So I was chatting with some friends about healthy snacks the other day and since we were all crossfitters, of course the topic swung around to meat. Specifically, grass-fed beef. Many people wonder what all the fuss is about. Why should you buy grass-fed beef and where do you get it? And what do you do with it when you have it? I have some tips on the subject to get you thinking.
Why should you bother? I thought all cows ate grass. Well, they do in theory, but most cows spend their lives on a feed lot where they are fed a diet of corn, soy, and drug supplements designed to pack on pounds quickly and increase intramuscular fat (IMF, or marbling). In contrast, grass-fed cattle are allowed to forage in pastures and you can often find beef that is not only grass-fed but organic (free of hormones and antibiotics). As a result of their ranging habits, grass-fed beef is leaner overall, and the fat that is present has a more favorable ratio of healthy omega-3 fats. Grass-fed beef is also higher in certain vitamins and antioxidants. Grass for the win!
Be prepared, however, because grass-fed beef does have a flavor difference compared to feed-lot beef. The IMF results in a very tender, very fat-rich cut of meat and we are hard-wired to find that flavor tasty. Grass-fed beef has very little IMF, so the meat looks darker, tastes leaner and requires careful cooking to keep the meat tender. I personally think grass-fed meat tastes “beefier” because you aren’t distracted by excessive fat in the meat.
Another item to watch for is labeling. I feel like there is a vast conspiracy to dupe consumers into spending more money for less product. Grass-fed beef is different from grass-finished beef. Even 30 days of a grass diet right before slaughter will slightly alter the flavor and fat and nutrient content of beef, and then stores can sell this meat at a premium price. Watch for the real deal and if you’re not sure, talk to the butcher or farmer. Reputable producers and vendors are happy to answer questions about their sourcing and farming practices.
So, now that I’ve convinced you, where do you find some grass-fed beef? Many grocery stores carry it, and I highly recommend you try a few cuts to see whether you like the flavor. But buying in bulk will save you vast amounts of money. A quarter cow can cost as little as $4 per pound, and if you share a larger portion with friends the price can drop even further. If you’re not sure you want to handle such bulk (a quarter is around 120# of cut meat) or you don’t have a large freezer, you still have options. Join a meat CSA (community supported agriculture) where you get monthly deliveries of meat and eggs. Bid on a “cow-pool” for a portion (usually 8-20 pounds) of meat.
And now you have your beef resting happily in your freezer and you’re excited to start cooking! Remember, lean meat does best with high heat and short cooking time to seal the juices in and keep the meat from getting tough. We all know how to cook steaks and burgers, but your bulk order has all the cuts and the first thing you pull out of the freezer is a bone-in blade chuck roast. A what? The crock pot is your friend here. You can plop any giant chunk of meat in the crock pot with an onion, garlic and a little cooking liquid (chicken broth) and then 8 hours later you have the beef equivalent of carnitas. Add Caribbean spices or taco seasoning to the cooking mix to get creative. Then you have meat for tacos, scrambles, casseroles, you name it.
One of my favorite uses for weird bony roasts is homemade beef jerky. School time is fast approaching and kids need lunch and snack options that are not crackers or chips. Thaw a few big chunks in the refrigerator for around 24 hours, then slice it into thin strips (1/4 inch thick and no bigger than a playing card). I choose the strangest cuts for jerky and just trim off the fat and bones to get my strips of lean meat. Marinate it overnight (recipe below) and then lay it out to dry on a rack in the oven or buy a dehydrator for larger volume. Store the dried jerky in the freezer in Ziploc bags and pull out a few days’ worth at a time.
Here are some additional resources to get you on your journey. Good luck!
A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef
Purchasing ideas (I personally buy from Forest Cattle Co. and Crown S Ranch)
The Best Burgers in the World
3 # ground beef
2 raw eggs
1 cup pureed vegetable (I puree all leftover cooked vegetables and freeze them into pucks. Squash, beets, celery tops, sweet potatoes… This adds moisture to what can otherwise be a dry burger because of the lean meat)
3 tbsp minced dried onion
Salt and pepper to taste
Shape into patties and grill. I cook these medium to medium well because of the raw egg, but the veggies keep them from being dry.
Chimichurri (an Argentinian herb sauce that is great on grilled meat)
1 packed cup Italian parsley (add fresh oregano or cilantro for variety)
1 hot pepper
5 cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Puree in a blender until slightly chunky. Lasts for a few weeks covered in the fridge.
Beef Jerky marinade (for 2# of sliced meat)
½ cup soy sauce, wheat-free tamari, or coconut aminos
4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp liquid smoke
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Mix and marinate the meat in a Ziploc bag overnight, being sure to coat meat evenly. Rinse the meat in a colander before laying out in the dehydrator (this will reduce the sodium content but leave plenty of flavor). Dry in the oven at 175 or in the dehydrator at 160 and check the meat after two hours and every hour after that. Drying times vary by size and thickness of the meat, and do you want your jerky brittle or chewy? I like this recipe because it is sugar-free (most store-bought jerkys have a LOT of sugar) but you could add brown sugar and sesame seeds to create a teriyaki-style jerky, or sprinkle the meat with blackening seasoning before drying for a creole flavor. Be creative!
I use mine mostly for jerky and fruit leather.
Coach Nicole S.
Tabata Push-Ups as a class, record the grand total of push-ups
3 Sets of
10 Toes to Bar (Strict if you can)
20 Med Ball Twists (20/14)
Not for time
Push Press (Mx 75/55, Rx 95/65, FB twin KB’s 55/35 in each hand)
Jumping Lunges (each leg = 1)
Wow, he's right Daniel was an A$$hole bully