Monday, June 1, 2009

Would Robert Parker Rate A Wine On Appearance Alone?

This is how we grade our beef.

When farmers participate in my artisan steak and burger tastings, they are like kids in a candy store. Why? Because in
the conventional system, farmers are given little feedback on the flavor and texture of their beef.

when the USDA grades beef as Prime or Choice they don't actually taste it. The basis for Prime or Choice is based instead on the perceived amount of marbling (fat speckles) between the 12th & 13th rib bone and the bone structure to estimate the cattle's age.

Here's the rub: Marbling actually only accounts for 1/3 of taste & texture. What about the other 2/3rds?

Do you love to eat absolutely fabulous beef? Are you a farmer? Do you work in a slaughterhouse or are you a butcher? I am writing a more comprehensive story on what I'm doing to help farmers get the feedback they need and the consumers the opportunity to support those who raise the best tasting, cleanest beef.

But I'm looking for feedback here - what would YOU do to help create a feedback loop between farms, slaughterhouses, butchers and those of us who eat the food? What questions, complaints, opportunities do you see?


KyFarmersMatter said...

I'm the farmer, slaughterhouse, butcher, and retailer all rolled into one. And unfortunately, I disagree....taste (while subjectionable) has a great deal to do with the marbling.

Other factors include but ceratinly not limited to, age of cattle, type of diet cattle received, and aging in proper environment (time in days...not hours like the big guys), and the cook.

It absolutely matters. Proof is in the taste. I'm a beef snob and we have been butchers for over 40 years.

Also should mention that we are not large. The "artisan" is the butcher, the farmer, and the cattle themselves.

Producers should learn that the meat will acquire tastes from the feed it consumes. If they eat wild green onions, guess what...they'll smell and taste that way too.

Carrie Oliver said...

KyFarmersMatter Thank you for the visit! I would love to talk with you, it sounds as if you have an outstanding artisan farm-to-retail program.

I should clarify that I do think that grade matters both for marbling, age of cattle, and some of the finer points. I think of it as a good start but a little too simplistic for many of the reasons you state here as breed, quality of breed, fit with region, diet, husbandry, proper slaughter and absolutely, artisan butchering (aging and cutting) also impact flavor & texture.

What's interesting to me is that I've seen people over and over again choose a very lean steak in a blind tasting. I happen to like the moistness one gets with the marbling but have found this isn't the case for all beef lovers.

Look for me to track you down via email or if I fail, please contact me at carrie [at] oliverranch [dot] com.

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Robin Lucas said...

I am so excited to see you guys offer Grill Charms!!!! I love those things.

Carolyn Jung said...

I wonder if stores could put up little shelf "markers'' kind of like they have at wine shops. You know, where there's a quote or rating from Robert Parker about that particular wine that's for sale. Instead, you could have little signs at the butcher case, giving a better description of the various types of beef sold. For instance, maybe the grass-fed is "mineral-like in taste'' while the Wagyu is "buttery.'' I think it would help educate consumers a great deal.

Carolyn Jung said...

Robert Parker would go for the beefiest tasting piece of meat, I'm sure. ;)