Grass-Fed Beef

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Commercial agricultural practices today is a primary contributor to the deteriorating health of Americans and directly linked to the increase in diabetes and autism where it is projected that 1 in 2 will be affected by 2025. Additionally, these practices are destroying our valuable ecosystems.

Our mission is one of health and stewardship. We believe we have been called by God to care for the land and animals, and seek to be excellent stewards by promoting healthy, high-quality, and regenerative food that offers consumers a better choice.

We are Holistic Practitioners. We use diverse pasture crops and grazing methods to regenerate our ecosystems. We do not use hormones, antibiotics, chemicals, or GMO products.

Our animals graze diverse forage specifically designed to be nutrient-rich and right for their needs. Our current offerings are marketed directly to the consumer to ensure lower cost and highest quality, and includes beef, pork, and chicken.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST BEEF

Since 2011 I have been associated with The Grass-fed Exchange – a volunteer, non-profit organization of regenerative ranchers and grass-fed industry supporters – exchanging knowledge, ideas, strategies, livestock genetics, products and services that expand the grass-fed industry’s transformative impact. Conference topics range from soil health, forages, grazing management, livestock, marketing, human health concerns, etc.

A key objective is to point producers in the right direction so they know what premium grass-fed beef is supposed to be.

As more producers come into the business of direct marketing “grass-fed beef,” it will become more important for consumers to be informed about what to look for in their beef – because when consumers buy an inferior product and are NOT satisfied, then all (including reputable) grass-fed beef producers suffer.

At this year’s GFE Conference I was honored to be part of the Producer’s Panel along with four other farmers. We each gave a brief overview of our farm and then answered questions from the audience. It was a rewarding experience!  

So, what do the experts say? How do you choose the best beef?

Breed: Select beef cattle – not dairy. English breeds like Angus and Hereford are best with little to no Brahma influence. A medium frame or bone structure is better than a larger frame structure because they will mature earlier and be more efficient on grass.

Harvest: A medium frame steer matures at approximately 850 pounds. Then, in addition to continuing to grow muscle, they will start adding marbling and fat. Note that fat in grass-fed beef is very healthy as this is where nutrients are stored to be used in leaner times. The last place you see fat collect is around the tailbone. This is one of the best indications the animal is ready for harvest.

For most medium framed animals on excellent forage, it will take 15 months or more to reach the proper harvest weight of 1,000 pounds.

However, it is NOT just about the age or weight as much as it is about the fat. The biggest mistake most grass-fed beef farmers make is not letting their cattle get fat enough. And, that requires good forage and time.

Forage: According to Mark Schatzker in his book “Steak,” the best tasting steak came from beef fed a diverse forage diet. This is totally opposite from the monoculture pastures that most cattle graze. As you may guess, each plant type offers different nutrient and flavor qualities that the cow consumes as they graze. That is why our pastures include grasses, legumes, and broadleaf forage species. Also, forage diversity helps build soil health. A win-win-win!

Additionally, I might add, some producers market their beef as pastured with grain, grass-fed plus grain, or something similar. While the grain can improve the marbling and amount of fat in the steer, grain also adds the risk of GMO and glyphosate chemical. In my opinion, this would make this beef only marginally better than feedlot beef that would include GMO and glyphosate. Note that chemicals are stored in the fat of grain fed steers.

One thing I have recently learned is how important (what a difference) processing makes to a quality product. Dry aging (which is all that is available in our area) is more art than science. Over the years I have read about aging and then recently I reached out to my friend Dr. Allen Williams who use to teach this at MSU and now consults with cattlemen and packers across the country (he also raises grass-fed beef that is sold to high end restaurants along the East Coast). He said that dry aging is becoming a "lost art". Proper dry aging adds tenderization and flavor - as the enzymes in the meat have to have time to break down. Important factors include the steer's age, amount of backfat and the cooler rooms temperature, humidity, and air flow. For our beef, the proper amount of aging will be between 11 to 14 days.

When we changed our business model back in July, we also changed processors to Attala Frozen Foods. Initially, the driving factor was because they were a state inspected facility. However, a much added benefit has been the increased aging of the beef before cut & packaging. I was also impressed that Mr. Archie had reached out to MSU and together conducted studies on proper dry aging of grass-fed beef way before I became a customer.

We have really noticed the difference in what we have cooked. And, some customers have expressed the same. Maybe you would be interested as well!