My recent beef purchases both at Costco and at my local super market have been disappointing. I have really cut back on the red meat, so when I eat it, I want it to be good. I am wondering if the (huge) extra expense of grass-fed beef is worth it. I could rationalize the expense by saying I won't eat very much - just like the dark chocolate.:)
Also, I see that Costco sells prime beef on line for an exhorbitant price. It doesn't say anything about being grass-fed, so I imagine it is a real artery clogger!
02-25-2008, 08:51 PM
Even though I don't post there any more, I know you from a "past association", therefore I know you to be a smart, thoughtful person.
I am not going to attempt my lay person analysis of why grass fed beef is not only worth the money, it's way worth the money not only in health benefits (start with the merits of grass fed beef over farm raised salmon) but in reducing our carbon foot print, and ending the insanity of our corn-based agricultural complex.
Get your hands on a copy of The Omnivore's Dilemma. by Michael Pollen.
It will explain why, yes, grass fed beef, but LOCAL grass fed beef; it will bum you out, but then it will lift you up! It has changed my life!
02-26-2008, 12:56 AM
It was a really good book - an eyeopener! It's really hard for us to get local meat here - but wild salmon, that's easy. :lol:
02-26-2008, 09:52 AM
We may live in southern California, but we are almost as isolated as Pat is, food-wise. We get quite a bit of produce from Mexico, which is actually fairly local to us. No CSAs here. There is a farmer's market, but mostly it is folks bringing in stuff from the central valley. It usually seems over priced and suffers from sitting in the heat.
Our grocery had wild Keta Salmon on sale yesterday. I get it whenever they have it. Sometimes it is out of this world good, other times not so good.
I have read The Omnivore's Dilemma. This book is what got me to looking at grass-fed beef in the first place.
I guess what I really wanted to know is how does it taste? I agree with the philosophy behind it.
02-29-2008, 09:15 AM
I loved Omnivore's Dilemma...and it truly does outline the dilemma of trying to get grass-fed beef to the average meat-eater's table. Most of the farms that raise gfb are not accessible to urban areas and shipping is cost prohibitive. Yet it is a choice and many make the choice to spend the money and/or drive the distances to get grass fed. Have any of you checked out eatwild.org? I found several farmers, but it gets to be real expensive and we don't eat enough red meat to justify it. I buy beef from our local gourmet grocery chain. They have a beef that is mostly-grass fed and the animals are sent to CAFO for a short period before butchering. It's still more expensive, bit not as much.
03-01-2008, 11:29 PM
You have to cook it differently as it is very lean. Lower heat is better. I think it's like anything else that is raised the way nature intended. It tastes more like beef, in the same way truly free-range chicken tastes more like chicken. I really don't know any other way to explain it.
03-11-2008, 11:11 PM
I did run across the "Eat Wild" site when I was looking for grass fed beef. I saved it to my favorites.
Thanks, Zenor, for your response. I think if I get some, I will go to one of the places that is relatively near me - like 200 miles or so.
03-13-2008, 06:54 PM
I picked up Omnivore's Dilemma (and a few other books about the horrors of modern agriculture) on a whim; I thought maybe it would help to curb my appetite.
It worked a little too well ... I am now a member of my local food co-op and am trying to opt out completely from the corn cycle.
We had a terrific roast last weekend, but it was definately different. The color is a little different (which is good - they use gases and dyes sometimes to keep up that pretty pink color in industrial meats) and you may have to adjust the menu a bit to make up for the leanness. I couldnt make a decent gravy, but I'm bad at gravy anyways ... The meat didnt need it and the potatoes were easy to spice up with garlic =)
03-14-2008, 06:32 AM
try grass-fed bison. it is lower in fat that skinless chicken.
03-15-2008, 11:24 PM
The book made me suspicious of corn and soybeans! That doesn't leave very much prepared/fast food for me to eat.
One of the grass-fed websites I looked at sells bison.
03-16-2008, 12:26 AM
I had a grass-fed bison burger at a local restaurant the other day. I've had their bison burger before, but never really noticed much of a difference between the bison burger and a burger made of super lean ground beef (both make a burger that's a little drier because of the lack of fat). I thought of this thread, and decided to really pay attention to the flavor.
I had it with sauteed onions and pepper jack cheese and ate it without the bun. Usually I order it with raw onions and blue cheese, which definitely are stronger flavors, and obscure the subtle difference between the two meats. I had them cook it medium, but it was closer to well-done. Since I tend to prefer over, rather than under cooked meat, I didn't make a fuss. I do think though that I would recommend anyone order one level rarer than their usual preference when ordering bison or any super lean meat.
I decided that the taste is a tiny bit stronger than beef. Sort of "beefier than beef." Trying to decide what made it "beefier," I think it tasted a bit as if you ground a tiny bit of beef liver into the ground beef. Not enough to taste like liver, just enough to taste a little more of iron, maybe? With a little bit of ketchup, or (as I've had in the past) some blue cheese or raw onion the difference is completely masked.
I know Andrew Zimmern (of Bizarre Foods on the travel channel) claims that animals taste of what they eat, so he says he can taste the grass or clover in beef, lamb, goat... I've not noticed that (though I LOVE lamb and goat), but I think I'll be paying alot more attention.
There's a new small "pasture-raised" meat animal farm in our area, that should be selling at the farmers' markets this summer at much better prices than are currently in the health food stores. They raise grass-fed beef and sheep (a special breed of sheep that has hair instead of wool, and supposedly tastes milder, more like young goat). They possibly will raise bison and goat at some point.
I got hooked on goat from a mexican restaurant that served goat meat tacos. It's leaner than beef, but more tender. You'd never guess it wasn't beef unless you were very familiar with lamb and goat.
03-16-2008, 12:28 PM
Nice post Kaplods. You could have an excellent future as a food taster. :)
I've noticed that the grassfed beef available locally tends to taste slightly gamy. I've noticed it when I've had that beef as a burger in local restaurants and when I've cooked it at home. It has a slightly stronger--but certainly not unpleasant--taste. I'm in it for the ethics though, more than the taste. My taste buds have lost much of their subtlety through all these years of heavy smoking. (I'm envious of that Zimmern fellow!)
However, last fall we and friends split a whole lamb from a local farmer. I love lamb and this one is delicious. The flavor is delicate and distinct and not at all gamy or muttony. I had some lamb that I'd bought from the grocery store in the freezer around the time we were eating lots of this local lamb and I cooked it up and we both noticed that it tasted very different. Fattier and stronger-tasting, but the flavor was less distinctly lamby.
03-20-2008, 12:57 AM
I got some little lamb chops at Sam's Club a while back. They were the best I've ever had, in fact I wouldn't have known it was lamb if I hadn't bought it myself.
I haven't heard anything about ostrich meat lately. Seems like that is supposed to be lean.
I am probably more interested in the ethics, too. Because the sustainable, grass fed beef is so much more expensive, I believe I would eat less of it.
03-20-2008, 02:04 AM
I am probably more interested in the ethics, too. Because the sustainable, grass fed beef is so much more expensive, I believe I would eat less of it.
This is key, I think. One of the philosophies I try to live by now is eating smaller portions of the best quality foods. It's relatively easy to deal with the increased costs of organic meats when you treat the meat more like a side dish and less like the centerpiece of a meal, and the payoffs go beyond your wallet.
I find I don't need nearly as large a portion when the beef (which I still eat rarely) or chicken (which I eat all the time) is organic. The flavor is better, the meat tastes richer and more satisfying. There are obviously environmental benefits to not consuming as much, but it's nice that it doesn't feel like a sacrifice to do so.
04-02-2010, 04:19 PM
Last sunday I bought ground bison meat to try from the farmers market. DH made Bison burgers out of them and they were delicious! They tasted better than the beef burgers and didn't really need any seasoning (my hubby added green onion). Since bison is really lean, it was super fast to cook. We are now looking into buying grass fed beef as well.
04-02-2010, 05:54 PM
Funny thing, I just finished reading Omnivore's Dilemma too, and before that, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Kingsolver). Next is Farm City (Carpenter). I'm kind of on a kick. But I hope it's one that sticks.
Anyway, I've been going back and forth on this whole grassfed beef (and free range chicken) thing for a while now.
Our budget is pretty tight, and my family looooooves their meat. But slowly, they're easing into the less meat / more plants diet. Slowly.
I picked up some grass-fed ground beef the other day ($6.89/lb - yikes!) and tonight I'm putting it into cottage pie. I figured that would be a subtle way to introduce its distinctive flavor.
I guess we'll see. ;)
04-02-2010, 09:10 PM
I'm a vegetarian, but I strongly encourage you to get LOCAL grass-fed beef!! On top of being better environmentally and supporting local business, you can research how the animals are kept and slaughtered and make a more ethical decision.
04-05-2010, 12:22 PM
OK I made Gordon Ramsey's Shepherd's Pie recipe on Friday night. Though, I used beef, so I guess that makes it Cottage Pie.
I would not hesitate to use grass-fed beef again, at least in this sort of context.
04-05-2010, 12:49 PM
I am a huge fan of grassfed beef and pasture raised chicken. They taste meaty, and I think kaploids hit it right on the nose.
Emu and Ostrich are also really "beefy" and good - although hard to find and need to be cooked minimally as they are tremendously lean.
04-05-2010, 05:04 PM
Bison around here, from the local ranchers tastes "sweeter" and is definitely leaner than beef. Ain't nuthin' better than a bison ribeye. YUM! We used to get a 1/2 a 1/2 of locally raised beef, pasture fed and finished with corn and other grain. The guy only raised 6 a year, to supplement his social security, and it was fantastic. Hardly any fat on any of the meat at all and even what would typically be considered "tough" cuts were fork tender. And...I like my beef quite well done, but not like leather. There was no way to ruin the meat from this guy's cows.
Now we just buy it from the regular store, because we are not eating much of it, but if you like beef, buy it from the source! It definitely makes a difference what it's fed and how it's raised.
04-05-2010, 05:08 PM
Whoever said something about removing themselves from the corn cycle ... that's exactly my motivation for eating meat infrequently and selecting ethical meat sources when I do have it. I am so, so glad this is catching on!!
05-06-2010, 01:27 AM
<--- cattle farmer/raised on a cattle farm..
GRASS fed is NOT as good as GRAIN or lentil fed cattle. Grain fed is more tender :) What you want to look for is a small local farmer that grain feeds and does grass fed steers for butcher. Thats where you will get the best meat.
05-06-2010, 04:09 AM
Grain-fed beef is fattier, and therefore more tender, and even some would say tastier, but the jury's still out on healthfulness.
I'm not convinced that all of the health claims are true about grass-fed, pasture-raised meat, but on one subject, I think the evidence is pretty strong, and that's the omega fatty acid balance. Grass-fed meats contain higher proportions of omega-3 fatty acids, the fatty acid that more and more health claims are being made about.
Hubby and I are on a tight budget, and rarely can afford local grass-fed meats and eggs from pasture-raised chickens (when we find a deal, we take advantage of it). It's crazy expensive in the winter and spring, but there are often good buys at the farmers' market in the summer and fall.
As a compromise solution, we take a fish oil (omega-3) supplement and I often use flax seed in my breakfast smoothies. It's not a perfect solution, but I think it offsets some of the disadvantages of grain-fed beef.
05-06-2010, 12:29 PM
Beef for all out healthfulness isnt the meat to choose.
being raised on a farm, you can taste and even smell the difference between store bought and home raised cattle.
My Body in Motion
05-06-2010, 12:38 PM
I will keep my response short and sweet - YES, it's worth the added cost!
05-07-2010, 01:09 AM
I personally refuse to eat grain-fed beef. It's pretty disgusting when you know how cattle are treated in meat processing plants. Basically living in their own feces, sick and dying. Plus, it's pretty cruel to feed grains to cattle, since they cannot digest it properly (and makes a perfect habitat for e.coli and other dangerous pathogens in their rumen). I can't afford grass-fed beef often, but it does not bother me since eating vegetables and grains makes up most of my diet.
05-07-2010, 03:08 AM
I agree with luciddepths about the taste. Grain fed is better.
A few caveats. There is no official designation for "grass fed" beef at this time. So the term is being abused. Many beef producers are finishing their beef on grain like they always have but calling it grass fed because they have always started the cattle in pastures. This is the way most beef is handled. Look for the fine print that says grain finished and you will know that it is the same old beef you've always had just marketed better with a higher price -- unless it's organic, which is possible with grain fed. In fact, that it some fine eating. Also there's some producers keeping the cattle in "grain fed" conditions but finishing them on grass (hay) and calling that product grass finished. I suspect we'll find the CLA and Omega 3s that make grass fed healthier is actually falling in those abused grass finished animals similar to the grain fed. It's an educated guess. We'll see. I also suspect we'll find the benefits of grass fed are currently being wildly overstated and the negatives on grain fed another minor food scare.
For goodness sake, my 85 year old uncle has been a heavy grain fed beef eater his entire life and he's solid muscle, in great shape and officiating high school football games. Beef is good food.
If you're convinced only humanely raised grass finished beef is what you want, then Eat Wild is the best source. I've emailed Jo several times about producers lying to be posted on her master list.
To the person who started this thread from the Mojave Desert. Hi neighbor. There is no grass fed beef in SoCal. Well, it's in Santa Barbara, but it stays local and isn't available online. Nick Ranch in San Luis Obispo County is about as local as you can find online. It's expensive but the dry aged rib eyes are as good as any gourmet wagyu.
05-07-2010, 12:57 PM
therex, they aren't treated horrible. That is about 1 in 100 lots that treat their cattle like that.. BUT if you get it from a local small farmer, you generally wont have that problem.
For cows grains are good, there is no problem digesting it. Grains are listed as the 2nd top food for Cattle. Now what grains are - Corn, Barley and Oats.
Cattle fed Corn aswell are really good!
05-10-2010, 04:08 PM
I made the switch to grass fed in 2007 and haven't looked back. Cows evolved to eat grass NOT grain. Grain feeding promotes the growth of E Coli and promotes the need to put the animals on antibiotics. Keep in mind that although beef can be labeled grass fed you need to look for grass FINISHED. I buy my meat online at uswellnessmeats . com (add www in front) as well as from a local farm. I'd like to find someone to split or quarter a cow with but haven't had luck yet. I like US Wellness because they have tons of selection - nitrate free hot dogs, bacon, salami, etc.
What really got me to switch to grass fed was the book Fast Food Nation as well as the movie. The conditions in feedlots/slaughterhouses are appalling, both to the animals as well as the people that work there. I do not want to support a system like that.
As for the taste, I find it great. The grass fed steak is leaner that its grain fed counterpart but that is perfectly fine with me, I am trying to lose weight :)
05-10-2010, 04:38 PM
I'm confused by all of the recommendations for grass-finished over grass-fed. It's was my understanding that grass-finished was less preferred to grass-fed, because grass-finished means the cows are fed grains all their lives except right before slaughter.
Grass-raised or pasture-raised is even better because it's even more precise -that the animals were raised entirely on grass, not just put on grass for the last few weeks of their lives.
05-12-2010, 10:51 AM
If a cow is fed grass at any point in its life it can be called grass fed. Normally cows are finished on grain for the last 90-160 days before slaughter. Finishing them on grain fattens them up significantly and it decreases the Omega 3s and CLA found in the meat. Organic doesn't mean anything other than the grain fed to the cattle is organic.
I don't know that any place just grass finishes their beef though it has been proven that just a few days of switching from a grain fed diet to grass fed diet, right before slaughter, reduces the chance of e coli significantly. It is not cost effective for the big CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) to finish on grass.
The best thing to do is to get to know your local farmers, ask about their practices and/or buy your meat from a reputable source online.