Friday, October 26, 2007

Tender Grassfed Beef

Sorry for the late posts this week. Normally I like to be able to put up my post first thing in the morning, but the next few weeks will be be very busy. This week I have been helping with The Power Team and have only been able to be home for a few hours each day. But, if I have enough energy to get out of bed tomorrow I am going to drive down and check out the new cows in the daylight, get some pictures, and do some work. In the mean time ... now back to your regularly scheduled post ...

I have slowly been making my way through one of my free back issues of The Stockman Grass Farmer. In the August 2005 issue I have been reading first there is an article about meat toughness and off flavors. It has a very interesting title, "Grass Feeding Does Not Cause Meat Toughness Or Off Flavors." Okay, so maybe it wasn't a real creative title, but it did get the point across.

Lately it seems like I have been thinking about and blogging about (it is interesting that I consider that a verb now) the walls I am facing or will face in my pursuit of a small family farm based around the pasture. This seems to be one of the walls. It has already come up when I talked with my dad, my in-laws, my friends, my family, and a few people who I would consider potential customers. Here in Iowa, and across the midwest I'm sure, there is a strong bias against grass-finished beef because it is so much different than the cultural norm. In fact, in Iowa it is almost considered un-Iowan to not feed cattle grain ... I mean if you are feeding them corn then you are supporting the local farmers! Well, I do fill up with Ethanol so that will have to be enough for me.

The article is written by Anibal Pordomingo and it brings up some very interesting points from personal observation. I will also point out that I have read a lot lately that points to tenderness having nothing to do with marbling in the meat, but all to do with the genes of the steer. Grass-finished beef doesn't have to fall to any of the stereotypes ... but you will need to be able to educate those that eat and purchase your beef. I do like the idea of educating people ... it is what I enjoy about being a pastor and youth pastor and it is what I loved when I was a history teacher!

So, here are some real reasons from the article why that steak may be tough:
  • Fast chilling...
  • Because of space and handling restrictions, some people work the carcasses warm and chill the cuts.
  • Few carcasses in a maturation chamber.
  • Stress prior to slaughter.
  • Cooking too fast.

And, here are some reasons from the article why that steak may be spoiled or have odd off flavors:
  • Chilling, freezing, thawing, and re-freezing.
  • Freezing too slow.
  • Dark cutters, stressed beeves.

You will have noticed that grass-finishing had nothing to do with the toughness or off flavors. Grassfed beef can be very tender and very flavorful ... hopefully these points will be some more ammunition in the battle against conventional Iowa wisdom.


Northern Farmer said...

We've never really had any problem with ours being tough. Our ways include always butcher when the animal is on a good gain, because if they aren't they'll possibly start losing or only maintaining muscle mass, thus toughness. Plus we stick with breeds that can marble on grass, Hereford or Angus. I don't really know anything about Dexters so I won't say anything one way or another about them, (don't want to display my ignorance too much here :)

We slaughter on the farm and the animal has zero stress, I mean zero. One moment it's calmly staring at a person, maybe chewing it's cud and in an instant it's dispatched. No getting all nervous or hyper. I believe that greatly affects the meat.
Plus we always have the carcass hung for over two weeks. A grass based carcass will hold up very well for that period of time or longer. Where as a heavily grain fed critter will mold away and be hard for the processing plant crew to clean up.

Anyway, that's just some of our experiences in it all.

Partyhouse 4 God said...

My name is Shelli Wilson and I was looking up Iowa grass fed beef and I found your site. I saw that you have cattle- Irish Dexters?? We are city folk that turned country just started 2 years ago starting with Irish Dexters! We only know 3 people that raise them and we are looking for more that do here in Iowa- we are in Ames. Well, thought I would drop a line.

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