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That’s It, I’m Off the Grass

Posted by on January 10 2008 in Contests, Red Meat

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Even though I love me some Cadbury’s, kiwis, and Mahi-Mahi, I try to be a good organic locavore, I really do. I’ve quit the big chain supermarkets and now shop almost exclusively at the Park Slope Food Co-op. I eat New York apples and drink Long Island wine. But there’s one thing I’m just not sold on: grass-fed beef.

I’ve never been much tempted by the lure of vegetarianism, but there is one stat that has always grabbed me. According to some hippie I met in college or something, you could feed 80 percent of the people in the world on the corn and soy we feed our livestock in the United States. Basically, if we stopped needing our cows and pigs to be so fat and delicious, we could instantly wipe out hunger worldwide.

Well the co-op has a vast array of grass-fed beef products, and I feel like these local meats are probably less likely to give me mad cow or e coli or whatever we’re supposed to be scared of this week, so I felt obliged to give it a shot. My first attempt was this steak. I even compensated for the low-fat content by topping it with avocado butter, but as I previously reported, it smelled like dog food and was way too chewy.

After the jump, my very meat-eating existence is at stake, and you have a say.

I still wanted to love the grass-fed steak, so I did a little online research, watching the video below, which I found on the Kitchn.

[vimeo 369039]

OK, low flame – got it. So I abandoned my broiling and went back to the kitchen with a new grass-fed steak which I sliced and put into a stir-fry. The result: a little bit better – but still an unappetizing smell and a little bit too chewy. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but if I’m gonna have a steak, I want it to be better than not bad.

So I tried one more time, buying some beef (the cut shown above) that was a little bit more expensive, to see how it would hold up. I cooked it up in a wok – on low heat, with peppers and onions. Not bad, but still…I found myself picking around the beef. It just wasn’t amazing.

Researching further, I found that I am not alone in my distaste for grass-fed beef. Apparently, it’s just always going to be a different flavor and my taste buds may be too used to that fatty, corn-fed goodness.

So that’s it, I’m done with the grass. But now I’ve spent so much time congratulating myself for not eating icky, supermarket, possibly-contaminated beef, that I’m scared to go back to it. What do I do, dear readers? As always, I leave my fate in your hands. Your votes please.

[poll=6]

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21 Responses leave one →
  1. January 10, 2008

    best contest yet

  2. January 10, 2008

    Well, a couple things could be going on here. All grassfed beef is not created equal. Not everyone has figured out that you can’t just take the same cow you were going to send to the feedlot and stick out to pasture, then slaughter it. You want to buy from a farm that is paying attention to breed and finishing techniques. Also, grassfed beef is best when dry-aged at least 21 days and not shrink-wrapped straight from slaughter, which can cause the flavors to go “off.” If you really want to see if it’s possible to like it, I recommend finding a restaurant that serves it and trying theirs. Chances are they’re getting the top quality. Or, I would call around and ask specialty butchers if they hang any grassfed beef themselves (you would then get the cuts wrapped in paper, which is preferable).

    Lastly, you could just compromise, and buy humanely raised, grain-finished beef like that from Niman Ranch (which has mail order and Trader Joe’s sells in some markets) or Prather. Many people who find that straight grassfed flavor is too strong for them like grain-finished. They are fed less grain as a percentage of their diet than conventional cows — not enough to make them sick — and typically not corn or soy, but more complex whole grains. Note that the cows shouldn’t be on grain any more than three months or less, however, otherwise they’re probably a feedlot operator just trying to fudge their labeling.

    Eating locally and sustainably isn’t supposed to feel as if you’re taking your medicine. If you don’t like it, you just don’t like it. Concentrate on spending your money on the responsible areas that you do like!

  3. Brian permalink
    January 10, 2008

    meat is still murder

  4. Brian permalink
    January 10, 2008

    (no matter what you feed it before killing it)

  5. January 10, 2008

    not eating beef is not the answer. beef is delicious.

  6. January 11, 2008

    thanks, Bonnie! there’s a lot to know here!

  7. January 11, 2008

    I agree with Bonnie! Try your hand at some humanely-raised beef that lives most of its life grazing, and then is finished on carefully-formulated grain. Even better if you can visit the farm and talk to the farmer. I think that small-farm, grain-finished beef is a great compromise.

  8. January 11, 2008

    You might also different cuts — short ribs, pot roast, something braised. Braising is a great way to work with “tougher” cuts of meat, and aside from tasting delicious, it fills your house with that wonderful scent of cooking. Try Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking for some wonderful recipes for stews and daubes — she’s got a gorgeous recipe for beef with wild mushrooms and orange … Oh, and I’m with Bonnie, see if you can’t find a real butcher who is hanging the meat appropriately. It really does make a big difference.

  9. January 11, 2008

    Yeah, you haven’t really given grass-fed a fair chance.

    Try another beef source. Even the grass that the animals eat will make a difference. Colorado grass will be different from Vermont, for instance. Then there is the aging technique, pointed out rightly by Bonnie.

    Try other cuts, too. There is more to beef than steak (though I love ribeyes). Slow cooking roasts are easier on the budget and often tastier. Don’t trim too much fat away before cooking. It adds flavor and keeps the meat moist. You can always trim it after cooking.

    Get a good cookbook that is specific to grassfed and pastured meats. It really should be cooked very differently than grain fed. I use my gas grill a lot, but only a few minutes on medium or high heat to sear the outside, then the rest of the time off to the unheated side for indirect heat cooking. I highly recommend any books by Jo Robinson and Shannon Hayes. One of my favorite recipes is Shannon Hayes’ Super Slow Roasted Beef, with uses very inexpensive roasts, takes about 5 minutes of prep (if that), and cooks slowly in my toaster oven until the proper internal temp is reached (rare). Then I let it cool, then chill it. Very thinly sliced and served chilled – way better than any deli roast beef! Great for cooking in the evening while watching a dvd or on the weekend for meals later in the week.

    I also highly recommend a wireless digital thermometer. Seems like equipment overkill, but it makes a huge difference to be able to keep an eye on the meat without opening the oven or grill, repeatedly poking with an instant read thermometer (& losing juice), or not cooking long enough or too long. Experimenting to find your favorite temp ( on the rare side is usually better) makes for better and easier beef cooking.

  10. January 11, 2008

    i love the roast beef idea. and i think it would be great with this. although i’ve yet to try it.

  11. January 11, 2008

    Try frying the steak in a little olive oil and butter – way better than the stirfry.

  12. Patrick Henry permalink
    January 12, 2008

    “Apparently, it’s just always going to be a different flavor and my taste buds may be too used to that fatty, corn-fed goodness.”

    Genetically modified corn that is grown using oil and tons of dangerous pesticides is actually one of the less disgusting things fed cows in America. Any “goodness” perceived in a factory farmed food product is illusory.

    You could try beef from a different farm, depending on where the farm is and what kind of cow it can taste very different. Your tastes can change, you can and will acquire the taste for grass fed beef if you keep eating it, and you will learn to be a better cook too. I have the desire growing from reading your blog. Glad I took out that grass fed beef sausage from the freezer yesterday.

  13. January 13, 2008

    I’m right there with you: I find 100% grass-fed beef too gamey, most of the time. I can’t taste the difference in braises or long-simmered preparations, though, and for those I do choose grass-fed. But for steaks and stir-fries, we buy grain-finished pastured meat.

    Try and see if you can find another farm’s product for a different flavor. The grass-fed beef we buy in the Bay Area is much milder than what we got when we lived in Seattle; that stuff tasted like mutton! :S

  14. Jesse permalink
    January 20, 2008

    @Brian: Sure meat is murder. Tasty, tasty, murder…

  15. February 18, 2008

    We raise grass fed pigs not beef but I’m quite surprised at your results. Admittedly I don’t have a lot of experience with store bought meat since we grow virtually all of our own. We feed our pigs grass (pasture in the warm seasons and hay in the winter) plus excess dairy as that makes for a complete diet since grass is low in lycine. The meat is excellent, tender and delicious.

    I suspect that the problem is the particular beef you’ve been getting rather than it being grass fed. I would suggest trying more. A sample of one is not scientific or statistically significant. Realize, you’ll be eating in the interest of science – basic research and all that… :)

    One other thought for you is to try brining the meat. I love brined meats be they bacon, ham, beef brisket, turkey or what ever. Perhaps that will give you the flavor and texture you want. There are lots of articles about brining. Here’s mine:

    http://sugarmtnfarm.com/blog/2006/04/how-to-brine-ham.html

    As to the meat is murder comment, so is living. We are naturally omnivores. We’re part of the food web. In our turn we’ll nourish others, unless you choose cremation or pickling. Enjoy life to the fullest. It’s a short trip.

    Cheers

    -Walter

  16. February 18, 2008

    thanks, Walter – that is some helpful insight. I probably should say that I’ve been buying the grass fed pork tenderloin and I love it…well per the results of the contest, I have to say I should be trying the $30 grass fed filet mignon soon

  17. carla permalink
    December 25, 2008

    Thank you for this posting. I have been searching the web for quite a while tonight until I came across your page. I cooked a Christmas roast tonight and UGH!!!!! The flavor and odor were definitely not appetizing. I couldn’t understand it–now I know it was probably the grass fed beef.

  18. Wang permalink
    June 21, 2009

    I love really gamy meat. The gamier the better, which is probably why I much prefer grass fed beef over corn fed beef. To me, supermarket beef has gone the way of the red delicious apple. It looks beautiful, it has fantastic texture, but to me the taste is incredibly bland.

    But if you don’t like the taste of grass fed beef, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. You like what you like.

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