Raising the Steaks
If you feed cows grass, does the beef taste better?
By Mark SchatzkerPosted Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006, at 2:37 PM ET
And the winner is…
Price: $21.50 per pound
Purveyor: Alderspring Ranch (www.alderspring.com
What it is: Beef from cows that have never ingested anything other than mother's milk and pasture, which is just as Mother Nature intended. Like great wine and cheese, grass-fed beef possesses different qualities depending on where it's grown and what time of year it's harvested. The grass-fed steaks for this experiment came from a ranch in Idaho where cattle graze on orchard grass, alfalfa, clover, and smooth brome (a type of grass) in the summer and chopped hay in the winter. Also: Some studies have shown that grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3 fatty acids, making it healthier than regular beef.
The knock against it: Consistency, or lack thereof. One grass-fed rancher I spoke to refused to send me any steak for this article because, he said, it sometimes tastes like salmon. Restaurants and supermarkets don't like grass-fed beef because like all slow food, grass-fed beef producers can't guarantee consistency—it won't look and taste exactly the same every time you buy it. Grass-fed beef also has a reputation for being tough.
Breeds: Alderspring cattle are 90 percent Black and Red Angus, with some Hereford and Short Horn, Salers, and Simmental bred in. ("Red Angus cattle finish particularly well on grass," according to Glenn Elzinga, who runs Alderspring Ranch.)
Raw impressions: Not good. It had the least marbling, and what little fat it had possessed a yellowy tinge.
Tasting notes: Never have I witnessed a piece of meat so move grown men (and women). Every taster but one instantly proclaimed the grass-fed steak the winner, commending it for its "beautiful," "fabu," and "extra juicy" flavor that "bursts out on every bite." The lone holdout, who preferred the Niman Ranch steak, agreed that this steak tasted the best, but found it a tad chewy. That said, another taster wrote, "I'm willing to give up some tenderness for this kind of flavor."
Marbling, schmarbling. The steak with the least intramuscular fat tasted the best—and was also the cheapest. That said, the steak with the most marbling came in a not–too-distant second. Do the two share anything in common? Interestingly, neither was finished on straight corn or treated with hormones. Both steaks also hail from ranches that pride themselves on their humane treatment of bovines. That made for an unexpected warm and fuzzy feeling as we loosened our belts, sat back, and embarked on several hours of wine-aided digestion.http://www.slate.com/id/2152674/
(same experience I have with our local beef when raw)
To the ugly conventional steak promoters: MARBLING IS STUPID