Before we begin with this weekly series, we’d like to make it clear that we are featuring different farmers, farms, products and doing our best to research for an unbiased-view to enlighten our customers. When we can, we will be interviewing the farmers for their opinions and facts about their products before passing it on to you, so that you can make an informed decision when shopping. 🙂
First off, if you’ve never had grass-finished beef—please come on over to the café to try some grass-finished beef, featured on our Farmer ReuBEN sandwich (you may have read about it…) . Or we’d be more than happy to help you pick some out for dinner at home. And don’t forget the wine pairing while you’re at it—we love Adam Puchta Winery’s Norton with this.
To better explain the highlights of a quality grass-finished product, I spoke with this week’s featured farmer, Chris
Boeckmann with Boeckmann Family Farms. You can buy their beef here at the Farm to You Market. Checkout these pictures of their happy, local cows!
What exactly does “grass fed” mean?
There’s an important legal distinction between grass fed and grass finished cattle. Grass fed must always have grass/forage as a part of their diet; however, a producer may choose to feed grain to the cattle the last 90-120 days, and as long as they have access to forage/pasture they are still considered grass fed. Grass finished cattle must be fed a 100% grass/forage diet throughout their entire lifetime. The cattle at Boeckmann Family Farms are grass fed and grass finished. Keep reading to learn why this distinction matters!
Boeckmann Family Farms have a well-cultivated line of South Poll cattle that live on their family farm, aren’t given any antibiotics or added hormones and are forage-fed—they’re never given any grain or grain by-products.
Source: Cattleman’s Beef Board, https://www.beefboard.org/news/files/factsheets/grass-finished-beef.pdf
What’s the difference?
Grass-finished beef has a different taste, as well as nutritional value when compared to Grain-finished beef. According to the Cattleman’s Beef Board, there are sources in the industry that say the grass-finished cuts of beef may benefit from additional seasoning through marinades.
Photo credit: Fix.com, https://www.fix.com/blog/grass-fed-beef/
That being said, we’ve found through our own testing using Boeckmann Family Farms’ beef in our dinner menus that grass-finished beef has a great flavor, almost kind of Earthy and nutty to begin with. We simply salt and pepper our steaks before grilling them, and so long as you don’t overcook them, they are tender and delicious. The image above shows that the fat isn’t as marbled throughout the meat in the grass-finished cut of steak – this is an important distinction, we’ve found, and it means you must be careful not to overcook it. Shorter cook times that sears the fat on the edges really seems to be how we prefer to cook them… these steaks aren’t for cooking on the grill outside low-and-slow, they benefit from quick and high heat.
Why is it better for you?
In general, Grass-fed beef is much leaner than its “conventional” counterpart. It’s also higher in key nutrients, including antioxidants, vitamins, and a beneficial fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that’s been tied to improved immunity and anti-inflammation benefits.
Boeckmann says, “The health benefits of grass-fed beef has been researched extensively and is well documented. Grass-fed beef has a higher ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids to the Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids have been linked to lower incidence of heart attacks and cancer. Additionally, grass-fed beef has a higher content of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). CLA has been proven to help with weight control and there are indications of reduced cancer and diabetes as a result of diets high in CLA.”
Why is grass-fed better for the planet?
Cattle (like sheep, deer and other grazing animals) are endowed with the ability to convert grasses, which we humans cannot digest, into flesh that we are able to digest. They can do this because unlike humans, who possess only one stomach, they are ruminants, which is to say that they possess a rumen, a 45 or so gallon fermentation tank in which resident bacteria convert cellulose into protein and fats.
In today’s feedlots, however, cows fed corn and other grains are eating food that humans can eat, and they are quite inefficiently converting it into meat. Since it takes anywhere from 7 to 16 pounds of grain to make a pound of feedlot beef, we actually get far less food out than we put in. It’s a protein factory in reverse. And we do this on a massive scale, while nearly a billion people on our planet do not have enough to eat.
This is why it is important to support the ‘Little Guy’. Whether we’re talking grass-finished or grain-finished, if it is done by a local family farmer you should know that you are getting beef that is raised ‘right’, tastes great, and even helps the environment in a way.
Source, The Food Revolution Network, https://foodrevolution.org/blog/the-truth-about-grassfed-beef/
In the Cafe…
Our Farmer ReuBEN sandwich features Boeckmann’s grass-finished beef brisket. I’ve experimented and found that the grass-finished beef works better for this particular application. Boeckmann’s beef doesn’t have as much marbling as other grain-finished beef may have – this is explained in the image above. When you are making corned beef, you traditionally have to brine and then boil or braise the brisket. I’ve found that the more marbling the brisket has, the more likely it is to fall apart during the water/liquid-related cooking phase. This creates a problem for slicing on the slicer for our sandwich later on. With Boeckmann’s grass-finished beef brisket, I find that the ‘grain’ of the beef remains taught because the fat within hasn’t melted away due to cooking. This is my theory, anyway. Regardless, I better keep doing what I’m doing with the corned beef, because people keep coming back for it!
I hope you’ve found this as interesting as I did. Keep watching us on social media and email this week—we will have more information as well as café menu items, shopping lists and cooking instructions for grass-fed beef. We will also have the “Baby Bears” from our marketing team over at Branding Bear cooking strip steaks for Sunday dinner with the family.
As always, please comment and share. I’d love to know your thoughts—and see your cooking successes!