Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Grass-fed beef meets ethanol...

There is considerable buzz about grass-fed beef - which I admit I don't think I have tasted. Now the USDA wants to standardize the term. Yeah, this is going to go smoothly...

Understandably, the farmers who have pasture-raised cattle don't like the proposal because it devalues the "grass fed" label, barely separating it from conventional beef as far as consumers are concerned. They propose a more specific definition of "grass" and a minimum amount of time that the cows must spend grazing in pasture each day. The Agriculture Department says those rules are too strict and that their standards put less strain on ranchers, particularly in years of bad weather or drought when pastures may suffer.

Under the Agriculture Department's standards, more beef labeled "grass fed" will reach the market. But will consumers want it, or be willing to pay a premium for it, if it has no distinction from conventional?

From Michael Pollan's new book, Omnivore's Dilemma to a flood of newspaper articles, the much-talked-about image of pastured cows can be attractive to upper-scale consumers worried about their food - who are more numerous than you might think.

While I would like to see some results from sources like America's Test Kitchen, it should not preclude a personal taste test. I'm not even sure where to get the stuff locally. meanwhile we have been eating less beef anyway. Actually that's working out OK as well, but then I'm prime heart-attack material, so maybe I'm talking myself into changing my tastes. Anyhoo, most of the tests I have seen don't show much enthusiam by the consumer, but that could change.
The flavor of grass-fed is different from grain-fed beef. Grass-fed beef will have a more wild taste and, as with wine, the flavor varies by region. In a blind taste test at University of Nebraska comparing top grass-fed beef from Argentina to grain-fed U.S. beef, about 50% of the study's participants preferred the grain-fed, but 20% preferred the grass-fed. [More]
The larger question is how the beef industry will respond to the growing corn appetite of ethanol plants. Will grass fed beef be a way to cut feed costs as corn prices rise? Where will all this high-quality pasture come from as we plant more and more corn?

This could be interesting.


Anonymous said...

On your comments about ethnol and grass-fed beef. What does an ethnol plant do with the left over mash?
It was my understanding that an efficient plant would be tied to a cattle feeding operation to "dispose" of this "waste". Of course the cattle "waste" would go to fertlize the corn field.

Anonymous said...

My hormone and antibiotic free Limousin cattle go into Laura's Lean Beef Check the website to see what stores close to you carry the product. Good stuff Maynard!

John Phipps said...

Dave: You're right - the ideal situation would be to have a humongous dairy or feedlot about 1 mile from the ethanol plant. We still can't figure out how to feed many DDG's to hogs or chickens. (I'll try to post on that sometime). But if you look at the numbers on the USDA Supply/Demand I don't know if they are allowing for this substitution in their calculations. Nor are ethanol plant builders particularly focused on feeding byproducts. I'll try to get the market gurus to answer that one on this week's USFR.

Maynard: I've heard of that brand. I think what I want to taste is completely grass-fed beef however. Thanks for the tip. It will all be up to SWMBO* anyway.

*She Who Must Be Obeyed

John Wood said...


My name is John Wood, founding member of in year 2000. We are honored that you are stirring your jouralism pen on grass-fed beef. Being a heart attack risk candidate, you will be pleased to note that the omega 6:3 ratios of our grass-fed product consistently runs a ratio 2:1 or better compared to what you are consuming now at 18:1. Plus, CLA levels are 400% higher which assists in cleaning arteries versus plugging them up while adding lean muscle and reducing cancer and diabetes risk at the same time.

Do a New York Times search for food editor Marian Burros's August 31, 2006 column on a grass-fed taste test she conducted on 15 leading grass-fed meat company strips and ribeyes. Our company was honored to be in the top 4 which received high praise. This compliments kudos we received in 2003 from the same infamous East coast food critic with 40 years of experience.

We wet age all sub-primals before fabrication which creates very tender grass-fed steaks with a robust sparkling beef flavor.

Have a great day.

John Wood

John Phipps said...

John: I would like to read the review, but as a NYT freeloader not bad enough to pay $5. Besides I have a policy of only citing sources that all of my readers can get to.