all" to leave some wiggle room, I can't think of any widespread exceptions to that and really mean "all".

                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    My reply upthread clarified/corrected what I originally wrote. I think that CFAOs don't exactly "finish" their cows on grain. They spend a large amount of their short lives on it. Or that's what Michael Pollan and others are saying and I tend to agree with them.

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      Here's directly from Michael Pollan:

                                                      "And in the case of beef, keep in mind that all cattle are fed grass until they get to the feedlot; “grass finished” or “100% grass fed” is what you want. "
                                                      http://michaelpollan.com/resources/an...

                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                        http://www.factory-farming.com/beef_p...

                                                        This is a biased article but the facts are generally correct. The CAFO cows are put on grains far sooner than a small operation. They gain a huge amount of their weight on that.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          Most cattle in the US have their diet supplemented with some grain before they go to feedlot. The difference is what the % of grain is in their diet and certainly would not be "all grain raised" even in the fastest of scenarios. I wouldn't necessarily label a pen during backgrounding as CAFO. And even that website understands:
                                                          "Beef Production in the U.S. is unique in that the CAFO only comes into play during the latter months of the cows life. Typically beef cattle are born on an independent ranch somewhere in the west. "

                                                          Here's Niman Ranch's beef protocol for its suppliers,
                                                          http://www.nimanranch.com/Files/Husba...
                                                          Grains are allowed in the feed, but no antibiotics.

                                                      2. re: c oliver

                                                        http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/animal...
                                                        USDA description of beef cattle market and practices.

                                                        According to this cattle spend about 140 days in feedlots.
                                                        http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_old_are...
                                                        "Grain-fed beefers (steers and heifers) are slaughtered around 18 to 24 months of age. Grass-fed beefers are slaughtered around 24 to 28 months of age."

                                                        So in the USA most cattle spend 1 to 1 1/2 yrs in pasture or open range; then they are sold as 'feeder cattle' (weight around 600 lb). Then they spend 4-5 months in the feed lot, putting on another 400 lb.

                                                    2. When you say "standards" -- do you mean inspection standards for beef or standards for breeding/raising cattle? Or maybe both?

                                                      Also, are you comparing the US just to developed countries, or to any country, developed, developing, or something inbetween?

                                                      93 Replies
                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        I didn't mean anything specific, so if you have any knowledge regarding any of that, please share.

                                                        In terms of the 'world,' I have worked with Kenyans and Ethiopians in the DC area that have told me they don't like our beef. So I suppose anywhere could be part of the conversation.

                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                          Unfortunately I don't.

                                                          I asked only because I think depending on what you are asking about and the relevant parameters, the answers will probably vary, quite dramatically in some cases.

                                                          As an aside, in reference to what your Kenyan and Ethiopian friends mentioned about how they "don't like" the beef in the U.S., I think we sometimes have to be careful that personal preferences as to taste and/or texture oftentimes have little to do with government or regulatory standards. In many ways, as we are creatures of habit, what we like often tend to be things we grew up with, not products resulting from "higher standards".

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            I am slipping over to the dark side. I agree with you.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              "...what we like often tend to be things we grew up with, not products resulting from "higher standards"."

                                                              This could not be more true. I was raised on corn fed beef. I like corn fed beef and its incredible amount of marbling. I have tried grass fed and it just seems odd to me.

                                                              1. re: jpc8015

                                                                But the corn-fed beef of the past had FLAVOR. Today's corn-fed is tasteless. There has to be more to it than corn vs. grass!

                                                                  1. re: drongo

                                                                    Fascinating article - to me. I didn't know about those implants. Thanks for sharing.

                                                                  2. re: sandylc

                                                                    I think some key turning points came in the 60's - 80's.

                                                                    Prior to boxed beef, the industry was slow by today's standards. Beef carcasses were slower to leave the plant, slower to reach distribution points and slower to reach retail outlets where they could hang around for days or even weeks longer. All the while they were dry aging on the bone.

                                                                    Today's boxed beef receives no dry aging and often reaches the retail shelves within a week of slaughter.

                                                                    Then came the changes made to the grading system which to make a long story short resulted in leaner beef for the average consumer.

                                                                  3. re: jpc8015

                                                                    I agree. I just tried grass fed top sirloin. I was so disappointed. I also grew up on scrumptious beef with yellow fat and lots of flavor. I miss it.

                                                                    1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                      Good feedlot beef can still be had but will bring on average a 25% premium price for high choice and up to a 100% premium for high prime.

                                                                      1. re: Tom34

                                                                        Tom, how does one fine that beef please?

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          I have found that the certified beef programs that are UDSA graded with a choice marbling score of Moderate or higher are consistently marbled in the top of the choice grade and sometimes flirt with prime. Certified Angus Beef (CAB) and Excel's Sterling Silver are 2 of the oldest programs and their products are widely used in fine dining restaurants. Rastelli Elite is another outstanding product. Ranchers Reserve which I think is IBP is another good product.

                                                                          Many supermarkets offer the above products, usually at a 25% premium.

                                                                          High prime with a moderately abundant marbling score will usually have to be order from a place like Lobels or a local butcher can usually bring in a whole sub primal. We are also talking close to 3 times the cost of good choice beef.

                                                                          1. re: Tom34

                                                                            Thanks. Safeway out here (just bought by Albertson's) carries Ranchers Reserve. Now that I know why it's more expensive, that makes sense.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              I've tried the Ranchers Reserve a few times and it's been disappointing unfortunately. I've given up on meat from Safeway other than the grass fed beef and lamb.

                                                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                You can get grass fed at Safeway? I can't. And the lamb selection is tiny.

                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  I don't shop there much anymore but they do have an Open Nature grass fed beef line, just a few cuts so you might have to hunt. The lamb is also Open Nature if I remember.

                                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                    I'll keep an eye out. There's also one in Reno where we live part time. I rarely go there cause it's out of my way but will check it out. Thanks, fld.

                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                      I checked at our usual Safeway yesterday and they do, in fact, have a small selection of Open Nature and that's the label on the lamb also. I continue to learn so much (and spend more money as a result!) from CHs. Thanks, fld.

                                                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                                                    They just started offering it here in the western states C. It is imported from Australia. Finding a butcher near you who sells local grass fed will probably taste better. Open Nature grass fed beef is rank:(!!!!!

                                                                                2. re: c oliver

                                                                                  Keep in mind Oliver most supermarkets cut their steaks a little on the thin side to meet a price point.

                                                                                  If you go during off hours, say 9 am during the week, the meat cutters should be happy to cut you a nice 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 thick steak. Center cut is also nice.

                                                                                  Season that baby, place on a wire rack and let it sit uncovered over night in the refrigerator to dry the surface, take out 2 hrs before cooking, nice char on the outside, M/R on the inside & your visits to expensive steakhouses will diminish.

                                                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                                                    Thanks. OT but I just gotta tell ya that one of my oldest and dearest friends has only ever called me "Oliver." If he ever calls me by my first name, I'll know he hates me :)

                                                                                    Now I'll return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

                                                                                    We don't DO steakhouses but do treat ourselves to a nice thick steak on occasion. Appreciate the timing advice.

                                                                                    1. re: Tom34

                                                                                      Is that why they do that? Drives me crazy.

                                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                        Yeah, I have a friend who is a union meat cutter for a supermarket and he told me that a thick boneless strip that weighs 20 oz gives people sticker shock.

                                                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                                                      Another thread suggested that Harris Ranch brand is superior to Ranchers Reserve . I have no idea how to find links and post them but I will try.

                                                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                                                    Lobel's (NYC and online). Quite a splurge, but it's the best beef I've ever come across in this country.

                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                      I'm surprised they sell feedlot beef. At those prices!

                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                        Grass finished beef cannot compete in taste tests. You can only get well-marbled prime from grain finished beef. AFAIK, all grain-finished beef is from feedlots. The grading of marbling of fat has nothing to do with how the steer was raised/fed; it's an objective, visual standard.

                                                                                        That said, I like the taste of grass-finished beef, particularly the French Charolais. The best steak I ever had was labelled Piece de Boeuf in an Alsatian village. Definitely grass-fed, and incredibly flavorful. I think that that French notion of "terroir" might come into play here.

                                                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                          Depends on who is doing the tasting, per my OP.

                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                            Here's a little anecdotal article:

                                                                                            http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkint...

                                                                                            I'd suggest that the dry-aging plays a huge part in the end result.

                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                              I agree completely. I would respectfully suggest that this is nearly 100% of the observed difference, rather than the feeding process.

                                                                                              1. re: acgold7

                                                                                                I know we are both all about the importance of properly aging beef AC but I think the feeding process plays a significant role in the final flavor profile.

                                                                                              2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                I think that this is not a good comparison. Better would be to compare a dry-aged grass fed/finished steak with a dry-aged grass-fed/grain-finished steak ( a la Lobel's). I think that the grain-finished would win in a landslide.

                                                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                  Sorry. I never meant that it was a good comparison. I gather from all I read is that it's very much personal preference and that people who have always/mostly eaten grain-finished are going to prefer it. And then when they have an aged, grain-finished steak, they're REALLY going to love it.

                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                    Almost all of us in the U.S. grew up eating grain and corn fed in the U.S. mass marketplace.

                                                                                                    Many of us have made the switch and prefer grass fed. I barfed from the sight of yogurt as a kid and love it as an adult.

                                                                                                    We mature, our priorities change, yada yada... ;-)

                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                      That's the beauty of food, something for everyone :-)

                                                                                                    2. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                      I agree with Steve, depends on who is doing the tasting.

                                                                                                      I agree with you Pikawicca that dry aged, grain finished high prime beef is the winner hands down and its my favorite meal. I think it would also easily win in the US & Canada.

                                                                                                      I wouldn't wan't to bet much money on the outcome of such a test in Europe as our beef has a much milder flavor and the abundance of melted fat may be a turnoff to folks not used to it.

                                                                                          2. re: Tom34

                                                                                            Tom 34 I bought the Open Nature top sirloin grass fed @Safeway. Discovered it was imported from Australia.Very rank. I then discovered I am living 8 city blocks north of a butcher shop who sells local (California) grass fed beef. And of course many other great selections. I am planning a trip there soon. I SO miss the delicious beef from the late 50's and 60's here in California. The fat was yellow ( and we ate it!!!!) and the bones oozed good intense beefy flavor. I am really looking forward to the possibility of sourcing some tasty beef at that shop! I am also looking forward to having a conversation with an expert about beef(the butcher/owner).

                                                                                            1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                              Please do post about the butcher shop on the California board with more details when you've had a chance to visit.

                                                                                                1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                  Bear in mind that there's a seasonality to grassfed beef. Summer slaughter beef is considered superior.

                                                                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                A good experiment with the independent butcher would be to get 3 steaks (identical cuts) all aged to 28 days:

                                                                                                1. Locally sourced grass finished steak.

                                                                                                2. High prime grain finished.

                                                                                                3, High choice grain finished.

                                                                                                The local grass finished & the high prime should be close to the same price. The high choice should be about 50% less. Cook them at the same time to the same finish temp and compare.

                                                                                                PS: I found our local ShopRites Australian grass finished beef to be dry, chewy & sour tasting.

                                                                                                1. re: Tom34

                                                                                                  if you're referring to the clayton's organic beef that shoprite sells, it is NOT grass finished. "Clayton Organic cattle are sustainable, and humanely raised beef. Our beef comes from animals that are free-range and grass fed in its’ early days, then corn/grain-finished for 100 days."

                                                                                                  http://www.claytonsorganicbeef.com/

                                                                                                  1. re: Vidute

                                                                                                    I am thinking (and my thought may be no good) that Claytons is a pretty recent addition to ShopRite's offerings.

                                                                                                    The stuff I bought was a long term ShopRite Australian product and I think I bought it about 4 to 5 years ago. Practically devoid of marbling.

                                                                                                    1. re: Tom34

                                                                                                      I do have to admit that the Open Nature (I believe it was) grass fed flank steak looked marvelous. It had a lot of nice yellow marbling throughout. I don't cook/eat flank steaks so I passed.

                                                                                                      1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                        I LOVE flank steak, though it's a lean cut. Very good flavor, and ground, makes delicious burgers.

                                                                                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                          Mama this grass finished (vs) feedlot debate is never ending. As a few folks have pointed out, much has to do with what a person was brought up with.

                                                                                                          To me the key is consistency, which in the US, is where IMHO, the feedlot has a huge advantage. I have 3 whole 0x1 high choice strip loins aging in the extra refrig as we speak. I know what to look for and hand picked them and I can say with certainty that they will be phenomenal.

                                                                                                          Grass finished on the other hand is much more difficult to visually evaluate. I have a friend who is an old school hanging beef butcher in his 60's who said with 95% accuracy he can judge feedlot beef but with grass finished he said its a crap shoot "visually". He said with grass finished its all about knowing the farmer who raised it.

                                                                                                          1. re: Tom34

                                                                                                            That is why I want to try the local gf beef(raised on a cattle ranch in Sacramento, Ca. that has been a viable business x150 years) before I rule anything out. Plus the butcher will have a larger selection and will have aged grass fed beef also. And if I don't like the gf beef there his site advertises dry aged (28 day I believe) prime beef. We shall see. Maybe I can score some decent marrow bones there! Thank you for being a wealth of information. I assume you are either in the *business* or like me a person who longs for delicious steaks and roasts.

                                                                                                    2. re: Tom34

                                                                                                      I will try. I am willing to cough up a few bucks in an attempt to get something that has the potential to be scrumptious. BTW the Open Nature top sirloin was moist and tender but to me it had that gamey after taste that venison and lamb have. Not as pronounced as that but enough to make me lose my appetite.

                                                                                                      1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                        Just for an alternate opinion, I've had the Open Nature top sirloin several times and enjoyed it. Quality was similar to the Whole Foods top sirloin that I buy most of the time.

                                                                                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                          The Open Nature top sirloin is what I have here and a small rib eye. The sirloin was tender and moist but it had a distinct rank overpowering musty flavor. I want to try the local. I had a similar experience with the high fat content butter my daughter brought us from New Zealand from grass fed cows in a little round gold tin).My taste buds were overwhelmed with the richness. I will do a beef tasting as Tom suggested.

                                                                                                        2. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                          I'd be thrilled with any beef that tasted like venison.

                                                                                                          1. re: Steve

                                                                                                            I've never understood people who describe lamb as gamey. Since it isn't game. To me it tastes like...lamb. And is as mild in flavor or even more so at times than beef.

                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                              I think those people try to compare other meats to beef which is the most prevalent meat, There is no comparison as all meats have their own distinct taste. Since they are similar, one might compare bison/buffalo to steer beef and consider them gamey.

                                                                                                              1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                "Since they are similar, one might compare bison/buffalo to steer beef and consider them gamey"...except that they are not gamey they just taste like bison not beef :)

                                                                                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                  Exactly, but isn't bison/buffalo, technically, a type of beef?

                                                                                                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                    not really -- both are members of the higher classification of Bovinae, but Bison are a different genus than cattle

                                                                                                                2. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                  Since true game is rare in the USA, most of us don't have a clear sense of what 'gamey' tastes like.

                                                                                                                  Supposedly it's mature mutton that's supposed to taste gamey. Lamb much less so.

                                                                                                                  To me, the most obvious difference between lamb and beef (and even more so pork) is the melting point of its fat. Lamb fat has a higher melting point, and solidifies sooner (in the worse case on the roof of my mouth).

                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                    Well, I'd say that since domestic sheep aren't game, then they couldn't taste like game.

                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                      well, exactly...

                                                                                                                      and while "true game" isn't *easily* available in stores, it is most definitely available, and plenty of Americans eat game that has never seen a supermarket.

                                                                                                                    2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                      I remember tasting venison as a child and knowing immediately that it was gamey.I don't know how to describe the taste other than strong and a bit unpleasant. The only other meat I find to be a bit gamey is goat (birria)..

                                                                                                                      1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                        Farmed venison is likely to be quite mild in flavour - milder than beef which has been hung for, say, 28 - 35 days. Wild venison can be nicely flavoured as it's usually shot when older.

                                                                                                                        By the by, I have never understood why Americans describe lamb as "gamey", I've always suspected that those who do possibly havnt tasted much game either, as it doesnt taste like most game I eat. I find that lamb tastes like lamb - again age will be a thing. Young lamb will be sweet and very mild, hogget will have good taste and mutton will be fantastic. I wonder if some folk use "gamey" instead of "I don't like this".

                                                                                                                        1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                          depends on what the creature ate...

                                                                                                                          Deer hunted near expanses of corn or wheat fields are quite mild -- those reduced to foraging evergreen groves or similar can have quite a distinctive resiny flavor.

                                                                                                                        2. re: paulj

                                                                                                                          Lamb is rank to me. I do not care for the strong flavor. Many people describe it as gamey. I grew up consuming venison, duck, rabbit, wild caught fish of all types and many foraged foods. My father hunted and fished. Many of my young male relatives still hunt and fish. Can you please clarify your statement that *true game is rare* here in the U.S.?

                                                                                                                          1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                            remember that Harters is a visitor here in the US, so has sometimes a slightly skewed view of "real life"

                                                                                                                            Because it is not legal to walk into a store to buy field-killed game in the US, I can totally see where Harters would draw that conclusion -- but you and I both know that there is plenty of game consumed in the US...it just isn't purchased from a store.

                                                                                                                            Not a strike against you at all, Harters -- you don't really have much reason to know that a lot of us grew up on and continue to consume game brought in by amateur hunters, nor that farm-raised game is not an everyday occurrence, but not really hard to come by, either.

                                                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                              I have yet to taste farm raised game. I loved all of the bounty my father and his buddies hunted, fished and foraged. I would love to try some farm raised venison.

                                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                Sunshine

                                                                                                                                Yes, I understand the hunting culture in parts of America. But I cannot credit that folk used to eating game would generally describe lamb as gamey. Which game? Rabbit? Pheasant? Deer? Pigeon? These are all very different flavoursto me, just as lamb, beef, chicken, pork taste different.

                                                                                                                                I also find it interesting that many Americans who do eat lamb find Australian or New Zealand lamb to be strongly flavoured in comparison with American lamb - whereas, in the UK, I don't buy it as I find it much too bland in comparision with British lamb. Different expectations, different tastes, I reckon.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                  We've talked on other threads about "gamey" as having a somewhat locker-room quality.

                                                                                                                                  I'm don't tend to use the word, because I don't find lamb 'gamey', and prefer to buy NZ and AUS lamb *because* it tastes like lamb (and the finest lamb I've ever had was, believe it or not, at the restaurant at the Holiday Inn in Runcorn -- go figure....)

                                                                                                                                  My father hunted, so I grew up on venison, rabbit, duck, quail....so I don't really get the "ew, it's gamey" comment, either.

                                                                                                                                  I can only guess that those who complain about gaminess are not those who've eaten it most of their lives.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                    I think we're on the same bus, sunshine.

                                                                                                                                    And I dread to think what brought you to Runcorn. There are few less green and pleasant parts of this green and pleasant land. :-)

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                      I was visiting the ginormous B&Q distribution centre round the corner from that hotel. (the Hilton in Southampton also has good lamb, but not as stellar as the lamb in Runcorn!)

                                                                                                                                      I've spent a lot of years in odd little corners of the UK -- spent a lot of time in Warrington, too! (my UK partner was based there -- I was working with Focus by that time) And we took part in the G&S Opera Festivals in Buxton several times.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                      I grew up eating it weekly, and loved it. But I taste the lambiness. It's certainly stronger than venison to me, greatly so.

                                                                                                                                2. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                  I'm thinking that as someone said here, you just don't like lamb. In no way does lamb have a "strong" flavor. We recently had some that I wanted to talk to the chef and say, by way of criticism, that it could just as easily have been beef for the taste.

                                                                                                                                  I think paulj is correct. Except if you hunt it yourself or someone gives you some, most other game has been farm raised and, as sunshine says, meat tastes like what it has been fed.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                    Lamb has a very lamby, or gamey flavor if it's from Oz or NZ especially. Colorado lamb less so. But I'm always aware of it, and even though I love lamb, sometimes am very turned off by it.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                      To me it tastes like lamb, not gamey. Very mild flavor.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                          I would never argue with your personal experience with the taste of lamb. I will say that the sensitivity of receptors to various tastes has a huge genetic component to it, and your experience doesn't mean lamb isn't lamby or gamey. It just means you're lucky enough to be insensitive to it.

                                                                                                                                          There's no basis for this: "I'm thinking that as someone said here, you just don't like lamb. In no way does lamb have a "strong" flavor."

                                                                                                                                          What's up with telling another person what she tastes???

                                                                                                                                          I like lamb, despite its strong, and often gamey flavor. You can find references to it all over the place; I rarely read a lamb discussion in which it's not mentioned. Here's one google search, very typical: https://www.google.com/search?q=is+la...

                                                                                                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                            My rationale is as already stated. It's not "game" so it can't taste "gamey." It tastes like lamb. They're generally slaughtered between four and twelve months and I'd imagine that the older ones have more lamb flavor than the young ones. The word "gamey" is simply a misnomer. Many people don't like many foods. Lamb tastes like lamb.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                              Your right, different animals taste different. My daughters love beef and have tried high quality Lamb chops on several occasions. Each time I studied their facial expressions on the first bite & I could see they sensed the difference. The Bewitched crinkled nose told me they didn't like it. The same could be said for my wife.

                                                                                                                                              Now, if I served it regularly for several months they would probably acquire the taste and love it. From my wallets point of view, that experiment would be counter productive.

                                                                                                                              2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                Thank you for saying what I've been thinking. I never understood that description either.

                                                                                                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                  We split some great discussion on cooking lamb over to the Home Cooking board at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/968624 Check it out!

                                                                                                                    3. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                      Did you know to cook it differently from grain or corn fed? I didn't at first. I would not choose a very lean cut for grass fed. But the gf flank and ribeyes I buy are buttery, with a lot of minerality due to the vegetation consumed.

                                                                                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                        That is where I believe my *super tasting* issue is coming from. I am over tasting *vegetation* ( or I am imagining I am). The top sirloin was buttery and tender. I am not giving up just yet.

                                                                                                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                          Ah... well depending what was growing and grazed on, you'll get different flavors. I love gf beef, but never again from NZ, frex.

                                                                                                                    4. re: jpc8015

                                                                                                                      On a few occasions I have had fabulous grass finished beef that I was still thinking about days after I ate it. Unfortunately, most of the grass finished beef I have had was tough, dry & had what "I" considered a sour flavor. But as others have pointed out, its what your used to.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Steve

                                                                                                                    Hey Steve,

                                                                                                                    "Stark" differences in flavor and texture more often than not have to do with grass finished (vs) feedlot finished. The US relies heavily on the feedlot. Many other countries do not.

                                                                                                                  3. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                    In the AYCE thread, I mentioned Brazilian rodizio as another type of buffet. c. oliver posted the following:"I've eaten at them in Brazil and consider the meat subpar considering the price."
                                                                                                                    I replied that meat standards in Brazil may be the reason and he should try one in this country.

                                                                                                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                      I consider ALL AYCE meats subpar, regardless of the country.

                                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                          Well, THAT'S a first :) My point is that I'd rather always have four ounces of cooked to order steak than the way AYCE is done. But that is still a subject for the AYCE thread not this one. I just wanted to clarify for mucho gordo.

                                                                                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                          I can understand your way of thinking if the meat spent hours in a steam table but, with a rodizio, that same 4oz steak is freshly carved to order right from the skewer at your table.

                                                                                                                          1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                            mg, I'm not going to argue with you and I'm certainly not going to do it on this thread which has NOTHING to do with AYCE.

                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                              My intent was to understand, not argue. Are we good?

                                                                                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                            Not when it comes to rodizio... it can be superb, it's not like a food bar with a sneeze guard. They have a variety of cuts and varied doneness an come around and slice to order at your table.