Friday, August 08, 2008

Grassfed Beef Tastes Okay

My busy week is just about over. For the past four days I have been traveling all around central Iowa with 22 students on a mission trip. We worked at two camps, served at a homeless shelter, swam in two different pools, went shopping at Iowa's largest mall, stayed in a hotel one night, slept in a cabin two nights, and do I need to remind you again that we did this with TWENTY-TWO MIDDLE SCHOOL AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS! Needless to say I'm a bit tired and haven't been out on the farm or even thinking about the farm much lately.

With all of that craziness in mind I don't have much to say today. I did run across a short article from the Penn State Extension titled, "Penn State Study Shows Consumers Find Grass-fed Beef Acceptable". I don't really know much about the study other than what is in the article (check out the link above), but it seems pretty promising.

Here are a few quotes from the article that are especially interesting and even somewhat surprising:
  • "The study showed that most consumers find the taste and tenderness of grass-fed beef acceptable in blind taste tests. Penn State researcher recommends that producers look for ways to interest more potential customers in grass-fed beef."
  • "The results of the study showed that most consumer evaluations of the cooked meat were not influenced by frame sizes of the cattle, weight at harvest, range of grazing period from 120-180 days, and final fat composition of the carcass," Comerford explained. "However, all of the cattle must have plenty of high-quality forage to consume daily plus be harvested at 18 months of age or less."
  • "In fact, we found cattle that had the fattest final carcasses actually had lower scores from the consumer panels because of the influence of fat on beef flavor," Comerford said.
Let me know what you think...


Steven said...

Comerford said: "plus be harvested at 18 months of age or less."

This really caught my attention because it seemed as if that conclusion was purely anecdotal. So, did they have cattle butchered at 16, 18, 24, and 30 months? Or does he just personally believe that it wouldn't be tender, or would have too much "beef taste" after 18 months? I'd like to hear more about what was actually done in the study. When they used varying frame scores, are they talking about 5-7 frame scores, or were the smaller cattle lowline/dexter small? Doubt it.

Rich said...

"...range of grazing period from 120-180 days..."

How do you have grass-fed beef with only 4-6 months of grazing? Are they taking stockers that were pre-conditioned (creep-fed in a drylot, etc.) after weaning and then grazing them for 6 months to "grass-finish" them?

"However, all of the cattle must have plenty of high-quality forage to consume daily plus be harvested at 18 months of age or less."

I thought beef was "finished" when the animal reached a certain weight (measured as a percentage of the cow's mature weight), rather than a certain age? A steer would be finished when it weighed approximately 85-95% of the cow's mature weight, regardless of if it took 12 months or 24 months.

"...that most consumer evaluations ... were not influenced by frame sizes of the cattle..."

I think the varying frame size reference is because some larger grass-fed operations have protocols that producers have to follow if they want to sell grass-fed (or natural) cattle to the company. Most of the protocols include things like minimum and maximum carcass sizes, and I have seen some that specify that only English breed cattle are acceptable, any Continental breeds, Brahman, or crosses with either Continental breeds or Brahman are not eligible.

Somebody might read those types of protocols set out by a larger grass-fed beef producer and draw the wrong conclusion that grass-fed beef could only be produced with medium framed English breed cattle, when it is probably a simple matter of a company looking for a consistent group of cattle. Grass-fed beef could be produced with Longhorns, Hereford, Dexter, Corriente, or Charolais cattle, but it would be easier if they were managed in separate herds.

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