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The Grassfed Beef & Lamb Experience

This is a prelude to a post on why I now think you should consider incorporating at least some measure of grassfed meats into your paleo eating lifestyle. This is where I’ll get into the issues of sustainability and cost. This, of course, comes on the heels of revelations in seeing the documentary film Food, Inc., which I reviewed extensively. On the same day I saw that film, I went to a local farmers’ market and secured some grassfed meats, beef & lamb.

Here’s the report on how I prepared both, how preparation turned out to be different from grain-finished & fattened meats, and the extent to which we enjoyed them more or less than what you get in your local supermarket.

beef lamb
Grassfed Beef & Lamb

The first one we prepared was the lamb, and those two leg steaks fed four people, accompanied by a green salad with olive oil and fresh lemon.

These were done on the grill, both burners on full high with a good preheat time. While preheating, I put a large amount of butter in a skillet and crushed and then chopped 3-4 large cloves of garlic. I then let the garlic toast in the butter a bit, then I browned the lamb steaks, about a minute or so each side. Then they went off to the grilling and I turned down the heat on the skillet. I then actually grilled them longer than I expected, but I use the feel of the give in the meat to judge doneness and I got a bit worried because it had a lot of give (more rare) far longer then I had expected. Finally, it was done, and then they went right back into the butter and garlic for a quick dipping, then set aside to rest.

grassfed lamb
Grilled Grassfed Lamb

And finally, here’s how we chose to serve it up.

grassfed lamb 3
Grassfed Lamb

I think I speak for everyone present when I say it was fantastic, and for a leg (which I have usually had in the form of a roast), the best leg ever. It came out a nice medium rare and I was surprised it did not overcook.

It tuns out that this must be a characteristic of grassfed and finished meats, because I experienced exactly the same thing with the ribeye steaks, which I also grilled, and which also cooked far longer than I was expecting, but came out to perfect medium rare.  I speculate that the higher intra-tissue fat of grain fed meats heats up faster and hotter than the lean tissue, aiding in a much faster cooking. Unfortunately, I did not get a shot of the inside. It was devoured too quickly.

grassfed ribeye 3
Grilled Grassfed Ribeye with "Demi-glace" Reduction & Cubed Potatoes Fried in Leaf Lard

The reduction was the very last of my homemade beef bone stock, and with just a tiny dash of dried rosemary. I’m going to have to get going on another batch.

Here’s a final look.

ribeyes
Beef Ribeyes

The most surprising thing to me is that I had always assumed I’d give up flavor and tenderness in exchange for 2-3 times the cost. This turned out to be untrue, as both of these preparations beat grain fed in just about every way I could think of:

  1. More forgiving in the preparation.
  2. More tender.
  3. Tastier by a wide margin.

So, within a day, maybe two, I’ll have a post up dealing with the other issues surrounding grassfed meats, namely: health, sustainability, cost, availability.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

27 Comments

  1. Julie on July 28, 2009 at 15:26

    I completely agree that the taste of grassfed meat can’t be beat. I’m surprised, though, that you found it was more forgiving to cook. Maybe this is because we have ground grassfed beef more than steaks and roasts, but we’ve found that it cooks much faster. I always thought it was because the meat has less fat than that of a cow that stays in one place and eats nothing but corn and soy its entire life. Hmm…time for more experiments (of the steak kind).

  2. Andrea W. on July 28, 2009 at 15:00

    That looks fantastic. I’m looking into a grass-fed meat CSA this fall, going in on 25 lbs. of various cuts of meat with my sister from a local farmer. I’m excited to taste the difference.

  3. Aaron Blaisdell on July 28, 2009 at 15:46

    How timely! I’m just on my way to the kitchen to prepare today’s dinner– meatloaf using grass-fed beef.

  4. Nancy R. on July 28, 2009 at 15:55

    I’ve been eating beef from Marin Sun Farms, and after being admonished to be more attentive with the cooking lest I over-cook the meat, I’ve found that I really don’t have to be too worried about it. I feel like it cooks a bit faster than you seem to have experienced, but not radically faster. Marin Sun Farms’ site discusses how we should be cooking the meat differently. Something about the higher concentration of unsaturated fatty acids heating more quickly. Again, it really hasn’t been that big of a deal for me. Here’s a link to what they have to say:

    Perhaps just being an attentive cook is what it really takes. But I remember being so scared by the words of caution in grass fed beef preparation because of how expensive it is. But as it turns out it’s really just as easy to deal with. And as you mentioned, the taste and tenderness is to die for. Your guests are lucky indeed to feast with you!

    • Richard Nikoley on July 28, 2009 at 16:27

      Interesting the different cooking experiences. Of course, I’m no expert and am just reporting first impressions. Maybe I’ve got it wrong.

      Guess I’ll just have to continue the experiment.

      • Julie on July 28, 2009 at 17:10

        Not a bad kind of experiment. I’d be willing to help out with that one. 🙂



      • Richard Nikoley on July 28, 2009 at 17:35

        And you shall. We’ve got a busy rest of the week, gone camping all next week, but then we’ll be set.

        This is what I have in mind:

        http://www.cuisineaz.com/recettes/tournedos-au-roquefort-39114.aspx

        You and Trevor are going to get to help eat it.



      • Julie on July 28, 2009 at 18:00

        *salivating* …we’ll have to touch base when we get back from DC next Monday night.



  5. Ben on July 29, 2009 at 02:24

    Hi Richard,

    I know how to make bone broth, but how do you make a reduction gravy like yours? Is it just the broth reduced? Or is butter etc added?

    Many thanks.

    Ben.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 30, 2009 at 10:25

      Yes, you can reduce the bone broth. Alternatively, you can reduce it to pretty thick when you make it. I prefer to add water along the way. You can also add in fats, wine, etc.

      Reduce slowly. If you run into volume problems, i.e., not thick enough yet for the amount you need, you can thicken. I have used very small amounts of powdered potato starch for this, which you can just add in by 3-finger pinch. I’ve also heard that arrowroot is a great thickener.

      • Dana on August 6, 2009 at 12:38

        Arrowroot is a great thickener. On top of that, Nourishing Traditions says it’s the only starch with a calcium ash. So you get a bit extra minerals along with your thickener. Well, it comes from a root and isn’t refined before it’s powdered, so I’m not surprised.



  6. Brooke on July 29, 2009 at 05:03

    We’ve been eating grass-fed or pastured meats from local farmers for the last year and I can tell you that it varies widely in taste, cooking time and tenderness. Not all grass-fed meat is created equal. Different breeds and husbandry can produce a much different product. It’s not like a CAFO where there’s great uniformity.
    A fantastic book on how to make this sustainable is ‘Comeback Farms’ by Greg Judy. He details how changing to high-density mob grazing (think of the buffalo of old) has improved his animals, his land, creeks & aquifers, and decreased his inputs to just water, minerals & portable fencing. No barns, tractors, fertilizer, hay, medicines, etc.
    Just think of how much land would be available if we’d stop growing corn to feed to cows! Not to mention if we banned HFCS.

  7. Adam Cilonis on July 29, 2009 at 07:23

    A great side with the lamb (or beef) would be Anaheim peppers or Italian Sweets as my Basque dad calls them. Poke a hole in the pepper and fry in olive oil, salt at the end. Add a tomato and red onion salad with EVOO and vinegar (salt toms before dressing) and you have a traditional Basque meal…outstanding to say the least!

  8. Bay Area Sparky on July 29, 2009 at 16:44

    Those lamb legs look awesome! Amazing meat to bone ratio. Looking forward to trying more grass fed fare. Still looking at the easiest way to purchase Bison/Buffalo meat as my experiences with it have been excellent.

  9. elybiado on July 29, 2009 at 17:17

    I swear I will never come back to this site feeling hungry not to tempt me from eating.

  10. Andrew on July 29, 2009 at 20:58

    Do you ever eat raw meat? What do you think of it?

    • Richard Nikoley on July 30, 2009 at 09:57

      Well, in addition to raw fish, I have done carpaccio and steak tartar. Love ’em both.

  11. zzeed on July 30, 2009 at 08:01

    that’s a lot of cholesterol

  12. Michael - Fat Loss Tips on July 30, 2009 at 10:44

    Love it Richard. I thought I was the only one who likes a piece of lamb. Many people complain of the scent but I find it intoxicatingly great!

    Medium all the way, love the pink.

  13. pjnoir on July 30, 2009 at 14:35

    Just some? Grass Fed should be the only choice for meat. And for you Primal folks that still use some diary (me)- Grass Fed Milk (Natural By Nature) is a totally diffferent product compared to the other (posioned) stuff.

    • Dana on August 6, 2009 at 12:42

      Yep. I haven’t used the milk yet but I buy the cream regularly. Delish. It’s not paleo, but I don’t think I could ever go “pure” paleo, and anyway the Maasai drink milk.

  14. Willis Morse on July 31, 2009 at 10:47

    We’ve been eating a lot of grassfed over the last 6 months, and even the non-Paleo eaters among us think it tastes better.

    Cooking this stuff seems much easier. It’s generally done faster (or at least eatable faster) but it also seems to have a wider window before it gets overcooked.

    Most of the variation we see among our CT farmers seems to come from different aging practices. One guy we buy from ages his stuff a lot more, and initially we didn’t like it. But we’ve gotten used to it and the other, less aged, products seem kind of bland now.

    It’s really nice that all of these guys are up for talking about their products, too. You can learn a lot at a farmers market. From what they tell me, no one in CT can pull off pure grassfeeding due to the conditions in this state. They’re close, but there’s still a small amount of corn in all of their diets to keep the weight predictable. And they eat some corn silage, too, which I really don’t what to think about. I guess corn stalks are just big grass stalks, so it’s probably alright. Still, it’s probably much better than CAFO.

    One farmer expressed an interest in getting the 6-3 ratio tested. I’d love to see some sort of grassroots webbased independent testing and rating system for local farmers. Anyone know how expensive these kinds of test are?

    • Dana on August 6, 2009 at 12:43

      I’d love to see an independent food database, period, and some kind of nonprofit set up to pay for part or all of the testing for small ranchers, dairyists, and growers whose margins are too narrow to afford their own nutritional testing. The USDA database is somewhat useful but I keep bumping up against its limitations.

  15. Zach on August 2, 2009 at 17:38

    This post pushed me over the edge to finally intentionally seeking out grassfed beef here in the US, and I did a Pepsi challenge over the weekend of grassfed vs. regular store bought. It’s indeed like two different products as a friend of mine told me. Thanks for the encouragement from this post, a whole new world has just opened up.

  16. Jason on August 18, 2009 at 18:40

    Does anyone know of any good grass-fed/free-range farms offering affiliate programs? I would like to sell their products.

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