WSJ Article - The Flavor of Grass Fed Beef is Living Up To The Hype
Grass-Fed Beef: A Discerning Carnivore’s Guide
We love the notion that a happy cow yields great meat. Finally, the flavor of grass-fed beef is living up to the hype. Here’s where to get it and how to cook it
This is an excerpt from the article. A link to the complete article is featured below.
UNTIL RECENTLY, I was a skeptic when it came to grass-fed beef. I knew I was supposed to like it. Isn’t a happy ruminant, grazing freely as nature intended, believed to be better for the environment and, ultimately, for me than one fed grain to speed the fattening process?
Health- and eco-conscious consumers have led the way, growing grass-fed sales by more than 100% annually for the past five years, compared to 7% for conventional beef. Still, this segment accounts for a small fraction of overall beef consumption and the majority of America’s grass-fed beef comes from overseas, predominantly Australia, New Zealand and Uruguay, all of which have longstanding pastoral traditions.
In the U.S., nearly all cattle spend their first months consuming predominantly grass and mother’s milk. It’s during what’s known as finishing that grain-fed and grass-fed cattle part ways. About 97% of our beef cattle consume at least some grain to speed weight gain, allowing them to be slaughtered at 18-20 months. The remaining, grass-fed 3% graze throughout their lives and are typically slaughtered at 20-28 months, and sometimes older.
Those few extra months of age make a big difference when it comes to flavor. American farmers are learning that the older grass-fed cattle develop the fat marbling and rich color that make for a top-notch, tasty steak—very different from the lean, tough meat I once associated with grass-fed. “For great taste, it has to be mature,” said Bill Niman, a pioneer in the sustainable meat movement who recently sold BN Ranch, his all-grass-fed operation, to meal-delivery business Blue Apron.
Raising the right breeds matters too—Black Angus cattle, for example, were originally bred to flourish on grass alone. “Those particular breeds have been selected for one particular thing their entire life, how well they eat,” said Mr. Niman. And it’s important to allow herds free movement, the sort grass-fed cattle enjoy throughout their lives. A well-exercised muscle makes flavorful meat.