This entry was posted on Sunday, October 18th, 2009 at 8:21am and is filed under Meat, Local, Ranching, Agriculture, Farming, Food Production. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
I often encounter reluctance to try local pastured meats (much less pay a premium price for them) because there is a general bias in this country that “grain fed” is higher quality. I suspect most of Wild Type Ranch’s first-time customers buy our beef because of one or more of the following reasons; we’re local, no feedlots, no hormone implants, no routine antibiotics, compassionate animal care, environmental stewardship, grass/pastured meat health benefits. Unless they’ve been referred by an existing customer, “quality” or “fantastic eating experience” isn’t usually mentioned.
I just returned from four days at the “Gourmet Beef on Grass III” conference. My head is swimming with ideas, inspiration and new questions.
The main focus of the conference was producing quality beef using sustainable methods. It doesn’t happen without knowledge and planning, but more and more ranchers are creating a “wow” eating experience for their customers.
Not all beef is created equal, however. If you are a consumer, here’s the CLIF notes to getting good beef locally:
- Buy beef from someone who is knowledgeable about beef. Great beef doesn’t just happen, it takes good management and good genetics.
- Ask what breed or kind of cattle are producing the beef. Good beef is more likely to come from English breeds, which include Angus, Red Angus, Devon, Lowline, Hereford, Dexter and Shorthorn.
- Ask how old the cattle are when they are harvested. Good beef comes from cattle that grow at a reasonably steady rate. If the beef is from animals older than about 30 months,the flavor MAY be stronger than you like, and the meat is less likely to be well-marbled and tender.
- Ask if the producer has taste-tested steaks from the beef they are selling, or otherwise guaranteed tenderness.
- Ask for a guarantee (replacement or refund) on your beef.
- Pay attention to the brand you are buying. Find beef you like and stick to that producer or brand. (then you won’t have to ask these questions each time!)
Great beef is out there, and more and more ranchers are producing it. At this conference, we scientifically tested the tenderness of 12 different steaks from different producers (including 3 of ours). All twelve scored in the “tender” category. I challenge anyone to buy steaks from the regular meat case at twelve grocery stores that would score tender 12 /12 times.
Tenderness, in particular, is something someone growing cattle for the feedlot is not paid for, so will not breed into their cattle. When you buy direct from the rancher, however, it is among our primary quality concerns. That’s why our ranch has a strict policy of “if it’s not tender and juicy, we don’t sell it”. We’re not alone among local brands.
If you haven’t ventured into the land of locally produced, pastured meat, take your CLIF notes, find yourself a good producer and get ready to spoil yourself for life.