Recently, Bill Reed, co-founder and CEO of Estancia, a California-based company that specializes in grass-fed beef, was in town to spread the good word of grass-fed beef. He was kind enough to take the time to share a few reasons why you should consider putting grass-fed beef (as opposed to corn-fed) into your mealtime repertoire.
How is grass-fed beef healthier than corn-fed?
There are lots of great academic studies on the issue including a recent Harvard Medical study. In short, grass-fed beef has less fat and cholesterol than feedlot beef and the fats it contains are good fats. Similar to olive oil, grass-fed beef has the right omega-3 /omega-6 ratio with beneficial fatty acids, like CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). It’s a natural fat that our bodies have learned to process over millions of years, and there is simply less fat per serving.
Why are more chefs turning to grass-fed beef?
There is a truly natural taste to the beef and significant consumer interest in sincerely healthy, natural options. You can see it, taste it and feel it. It leaves natural juices on the plate (not congealed fat), it tastes like beef (not like fake butter), it’s easily eaten and digested (you can walk out of the restaurant). Almost like fresh-squeezed juice, you know it when you taste it. Consumers want what grass-fed beef stands for and they appreciate the flavor because they know it’s what it should taste like.
Can consumers expect a difference in taste?
Absolutely. Grass-fed beef has a bright, beefy flavor with a clean finish. You can taste that it’s beef, no question about it. It’s unlike corn-fed which has more of a bland universal meat flavor with a buttery almost chalky finish in the back of the throat. Grass-fed has more toothiness to it than corn-fed but it’s beef and you have to chew it – that’s why we have teeth.
Please discuss how terroir is being applied to this beef.
Terroir is a subtle aspect of how it’s raised. With year-round rainfall and natural green grasses, our beef is going to have a sweet flavor – the flavor that made Argentine beef famous. Most grass-fed beef raised west of the Mississippi is raised on large rations of hay and alfalfa which leaves a more minerally, metallic taste. Terroir with corn-fed is non existent since all the animals eat the same product. It’s an industry where 98 percent of it tastes the same. We like the idea of terroir being introduced to the beef industry. Like wine, there are lots of amazing tastes in beef – the breeds, feed, processing and aging all affect flavor – and we should celebrate the flavors and uniqueness rather than just look for the most fat.
What should readers keep in mind when cooking with grass-fed beef?
We like to cook it slow and low with copious amounts of salt and nothing else. In other words, keep the heat low and take your time. You don’t need steak sauce because the flavor is naturally in the beef. Hardwood coals or charcoal is best, a skillet works well and gas is fine if you can keep the flames away.
Estancia beef can be found locally at AJs Fine Foods. For more on Estancia and its beef products, visit www.estanciabeef.com.
Pictured: JP Thieriot, left, and Bill Reed, right. Co-founders of Estancia.