Grass-fed beef can be either “gamey”…or the most flavorful, delicious meat you’ll ever taste!
In fact, when you taste grain-fed beef next to artisan-raised, grass-fed beef…
…it’s the difference between drinking a Budweiser versus a malty, Scotch ale aged in French oak.
So if you don’t just want 100% grass-fed beef, but mouth-watering grass-fed beef…
Here’s what you need to know to find it…
Fat: Does It Really = Flavor?
Compare a beef steak with very lean meat like venison…
Which has more flavor?
The venison, right?
In fact, some would say it has too much flavor…
…not because it’s fatty but because of what it ate (did it eat corn or pine needles?)
That’s why, compared to grass-fed beef, grain-fed beef is relatively bland and uniform.
It’s also why grass-fed beef will be the best beef you’ve ever had…or the worst!
Grain-fed beef is safe; grass-fed is exciting.
Grain-fed is investing in blue chip stocks; grass-fed is investing in amazon.com.
The next four secrets tell you how to find the real winners: grass-fed beef with out-of-this-world flavor.
It probably took hundreds of years, but at some point farmers and chefs figured out that some cattle breeds produce great-tasting beef while others don’t…
Others produced great milk for drinking and cheeses…
While other breeds were pretty much only good as draft animals to plow the fields.
So what breeds produce exceptional beef?
History has shown that you get the best beef flavor from breeds like Angus, Red Poll, Scottish Highland, Shorthorn, Waygu, and others.
PRO TIP: Avoid Charolais and Limousins—farmers and factory farms LOVE these breeds; they have great yields, but they don’t offer much by way of flavor.
It’s easy to feed cattle a bucket of grain.
But raising great-tasting beef on a grass-diet is an art and science…
You have to know your soil. Your grasses. Your cattle breeds. How—and when—to get the most energy out of your pastures. How to get cattle to eat the right grasses at the right times…
So that cattle are gaining weight and adding fat before harvest (which IS important to flavor)…
Because the pasture grasses will infuse the fat present in the beef with exotic flavor—even though the beef will be leaner than grain-finished beef.
By comparison, grain is simple.It is static—not alive like grasses are. “Feeding grain is like knowing a few chords [on the guitar] and playing an easy song. Finishing on grass is like being a virtuoso.” (Allen Williams, meat scientist)
The question here is whether your grass-fed farmer has perfected the art of finishing beef on grass.
Age imparts flavor.
A 12-year old Scotch is good. But a 15 or 20-year Scotch is even better (and much more expensive).
“The longer an animal lives and the more work it does, the more flavorful its meat becomes.” (Adam Danforth, author of Butchering, and as quoted in Modern Farmer, 20 January 2015)
It takes about 12 – 18 months until a feedlot steer is mature for harvest. By contrast, grass-fed—but especially heritage—cattle takes more like 2 years. And your tastebuds will thank you for the investment of time!
There’s wet aging and dry aging.
Most beef you eat will have been “wet aged”…
It’s when a beef carcass is broken down and sealed in air-tight packaging. Then, it sits in the cooler for 4 – 10 days, while natural enzymes tenderize the meat.
Dry aging is a rarity…something only the most expensive steak houses do.
Because dry-aging both tenderizes the beef and enhances its flavor…
In dry-aging, a carcass hangs in temperatures just above freezing while the natural enzymes tenderize the meat AND allow moisture to evaporate—this reduces the yield, increases the cost, but intensifies the flavor.
A week to 14 days of dry-aging is very good, but—if you can get it—look for beef dry-aged at 21 days: a rare find, indeed!
CHEAT SHEET TO FINDING THE MOST FLAVORFUL GRASS-FED BEEF
Whether you want to impress your guests at a dinner party or just want mouth-watering flavor, ask your farmer or butcher these questions:
- Is this beef 100% grass-fed and grass-finished?
- If not 100% grass-fed, how was the cattle finished (i.e. what was its diet), where was it finished (farm or feedlot), and for how long (e.g. 90 days)?
- What farm or ranch raised this beef?
- What breed of cattle does this beef come from?
- If 100% grass-fed, what protocols were used to fatten the cattle prior to harvest?
- How old was the cattle when it was harvested? (2 years—or more—is what you want to hear)
- Is this beef wet-aged or dry-aged? If dry-aged, for how long?