The Truth About Grass Fed Beef

All Cows Eat Grass

Let’s get real about this “grass fed” beef thing. I know this is a touchy subject with some and expect to get some flak over this article, but I think it’s only fair you have the truth. I’ve purposely avoided discussing organic here, because that’s another subject, altogether.

Having grown up on a farm, I know that all cattle are grass fed. Farmers have lots of grass and it’s easier and much less expensive to grow good pasture than it is to grow grains. And from the farmer’s business point of view, it makes good economic sense to let those cows eat grass.

Because, when he takes them to the cattle market, he’ll be paid on weight and the type or size of the animal. The cattle that command the best price per pound are generally steers (castrated bulls) in a certain weight range. Exceptions are young male calves that are raised for the veal market and heifers (female calves – which aren’t sold to be butchered).

It’s true most more expensive cuts of meat are finished out on grain (usually corn) in order to add fat marbling to the meat. And the fat actually improves the flavor & tenderness considerably. By the time it ends up in the meat case (You know – the one where they have someone individually wrapping it, so they can charge more.) at the store, the steak has had most of the fat trimmed off. We’ll talk about where that goes in a moment.

If you’re buying inexpensive hamburger or roasts, you are most likely getting “grass fed” beef.

Why? Because that’s how the butcher deals with old cows that never had much in the way of grain. They were fed grass, silage, or hay. In general, this will be females that have reached the end of their productive cycle on the farm.

When I was a teenager, I worked for a year in a small meat market. Each week, we purchased sides of beef and cut them up into roasts, steaks, etc. The leftover trimmings went into the hamburger, but it was never enough to satisfy the demand.

So, the butcher would purchase a hindquarter (where round steaks and roasts come from). You could easily recognize the difference in the appearance of the meat and fat (the meat is darker and the fat more yellow). It was from an old cow! We would supplement the lean meat of the hindquarter with suet (beef fat) from other trimmings (like steak & roasts) to create a hamburger with the right amount of fat to be tender and flavorful.

One of the most important considerations in eating is enjoyment, and I take little joy in having a tasteless, watery, tough steak. Instead, I much prefer a juicy flavorful steak such as this one.

And for the record, corn is a grass.

So if it makes you feel better to buy a package of meat that’s labeled “grass fed”, go right ahead. But, you might want to question why they are charging more for beef that’s less expensive to produce than grain fed. The butcher will chuckle as he pockets your money. But he’s not likely to tell you the truth.

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