Grass fed???

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Chris Blum
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Grass fed???

#1 Post by Chris Blum » December 27th, 2019, 10:55 am

A recent post got me wondering so here’s an honest question...

What is your attraction to grass fed meat?

Growing up in the upper Midwest, fresh grass fed tastes “off” to me. It’s not as sweet. (aging covers up the difference)

Is it taste, environmental, animal welfare, or some health benefit I’m not aware of?
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Re: Grass fed???

#2 Post by Ron Slye » December 27th, 2019, 12:02 pm

There are probably others here who can speak more authoritatively about this. Most of my knowledge has come over time -- and I have been sort of skeptical or agnostic. But reading Franklin Steak I am more intrigued now about trying more grass fed meat (particularly beef).

On taste, grass fed is a richer, more "beefy," taste -- which some may not like. These are somewhat generalizations, but my understanding is that grain fed tends to have a less strong taste, and thus appeals to those who may not like strong beefy flavor. Some argue that this is a more natural flavor, and thus we should like it, as it is what meat used to taste like. I am not sure I would go that far. I think if you like the taste of grain-fed, then more power to you.

On health, grass fed beef (and by grass, what is really meant here is a mix of grass and other plant material) tends to be higher in nutrients that are beneficial to humans. I don't have the book in front of me so can't remember the different nutrients -- some omegas, others. It is also healthier for the cows, and thus produces healthier, and thus tastier, meat. On the other side, grain-fed tend to be more susceptible to disease -- thus leading to the use of hormones and antibiotics with grass fed beef.

On the animal welfare front, I think this is where things can overlap but are not necessary. So some feed grass pellets to cattle in closed pens and claim they are "grass fed." These tend to be less nutritious and, some argue, less flavorful. It is obviously less pleasant for the cattle. Many of the more "pure" pasture grass-fed ranchers also tend to treat their animals well -- the argument being that animals with less stress also produce better meat.

Environment is also better, but again this is not necessarily related. That is, those who are serious about grass fed and pasture tend to also be serious about environmental concerns -- so there is a correlation between grass-fed and environmentally beneficial practices. But you could also have grass-fed beef ranches that could also be less careful about environmental practices.

It is all pretty fascinating -- and with many such things one has to dig a bit deeper to figure out who is doing what, for what reason, and then assess the overall result. If you are really interested I would urge you to buy and read Franklin Steak -- it is written in a very easy and accessible style, and covers raising cattle, butchering, and cooking. As someone who tends to be more interested in the cooking side, I am more interested in the ranching and butchering than I thought I would be!

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Re: Grass fed???

#3 Post by ybarselah » December 27th, 2019, 12:48 pm

i think you first need to distinguish between grass-fed, grass-finished, and grain-finished. almost all beef you can buy is grass-fed then grain-finished (includes soy and other non-grass feed). given the extreme rarity of actual fully pastured meat (end-to-end) and the variety of regions and breed, it's impossible to generalize one way or the other. that said, the goal of grain-finishing is indeed to bulk up and those breeds are bred for certain results which we associate with great beef - lots of intramuscular fat, rich taste, but not necessarily iron/mineral-type flavors that you usually encounter in spain and italy, for example.
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Re: Grass fed???

#4 Post by Steve Manzi » December 27th, 2019, 2:01 pm

ybarselah wrote:
December 27th, 2019, 12:48 pm
i think you first need to distinguish between grass-fed, grass-finished, and grain-finished. almost all beef you can buy is grass-fed then grain-finished (includes soy and other non-grass feed). given the extreme rarity of actual fully pastured meat (end-to-end) and the variety of regions and breed, it's impossible to generalize one way or the other. that said, the goal of grain-finishing is indeed to bulk up and those breeds are bred for certain results which we associate with great beef - lots of intramuscular fat, rich taste, but not necessarily iron/mineral-type flavors that you usually encounter in spain and italy, for example.
Exactly
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Re: Grass fed???

#5 Post by Chris Blum » December 27th, 2019, 2:06 pm

I agree with the iron/copper/metal flavor descriptor for some boutique-y grass fed beef. Not as much as Wild venison (which oddly is mostly corn finished around here) but still. Our family hunted and dad was “frugal” so I grew up eating a lot of venison and kinda hated it. Maybe that’s where my grass-fed aversion stems from.

I will check out the book.
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Re: Grass fed???

#6 Post by Jason T » December 27th, 2019, 2:19 pm

Ron Slye wrote:
December 27th, 2019, 12:02 pm
There are probably others here who can speak more authoritatively about this. Most of my knowledge has come over time -- and I have been sort of skeptical or agnostic. But reading Franklin Steak I am more intrigued now about trying more grass fed meat (particularly beef).

On taste, grass fed is a richer, more "beefy," taste -- which some may not like. These are somewhat generalizations, but my understanding is that grain fed tends to have a less strong taste, and thus appeals to those who may not like strong beefy flavor. Some argue that this is a more natural flavor, and thus we should like it, as it is what meat used to taste like. I am not sure I would go that far. I think if you like the taste of grain-fed, then more power to you.

On health, grass fed beef (and by grass, what is really meant here is a mix of grass and other plant material) tends to be higher in nutrients that are beneficial to humans. I don't have the book in front of me so can't remember the different nutrients -- some omegas, others. It is also healthier for the cows, and thus produces healthier, and thus tastier, meat. On the other side, grain-fed tend to be more susceptible to disease -- thus leading to the use of hormones and antibiotics with grass fed beef.

On the animal welfare front, I think this is where things can overlap but are not necessary. So some feed grass pellets to cattle in closed pens and claim they are "grass fed." These tend to be less nutritious and, some argue, less flavorful. It is obviously less pleasant for the cattle. Many of the more "pure" pasture grass-fed ranchers also tend to treat their animals well -- the argument being that animals with less stress also produce better meat.

Environment is also better, but again this is not necessarily related. That is, those who are serious about grass fed and pasture tend to also be serious about environmental concerns -- so there is a correlation between grass-fed and environmentally beneficial practices. But you could also have grass-fed beef ranches that could also be less careful about environmental practices.

It is all pretty fascinating -- and with many such things one has to dig a bit deeper to figure out who is doing what, for what reason, and then assess the overall result. If you are really interested I would urge you to buy and read Franklin Steak -- it is written in a very easy and accessible style, and covers raising cattle, butchering, and cooking. As someone who tends to be more interested in the cooking side, I am more interested in the ranching and butchering than I thought I would be!
A very thoughtful and well stated post. Says more eloquently what I might have tried to say on why I prefer grass-fed.
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Re: Grass fed???

#7 Post by ybarselah » December 28th, 2019, 8:49 am

Ron Slye wrote:
December 27th, 2019, 12:02 pm
As someone who tends to be more interested in the cooking side, I am more interested in the ranching and butchering than I thought I would be!
ron - if you haven't yet done so, i recommend strongly you read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I think it's a crucial read for anyone interested in food and the food system.
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Re: Grass fed???

#8 Post by Sean Devaney » December 29th, 2019, 8:30 am

Great recommendation Yaacov, a wonderful book. I enjoy all of Pollan's books especially The Botany of Desire.

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Re: Grass fed???

#9 Post by John S » December 29th, 2019, 8:38 am

I have had some grass fed beef including thru finishing. Distinctly more gamey, tougher, and much less fat than grain finished beef. It was from a lady who raised her cattle next to us at 8,000ft and was sold as a half or full cow. We got a half. Not the best flavor for my tastes but still good and fun to try.
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Re: Grass fed???

#10 Post by Gordon Fitz » December 29th, 2019, 9:08 am

I suppose being itb, I can make a couple comments. Feeding grains do two things. 1. It quickly adds weight and weight = money.

2. It likewise adds fat and marble to the meat that enhances flavors.

There are two primary calving seasons in most of the US. Spring calves, born March-May; and fall Sep-November. The vast majority of cattle goes to market at around 850-1000 lbs standings weight. This translates into 8-10 months old depending upon breed and genetics. At around 450-600 lbs, most calves are completely weaned and eating minerals as needed. This will be around 6-7 months. Add the 6-7 months to April or May and you’re into late fall or winter. A. Most grass is gone B. It’s turning cold and the animal is converting more food to energy to stay warm than putting on weight. C. It takes a lot of hay alone to sustain an animal alone in cold weather. Result being, you feed them grain to get them to desired weight as quickly as possible and off to market so not to bear the expense of more winter feeding.

Fall calves are mostly on their mothers milk along with hay and some of the grains they may eat alongside their mothers. In March or early April when the grasses start coming back in, they are on grasses until decision time. Do they get sold and go to the feedlots for finishing or stay on the pasture longer and be sold as grass fed. A lot goes into that decision with one item being the condition of your pastures. If we’re having a drought and the pastures are thin, we get them off as fast as we can, because there are the Spring calves with their mothers to continue feeding. Since hot weather impedes weight gain, we have to consider market prices in our decisions.

Most grass fed operations are contract based, just like the no antibiotics or no hormone cattle. They are often specifically raised under those conditions and presold before birth. Honestly, it’s not a large market because many of the buyers don’t pay the farmers a large enough premium to justify the extra work requirements and loss of total weight. There is a huge disconnect between what the customer may pay at retail and what the farmers receive.

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Re: Grass fed???

#11 Post by ybarselah » December 29th, 2019, 10:40 am

Sean Devaney wrote:
December 29th, 2019, 8:30 am
Great recommendation Yaacov, a wonderful book. I enjoy all of Pollan's books especially The Botany of Desire.
didn't even know about that one, thank you.

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Re: Grass fed???

#12 Post by Glenn L e v i n e » December 29th, 2019, 11:11 am

We get some 100% grass fed filets from Hastings S of Brookings Oregon and right on the ocean. Great texture and taste that we both enjoy. Tri-tip great there too but now I have a source for prime tri-tip now that is just exquisite.
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Re: Grass fed???

#13 Post by Brandon R » December 30th, 2019, 8:55 am

From my uneducated viewpoint, I tend to stray from grass-fed beef because I just can't seem to find any that has enough marbling / fat. If I am eating beef, I want as much marbling as I can get in any particular cut. Grass-fed, to me, almost always has noticeably less tasty fat that corn/grain-finished.
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Re: Grass fed???

#14 Post by Steve Manzi » December 30th, 2019, 12:05 pm

The difference between grass raised/fed, is the difference between life and death to many. The health benefits to proper Grass Fed beef is too big to ignore.
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Re: Grass fed???

#15 Post by Casey Hartlip » December 30th, 2019, 2:01 pm

ybarselah wrote:
December 27th, 2019, 12:48 pm
i think you first need to distinguish between grass-fed, grass-finished, and grain-finished. almost all beef you can buy is grass-fed then grain-finished (includes soy and other non-grass feed). given the extreme rarity of actual fully pastured meat (end-to-end) and the variety of regions and breed, it's impossible to generalize one way or the other. that said, the goal of grain-finishing is indeed to bulk up and those breeds are bred for certain results which we associate with great beef - lots of intramuscular fat, rich taste, but not necessarily iron/mineral-type flavors that you usually encounter in spain and italy, for example.
I agree with the grass fed/finished debate. It so easy for a producer at say grass fed, but hell most all beef and lamb can claim that. I'm lucky enough to have access to some great beef growers. It's all about grass finished. MUCH more healthy for humans. MUCH harder for growers to honestly do. I'm not sure exactly but it takes many more months to achieve proper weight without grain. It also depends on location and time of year if pasture is even available.

I acquired some grass finished beef that was held back due to the time of year. I don't know how old it was at slaughter but it was big. The rib eyes were HUGE. Fred Flintstone would have been proud of them. There were Damn gamey too. It really took some getting used to.

One other point not talked about much is dry aging. Most great beef is dry aged around 25 days I believe. Lots of butchers don't want it hung that long as it looses weight and can spoil. I hang my deer for around 12-14 days at 38 degrees. Lots of the gamey character mellows and the meat gets MUCH more tender during the process.
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Re: Grass fed???

#16 Post by LMD Ermitaño » December 30th, 2019, 10:42 pm

Here, local farm-raised beef from Tagaytay & Batangas are grass fed. They don’t have much marbling; so, in my opinion/household, local grass fed beef is for stews and the like (my favourite being “bulalo” which is very close to the French pot-au-feu, and features beef knee cartilage and bone marrow). For steaks & roasts at home, we use USDA prime or choice grade (both of which are readily available in Metro Manila); and, once in a while, Japanese A5 grade beef (Miyazaki, Ohmi, etc.).

When out and about in Europe, I have whatever beef is the local specialty. I, honestly, don’t care or bother to ask what/how it is fed or raised. I care only how it tastes.
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Re: Grass fed???

#17 Post by Brandon R » December 31st, 2019, 8:15 am

Who the hell is eating beef for the health benefits?!? I don't eat steak often, but when I do, I'm certainly not thinking, "Hey, this grass fed ribeye will be so much healthier for me." I want what, to me, tastes better.
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Re: Grass fed???

#18 Post by Steve Manzi » December 31st, 2019, 9:01 am

Brandon R wrote:
December 31st, 2019, 8:15 am
Who the hell is eating beef for the health benefits?!? I don't eat steak often, but when I do, I'm certainly not thinking, "Hey, this grass fed ribeye will be so much healthier for me." I want what, to me, tastes better.
Sounds like an opinion of a young guy who has not faced much health problems. champagne.gif

I understand. I never thought about it much either. But the health benefits of grass fed + the terrible health risks of grain fed is astonishing. Now, if someone only eats meat once a month or whatever, then yeah, I wouldn't worry either.

But, if you have kids, you ought to be thinking about grass fed over grain fed (and the hormones and antibiotics that go with it). I wish I had understood this many years ago.

Just my opinion. YMMV.
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Re: Grass fed???

#19 Post by Ron Slye » January 1st, 2020, 6:37 pm

I tend to agree with Steve here. I do think age makes a difference. And definitely for us with a small child that is a consideration. Our daughter is only three and does not eat much steak. But we are trying to instill in her an appreciation for good food that is sourced well and is good for us.

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Re: Grass fed???

#20 Post by Brandon R » January 2nd, 2020, 12:59 pm

My preference for grain-fed steak in no way indicates I'm not educating my children about healthy eating and quality food. Additionally, "grass fed" has absolutely nothing to do with fewer "hormones and antibiotics."
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Re: Grass fed???

#21 Post by Steve Manzi » January 3rd, 2020, 12:37 pm

It absolutely does if you do a LITTLE homework. But view it anyway you wish.

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Re: Grass fed???

#22 Post by Russell Faulkner » January 3rd, 2020, 12:41 pm

Kind of splitting hairs to discuss the ‘health benefits’ of eating beef!

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Re: Grass fed???

#23 Post by Brandon R » January 6th, 2020, 8:44 am

Russell Faulkner wrote:
January 3rd, 2020, 12:41 pm
Kind of splitting hairs to discuss the ‘health benefits’ of eating beef!
My thoughts exactly.
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Re: Grass fed???

#24 Post by Mike DiSalvo » January 6th, 2020, 9:23 am

After watching 60 Minutes segment last night on the Pork Industry, if I eat pork again it will only be grass fed without antibiotics.
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Re: Grass fed???

#25 Post by J. Rock » January 6th, 2020, 10:47 am

I like grass fed / pasture raised beef for the supposed health benefits, even though I don't think it tastes better, and might even taste a bit worse.
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Re: Grass fed???

#26 Post by Anton D » January 6th, 2020, 11:19 am

We are about a twice per month household. We eat either Flannery California Reserve or our local rancher's beef. The local guy is grass fed only from his own property, which ranges from about a mile from our house right up to cows that have accidentally wandered into our back yard. We enjoy knowing these cows and know how well they are treated. In general, is it leaner and we have to be very careful with not overcooking it. For the local grass fed beef, we aim for 128 degrees, maybe 129. (Perhaps too rare for some.) This makes for good tenderness and mouth feel. It pleases us.

I am not sure what California Reserve qualifies as, but Flannery makes a great steak! We can cook it to 134 for some guests and still holed it's tenderness and a great deep pink.
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Re: Grass fed???

#27 Post by K_F_o_l_e_y » January 6th, 2020, 3:24 pm

Anton D wrote:
January 6th, 2020, 11:19 am
I am not sure what California Reserve qualifies as, but Flannery makes a great steak! We can cook it to 134 for some guests and still holed it's tenderness and a great deep pink.
IIRC, Flannery' CA Reserve is actually from Hereford dairy cattle, which turn out to have very good marbling.
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Re: Grass fed???

#28 Post by Anton D » January 6th, 2020, 3:53 pm

K_F_o_l_e_y wrote:
January 6th, 2020, 3:24 pm
Anton D wrote:
January 6th, 2020, 11:19 am
I am not sure what California Reserve qualifies as, but Flannery makes a great steak! We can cook it to 134 for some guests and still holed it's tenderness and a great deep pink.
IIRC, Flannery' CA Reserve is actually from Hereford dairy cattle, which turn out to have very good marbling.
Ah! Thank you for that!

[cheers.gif]
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Re: Grass fed???

#29 Post by Al Osterheld » January 6th, 2020, 6:09 pm

Hereford cattle were bred to be beef cattle. I think more recently, some dairy farmers started crossing them with their herds (eg, by getting Hereford bulls) for various genetic reasons. But, if you look at a full-grown pure Hereford, it's clear that it's a beef breed (beef and dairy cattle look different).

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Re: Grass fed???

#30 Post by K_F_o_l_e_y » January 6th, 2020, 8:59 pm

Al Osterheld wrote:
January 6th, 2020, 6:09 pm
Hereford cattle were bred to be beef cattle. I think more recently, some dairy farmers started crossing them with their herds (eg, by getting Hereford bulls) for various genetic reasons. But, if you look at a full-grown pure Hereford, it's clear that it's a beef breed (beef and dairy cattle look different).

-Al
Sorry, I meant Holstein. Flannery CA Reserve is from Holstein dairy cows.
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Re: Grass fed???

#31 Post by Anton D » January 7th, 2020, 3:11 pm

K_F_o_l_e_y wrote:
January 6th, 2020, 8:59 pm
Al Osterheld wrote:
January 6th, 2020, 6:09 pm
Hereford cattle were bred to be beef cattle. I think more recently, some dairy farmers started crossing them with their herds (eg, by getting Hereford bulls) for various genetic reasons. But, if you look at a full-grown pure Hereford, it's clear that it's a beef breed (beef and dairy cattle look different).

-Al
Sorry, I meant Holstein. Flannery CA Reserve is from Holstein dairy cows.
Well, that wrecks my image of Robert Mitchum "milking" a Hereford in "What a Way to Go!"

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Re: Grass fed???

#32 Post by Al Osterheld » January 7th, 2020, 9:09 pm

I think the Holstein line has a lot of off-shoots and they have been a dual use (dairy and meat) breed, although originally purely dairy in the US.

FWIW, I grew up on cattle ranches. We originally had almost all Herefords, later had an Angus bull, so soon had mostly crosses. The first award I recall earning was for having the best American Polled Hereford heifer in the local county fair when I was 9. I won $5, a plaque (which I still have), and my name was mentioned in the American Hereford magazine, albeit I had third billing to the sire and the cow.

As far as grass-fed vs not, the terms don't necessarily mean much, as Yaacov stated. The tenderness and amount of marbling depends on genetics, feed, and level/type of exercise. You can have cattle that are genuinely what you would consider grass fed that have a lot of marbling. There are cattle that are called grass fed, that really aren't.

As far as taste, it's partly personal preference and partly what one has learned as the taste based on the beef they have eaten. In terms of quality beef, fatty, corn fed beef has become the norm and so many people prefer it. It's not the flavor of the beef of my youth (pasture raised), although I enjoy both.

As far as health, I suspect the biggest effect of feedlot, corn fed beef is that the antibiotics that are typically used contribute to the antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

For those who are interested, it might be worth trying to find a source for Piemontese beef. It's naturally lean, tender, and tasty (genetics), and I think most of the Piemontese beef sold in the US is grass finished (and genuinely grass raised, for the most part).

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Re: Grass fed???

#33 Post by Ron Slye » January 7th, 2020, 9:21 pm

Thanks for the informative post Al. I have been reading Franklin Steak again - and one of the points they make is that both grass fed and grain fed can taste terrible. There are many other factors that also come into play on the taste front. As I understand it grain fed tends to emphasize tenderness (the cows are fed a good deal of grain, do not move much, and thus do not develop a lot of muscle mass). The best grass fed are more "beefy" in their taste. Some might call it funky. I agree with you that on the taste front -- hard to say that one is "better" than the other. It all depends on what you like. On the environmental and health front (health for the cows, the environment, and the eater), things are more complicated. I am by no means a nutritionist, or scientist, or anything along those lines, so just trying to learn from what I am currently reading. As with many things in life, figuring out the best beef/meat to consume (best on many levels) is an ongoing journey. At the moment we are exploring some of the more highly thought of grass fed meats. So far they have satisfied the taste test!

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Re: Grass fed???

#34 Post by LMD Ermitaño » January 8th, 2020, 2:18 am

Al Osterheld wrote:
January 7th, 2020, 9:09 pm
I think the Holstein line has a lot of off-shoots and they have been a dual use (dairy and meat) breed, although originally purely dairy in the US.
Hi, Al.

I tried a 50-day dry-aged Dutch Holstein steak (I think it was a porterhouse; but can't be sure now) at the (deservedly short-lived) Manila branch of Akrame's Atelier Vivanda. That steak was awfully tough. I gave up on it after a few bites and brought the uneaten portion home for my dogs. On the other hand, my experiences with Dutch veal (I don't know what kind of cattle though) in other restaurants have been consistently good.
For those who are interested, it might be worth trying to find a source for Piemontese beef. It's naturally lean, tender, and tasty (genetics), and I think most of the Piemontese beef sold in the US is grass finished (and genuinely grass raised, for the most part).
I've had Piemontese beef barely a handful of times (all ribeyes). I don't know if they were grass fed or not; but, they were all delicious. Great stuff.

Best,

N
Luis Manuel Debuque Monreal Ermitaño

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Re: Grass fed???

#35 Post by Al Osterheld » January 8th, 2020, 5:51 pm

Hi, Noel. Sounds like the Manila place didn't source very good meat (50 days dry aging left it tough). As you know, lots of factors affect the meat besides the genetics. I also suspect there is broader genetic variation with Holstein cattle, since they have been selected and bred in different countries for somewhat different purposes, to there are different strains. Not a Holstein expert, though.

Dairy females were much more valuable and, in the old days, the steers were either sold cheaply or used for veal. Now, a lot of dairy steers are raised for meat. I think that's one reason some dairy farmers have started introducing some dairy/beef crosses into their herds.

Glad you've had the opportunity to try Piemontese beef, it's become one of my favorite breeds for a leaner but very flavorful steak.

-Al

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Re: Grass fed???

#36 Post by Al Osterheld » January 8th, 2020, 9:37 pm

Here's a photo of my heifer, I think a couple of months before she won her award. May I present Trumode Rosalie. That was her registered name, I called her Wilma. The sire was Royal Numode the Nth. I think he was like the 8th, but he was descended from a line of distinguished Royal Numodes. And, yes, we are standing on a future meal.
4H.jpg
-Al

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Re: Grass fed???

#37 Post by Brandon R » January 9th, 2020, 1:51 pm

That's pretty darn cool, Al. Thanks for posting.
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Re: Grass fed???

#38 Post by LMD Ermitaño » January 9th, 2020, 8:38 pm

Al Osterheld wrote:
January 8th, 2020, 9:37 pm
Here's a photo of my heifer, I think a couple of months before she won her award. May I present Trumode Rosalie. That was her registered name, I called her Wilma. The sire was Royal Numode the Nth. I think he was like the 8th, but he was descended from a line of distinguished Royal Numodes. And, yes, we are standing on a future meal.

4H.jpg

-Al
Nice!
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Re: Grass fed???

#39 Post by ERPark » January 9th, 2020, 11:35 pm

No one can accuse Al of being “all hat, no cattle” ever with that pic as proof!
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Re: Grass fed???

#40 Post by Anton D » January 10th, 2020, 8:50 am

ERPark wrote:
January 9th, 2020, 11:35 pm
No one can accuse Al of being “all hat, no cattle” ever with that pic as proof!
I agree, he knew it was a girl cow!
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Re: Grass fed???

#41 Post by paul rosenberg » January 10th, 2020, 3:37 pm

last time i checked, none of flannery beef is grass finished. i think his steaks taste awesome.

an interesting book on the topic is defending beef by nicollete niman.

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Re: Grass fed???

#42 Post by M.Kaplan » January 10th, 2020, 5:03 pm

Paul,
The best Flannery steak I’ve eaten was a grass fed, whole side dry aged Wagyu strip at a dinner at Umamicatessen in 2012. It was awesome.

Let’s get dinner soon.
---Mark

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Re: Grass fed???

#43 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » January 15th, 2020, 12:25 pm

I just received my first order from the folks at White Oak Pastures, located in Bluffton, GA. They are a terrific operation - 6 generations, 152 years - raising grass fed and free range livestock, as well as produce, and aiming for negative environmental impact by cycling use of land and other techniques. They are zero waste, with the usual waste products going into things like candles, soap, pet chew toys etc. They co-pasture their animals so as to promote natural behaviors, rather than fostering mono-species environments.

In addition to the usual muscle meats, they offer many organ options beyond just liver, and even do a ground blend that includes organs for those of us who practice nose-to-tail and want extra mineral sources.

Though not all products are always available (lamb and goat mostly in the spring, organ meats only available on cycle), their website has a function to get alerts when those are back in stock.

My every interaction with them so far as been excellent, truly top notch customer service. Prices are pretty reasonable for what you're getting, and they charge a flat $9.95 on orders over $100 for ground shipping. They will only let perishables go 3 days in transit, so any further away than that and you must upgrade to express. Most products ship frozen, though I'm currently inquiring about fresh.

The proof will, of course, be in the taste - I'll report back! I'm pretty excited to try. Since being on keto, I've been particularly concerned about the fact that I'm eating more beef than usual - concerned environmentally, not health-wise - so looking for fully grass fed with the highest sustainability standards. These folks seem pretty amazing. Check them out.

https://www.whiteoakpastures.com/
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Re: Grass fed???

#44 Post by Al Osterheld » January 15th, 2020, 8:37 pm

I've been looking at buying from Alderspring Ranch, a family-run 100% pasture-fed (and no antibiotic or hormone) operation in a mountain valley in Idaho. It's always been the shipping that has caused me to hesitate ordering meat online. But, they ship flash-frozen and I now have a nearby package receiving service, so should be fine.

-Al

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Re: Grass fed???

#45 Post by Ron Slye » January 16th, 2020, 10:08 am

Sarah -- thanks for the tip on White Oaks. I look forward to hearing how you like the quality, but I like the philosophy and practices that you outline.

Al -- we just got our first shipment from Alderspring. Only tried the NY strip steaks so far, which were quite good. I can't say that they were better than Flannery, but they are not less good! The comparison is hard as we are in a new house, so a new stove, and a new grill, etc. So not perhaps a fair comparison (in other words, we are still working out how to best cook steaks in the new place!).

Aldersprings does recyle their packaging -- you send it back at their expense, and they give you a $5 credit on the next shipment. They seem to do a lot of things similar to what Sarah recounts for White Oaks, though I now want to look again to see how thorough their regimen is.

Let us know what you think of the Aldersprings. I am intrigued by White Oaks as we really prefer lamb to beef.

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Re: Grass fed???

#46 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » January 16th, 2020, 10:43 am

Ron Slye wrote:
January 16th, 2020, 10:08 am
Sarah -- thanks for the tip on White Oaks. I look forward to hearing how you like the quality, but I like the philosophy and practices that you outline.

Al -- we just got our first shipment from Alderspring. Only tried the NY strip steaks so far, which were quite good. I can't say that they were better than Flannery, but they are not less good! The comparison is hard as we are in a new house, so a new stove, and a new grill, etc. So not perhaps a fair comparison (in other words, we are still working out how to best cook steaks in the new place!).

Aldersprings does recyle their packaging -- you send it back at their expense, and they give you a $5 credit on the next shipment. They seem to do a lot of things similar to what Sarah recounts for White Oaks, though I now want to look again to see how thorough their regimen is.

Let us know what you think of the Aldersprings. I am intrigued by White Oaks as we really prefer lamb to beef.
Hi Ron - I had the "Paleo Blend" ground meat for breakfast this AM and it was very good. It's 40% chuck/brisket, 20% liver, 20% heart, 10% spleen, and 10% kidney. The smell was very clean, though clearly organ-y, as was the flavor. The steaks I received look terrific. I'll let you know how they show when we sample. I hesitate ever to compare any grass fed beef to Flannery, most of which is not grass fed, since they are such different products. When I want a steak indulgence, or treat, or for company, I'll still always reach for Flannery. For our family on a regular basis, I want grass fed.

I wasn't able to order any lamb this time, as it wasn't available. You can, however, special order from them - there is a small surcharge for each species - and then you can obviously get whatever that animal contains, even if it's generally out of stock. We have terrific local sources for lamb (Lancaster Country, PA has some of the best lamb in the country), so I probably won't sample White Oak lamb until it's readily available in spring.
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Re: Grass fed???

#47 Post by RyanC » January 16th, 2020, 10:54 am

Someone upthread mentioned Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. This thread caught my eye because I'm midway through the book, which is one of the more engaging and thought-provoking books I've come across in quite some time. Everyone should read it--particularly those who enjoy food and wine, regardless of your views on environmentalism, vegetarianism, etc., which isn't really the subject of the book. I have no idea what took me so long to pick it up.

Pollan's book certainly has piqued my interest in identifying genuinely sustainable, artisan, family run farms from which to buy meat and produce. A good bit of wine appreciation--especially in somewhere like Burgundy--is appreciation for the artisan craft of winemaking, which often is a small, artisan, family affair. I'd like to find the same thing in food and Sarah's White Oaks seems like the type of thing that would fit the bill.
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Re: Grass fed???

#48 Post by Ron Slye » January 16th, 2020, 11:39 am

RyanC wrote:
January 16th, 2020, 10:54 am
Someone upthread mentioned Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. This thread caught my eye because I'm midway through the book, which is one of the more engaging and thought-provoking books I've come across in quite some time. Everyone should read it--particularly those who enjoy food and wine, regardless of your views on environmentalism, vegetarianism, etc., which isn't really the subject of the book. I have no idea what took me so long to pick it up.

Pollan's book certainly has piqued my interest in identifying genuinely sustainable, artisan, family run farms from which to buy meat and produce. A good bit of wine appreciation--especially in somewhere like Burgundy--is appreciation for the artisan craft of winemaking, which often is a small, artisan, family affair. I'd like to find the same thing in food and Sarah's White Oaks seems like the type of thing that would fit the bill.
Ryan -- you should look at the book, Franklin Steak. They do a deep dive on beef, and recommend a number of sources, including many in Texas. It is not as well-researched or argued as Pollan's book though, so I would not look at it is a substitute for what you are reading!

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Re: Grass fed???

#49 Post by Al Osterheld » January 16th, 2020, 5:55 pm

Aldersprings does recyle their packaging -- you send it back at their expense, and they give you a $5 credit on the next shipment. They seem to do a lot of things similar to what Sarah recounts for White Oaks, though I now want to look again to see how thorough their regimen is.
They are similar in that they both follow what has come to be called regenerative agriculture (no tilling, fertilizing, cycling through pastures to use manure rather than chemical fertilizer, diverse native grasses). Those practices promote healthier soil, water retention, and ability to draw carbon out of the atmosphere. White Oak claims to be roughly carbon neutral based on a study that was done regarding their operation. Aldersprings thinks they are carbon negative, based on calculations they have done. Those calculations are admittedly difficult and imprecise, and scientists don't agree with some of the details, namely that regenerative agriculture does promote carbon retention in the soils, but it doesn't continue to absorb the same amount of additional carbon year after year.

Not sure about other details. Alderspring uses draft horses for some of the work rather than tractors. As mentioned, no grain, no fertilizer other than manure the cows and horses leave behind, no antibiotics in the beef sold online or in retail outlets. They sometimes use antibiotics, eg to save a sick calf, but they keep track of it and sell it off as half or quarter carcasses to locals who are told the distinction from their certified organic beef. Other big differences are that Aldersprings is in a high mountain valley in Idaho and the cattle spend part of the year essentially free range, and that the current family (a couple of generations) started the ranch. Those differences don't dramatically affect the environmental impact, however. From what I've read, I think the two operations are pretty similar in terms of what they are doing and trying to accomplish.

There is quite a lot of info on the Alderspring website, both in faqs and an extensive blog. The latter is a bit folksy, and a bit repetitive on the glories of regenerative agriculture and the ranching life (I resonate with those points of view, however). The ranch where I grew up was about 150 miles north in a similar mountain valley (albeit one that was and has become more developed).

-Al

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Re: Grass fed???

#50 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum » January 17th, 2020, 3:09 pm

I have now had the White Oak "Paleo Blend" ground beef twice for breakfast, and we did two of the strips tonight. The blend, despite all the organ components, had a very clean smell, and was quite delicious, though funky. It's a great way to get a ton of healthy organ meat in if you don't want to buy, cook, and consume liver/heart/kidney. I wouldn't make a burger out of it, but with some spices and mixed with some vegetables, it was very good.

The strips were also good. They are naturally quite lean, and were trimmed that way as well, so we cooked them pretty rare. I would prefer a little more fat ideally. Maybe I'll ask them if all their cuts are trimmed like this. The steak's texture was divine, perfect at rare, with a good beefy flavor. These were not aged, so missing the complexity that I love in a dry aged steak (White Oak does do aged steaks, they just weren't available this time), but I can hardly fault them for being what they are rather than something else. Overall, a very good choice for grass fed beef on taste alone, with the philosophical concerns being a huge added bonus. They sound quite similar to the farm Al mentions.

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