A week ago one of our Granddaughters’ graduated from High School and did quite a good job of it too I might add. So where does the grass fed beef enter into this? I’m going to tell you in just a minute. During the get to-gathers with family and friends that accompany these type of accomplishments I had the opportunity to talk with some acquaintances we had not seen in several years. We had heard from them indirectly a few months back as someone that might possibly be interested in buying a beef or at least part of one from us to put in their freezer. I had told the person who relayed this to me to give them my phone number and if they wanted to call we could discuss it. That was as far as it went. I didn’t hear from them and they didn’t hear from me. End of story? No.
As I said they were at the get together and one or the other of us broached the subject of grass fed beef and the discussion was on. Turns out both Kevin and Andrea had been exposed to grass fed or home grown meat when younger and were not at all opposed to using it again. In fact they had bought either a whole or part of a beef a few years back had not been satisfied with the meat they had bought and had not returned to that source for more but are still interested in it for both the health and economic benefits but not if it has to be like that. This peeked my interest in not only having an outlet for some of our excess animals but also just what their experience was. It also gave me the opportunity to discuss a subject I enjoy, but also a chance to maybe share some of my (vast?) knowledge of a subject. Funny how we enjoy talking with others about something we are knowledgeable of. Or like to thin k we are anyway.
Here is their story. They had bought this beef and was not satisfied with it at all. It was grass fed as they had wanted but was dry and tough to the point of being just about not edible . (I think that is the word I want. Smiley face here.) Not what they wanted. I am not sure if they contacted the supplier at this point of if they had been told at the purchase point but according to the people they bought it from the best way to prepare grass fed beef was to remove it from the freezer several days prior to the time they planned to use it allow it to thaw and then age in the refrigerator for however many days allowing the meat to begin to break down becoming more tender and flavorful in the process. They told me they had tried this still finding it lacking in flavor as well as tough and dry.
My reaction to this was surprise bordering on shock quite frankly. In all fairness, a couple of years back I read an article in one of the magazines my wife subscribes to a recommendation to age your meats one meal at a time in the refrigerator with the exception that you were to open the package and cover the cut of beef with paper towel or maybe a dish towel allowing it to be air dried by the refrigeration there-by concentrating the flavor of the meat. I tried it! My reaction? BULL, and I am not referring to what the animal was before being slaughtered. In my opinion the only thing it did, in my opinion was to lose all the natural moisture hence the good taste of the meat and leave a funky almost moldy tasting piece of unpalatable meat. Just my opinion now mind ya. I like meat tender and juicy. The taste of the meat be it beef, pork, chicken and even fish comes from the natural juices of that meat.
Keep in mind too at this point that you can buy, and pay big bucks for aged beef. This meat is hung in quarters, halves or even the whole carcass of the animal and allowed to age that way. I don’t care for it but that is a matter of personal taste.
I was raised on farm raised mostly free range meat of most varieties from the time I can remember. It was always had fat in and on it was juicy and it was not penned up and gorged on high calorie grains and mixed feeds and certainly not any kind of growth stimulants. After I was grown with a family of my own we were given or sold part of a range beef by a family member. Their intentions were good, I think, and we were warned it would not be like the meat we bought from the store where I worked as a meat cutter at the time. They were absolutely right. There was no comparison between it and the store bought and very little between it and the meat I was raised on. It was tough dry and had a strong what I will call grassy flavor. Much the same as wild game. It would fill you up but Bon Apatite did not come into the picture. Keep in mind too there are ways to prepare wild game that removes some of the gameness from it and makes it enjoyable as well. We like and enjoy venison and the same could be done for range beef as well I suppose.
Allow me to clarify my distinction between the two. I was raised in South Florida and no Florida is not all beaches. The center of the state was and still is in large filled with either truck farms or large ranches encompassing thousands and in some cases hundred of thousands of acres of scrub range land. No improvements were made to the natural grasses and vegetation. Cattle of equally indiscriminate breeds were turned loose to feed as best they can on whatever is available to eat. Sawgrass and palmettos are not out of the question if better forage is not available and yes what an animal eats effects, good or bad, the taste of their meat when slaughtered and eaten.
Here is an example of what Florida Scrub Grazing can be like and the cattle pictured are fairly typical of what was and still is call Florida scrub cattle. Excellent foragers but not necessarily high quality beef by todays standards.
The old comment, we are what we eat is very true in livestock as well.
The free range cattle we raised for milk and slaughter were just set free on the orange grove where my dad worked and we lived. These were usually several hundred acres in size and not fenced. Cattle was not the crop being raised and we were allowed to have them I am sure with the understanding that they do no damage to the citrus and the property owner did not intentionally do anything to improve conditions for the cows. BUT when the grove was mowed, for the benefit of the citrus the weeds and brush were cut as well allowing the grasses to grow better and provided better forage. Also when the citrus was fertilized again the grasses received benefit as well even though that was not the purpose. A benefit that our milk cow and calves were more than happy to take advantage of. We were not opposed to it either since it provided us with meat that was a lot more tender and juicy due to natural fattening of the better grazing.
Why didn’t they leave you ask. Now that could be another article but to put it briefly why bother. Every thing they wanted was provided right there so why should I leave home? Add to that the benefit of the milk cow being relieved of that load of milk she wanted out of there anyway and the treat of a little, and I do mean little, corn they were rewarded with for showing up at the pen each evening.
The resulting difference between the two is quite amazing actually. Well marbled meat without a lot of wasted cap fat as compared to the meats sold in the grocery store. No additives to worry about and there is no import taxes to concern ourselves about on home grown either. Do I feed corn? Yes. Our animals get easily a half gallon of corn over a 10 day to two week period. And for the same reasons. It helps keep them home and less likely to try to go visiting. They come up around me when I want a better look at them for what ever reason and like today when we have friends and family over they like to see them up close and what they think of as personal. And we enjoy the pleasure others get from them even if only briefly.
Do I grain them before slaughter?
Let me give you an example. The last one we slaughtered was a six year old heifer. She had never had a calf for whatever reason. The last six weeks she went in a lot by herself where she still had grass and hay available but she received a half gallon of corn, no gmo’s, once a day. At that age if she had gone to the stock yard she would have gone all into ground meat but we have enjoyed some excellent meat including steaks on the grill from her.
For us it is not even a question. We raise them for that purpose and we enjoy it when we eat it or serve it to friends and family. Throw in that it cost us a lot less than store bought and that helps as well. Also I know what we are eating. It does have to be raised on good forage handled well when slaughtered and processed and no special preparation is required to enjoy it.