In our previous post we described how complex pastures create complex flavors in our beef. We discussed a number of other factors that play into the “beefy” flavor of our pasture grazed animals compared to the simple flavor of conventional beef. When people first taste grass-fed beef they usually comment that it tastes “gamey”. Around here I guess they are comparing that taste to deer.
Deer can travel wherever they like and eat whatever they like. They can select the most nutritious food that is available year round. Over the years I have shot a number of deer in this part Nebraska (still waiting for my chance at one like Jacob’s above). During the cleaning of these deer I have noted that deer being opportunistic, will also feed on corn and other grains. Yet, with over 50,000 deer harvested in Nebraska last year alone, I can’t think of a single time when someone said “that deer tasted like corn-fed beef.”
Healthy wild game tastes “gamey” for the same reason grass-fed beef tastes “gamey”. It is the complex foods consumed by these animals that makes the meat flavor complex (and healthy). They are not force fed a simple starch diet like conventional beef, with the sole purpose of getting fat.
The grain consumed by deer would be unlike the grain fed to conventional beef:
- Whole kernel grains, not processed, rolled or roasted
- Grain would be part of a complex diet, not a simple diet designed for getting fat
- Grains would only be consumed seasonally, not for a significant time leading up to harvest
Now consider our beef herd. We do not allow the cattle to run free like the deer (this keeps our neighbors happy). We manage and control the herd movement to insure our cattle will have fresh forages year round. During the non-growing season, “fresh” means a section of pasture that has not been grazed for the previous 4+ months. Unlike deer, our cattle never receive any grain to insure that our beef has the healthy fat profile desired by our customers.
You know what nutrient dense food tastes like. Remember the last time you ate an apple and thought to yourself, WOW that tasted great. It doesn’t happen very often with a store bought apple these days, but maybe it came from a local orchard, and you just knew it was a good apple. That good flavor came from complex nutritious compounds in the fruit. Well, the next time you bite into some grass-fed beef with a noticeable flavor, just remember that flavor came from complex nutritious compounds in the meat. This nutritious beef will satisfy you on a smaller portion size compared to conventional beef and you will feel better after eating it.
If you are finding the more complex flavor of pasture grazed beef is difficult for you or your children to adjust to, try our hot dogs or brats. Consider using stew meat with vegetables or turning that pound of hamburger into meatloaf. Use your imagination and your taste buds will soon adjust to what is naturally known to us as good tasting food, that is good for us.