Friday, January 29, 2010

Is it Grass-Fed or Grass-Fattened Beef?

I just got off the phone with a new, exciting discovery, an Artisan Butcher named Bill McCann, from the Fresno, California, area. I hope to introduce you to him in more detail soon but I wanted to share a fabulous distinction that he made regarding grass-fed beef.

I'm simplifying this a bit but only because it feels like a great place to plant a seed for a future, in-depth conversation.

"There is a difference between grass-fattened beef and grass-fed beef."

That's a direct quote, this is paraphrasing: You can get grass-fed beef any time of year. Grass-fattened cattle come from graziers who know how to fatten beef on a grass (and legume) diet, no different than others who have learned to fatten beef on a diet that includes grain. With grass-fattened cattle you typically see white colored fat and you can get more intense flavors.

If you've spoken to or read enough about grass-finishers, you'll know that in much of North America it takes a lot of talent and the right genetics to have a year round grass-fed program. I've shared a few of these producers with you before. But I personally think it's worth considering this:

Wine grapes are harvested at their peak and, when wine aficionados find a wine they like, they stock up on it (often getting a discount in turn). Why don't we apply the same concept to beef, pork, lamb, and poultry? Exactly, why don't we?

Thank you to Renee and Fredo Martin of Slow Food Madera for providing me the opportunity to meet and learn from Bill. I see a wonderful future for Bill, he can help us demystify and better understand meat, not just beef, so we can find and celebrate the artisan ranchers, truckers, slaughterhouse workers, butchers, and purveyors who today are so very hard to find.


Brady's Beef said...

Grass-finishing isn't as widely known as grass-fed, but probably more important. The feed that the cow consumes during the finishing process is what will define the nutrition level as well as the flavor.

Carrie Oliver said...

Thanks for visiting and love your new site!

Last year I found one PNW brand telling chefs they offered grass-finished beef. Turns out it was grass-fed then grain-fed then grass-finished for 15 days. Grrr. At that point I started calling it grass-only ;). (And I ask about three different ways to see if it's zero grain.)

I'm not purist on grain esp. given that cattle will eat it on their own. But if people want grass-only, it shouldn't be so hard to find out if that's what it is.

Regarding grass-fattened, I thought it was an interesting distinction so I threw it out here for debate. Perhaps we should get all in a single room (virtual or not) and agree to the rules.