Pictured here are grass-fed, Dexter T-bone steaks. The fork and knife are placed to show the size of the steaks. Although we occasionally feed some corn to our steers during their last month prior to butcher, the steaks pictured were 100% grass-fed and had nice marbling. Tasty Dexters!
Grassfed Beef has regained popularity in recent years due to its natural health benefits and its rich “beefy” flavor. It has become a bit of a rarity due to the widespread use of corn to speed up the growing process and meet the demands of feeding the world. In short, it is much leaner (less fat) and contains much higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), when compared to grain-fed beef. It has been reported that grassfed beef contains as much as 500times more omega-3 fatty acids than grain-finished feef. (For a more detailed description of these benefits, see the article at: http://www.americangrassfedbeef.com/grass-fed-natural-beef.asp)
The downside of raising grassfed beef is that it takes longer to finish a steer when compared to finishing on grain. Traditionally, grain-fed beef takes about 15-18months to finish, while grassfed beef takes 24-27months to finish a steer. However, we believe the health benefits and the enhanced flavor are worth the wait!
How to calculate Beef Yields
Most 2 year old Dexter butcher steers will weigh-in at about 800-900lbs. The average grass-fed Dexter will yield a carcass weight (also called "hanging weight") of around 55-57% of their live weight. The carcass weight is the weight used by butchers when charging for processing; and it is also the weight used by cattle owners when selling beef per pound. The actual weight that goes home can vary quite a bit based on how the buyer wants the beef cut up. When attempting to estimate what an animal will truly yield, a good rule-of-thumb to use is as follows: (based on percentage of carcass weight)
So, for example, having an entire beef ground up for hamburger will greatly affect the actual yield because of the absence of bones. Therefore an example steer may have the following:
850lb live weight; 476lb Carcass weight (56% of LW); 357lb of traditionally cut freezer beef (42% of LW)
What to know when ordering your beef:
The locker we use to process our beef allows our steers to "hang" for 9-10days, which allows for additional tenderizing of the beef through the natural aging process and enzyme-breakdown of the muscle. Here are some things to consider when ordering your beef:
How thick do you want your steaks? We recommend at least 1" thick (also how many per package?) If you prefer having your tenderloins (Filet mignon) and New York Strips instead of the traditional T-bone steaks, you'll have to request it. Also, if you don't want the round steaks, you'll have to let them know.
How big do you want your roasts? We usually ask for 3-4lb roasts
How do want your hamburger packaged? 1-1.5lb packages?
Other considerations: You'll have to let them know if you want stew meat, ribs, liver, heart, tongue, tallow, soup bones, etc. Beef sticks, Jerky, and other specialty products would also need to be noted.
Tips for Enjoying your Grassfed Beef:
We grew up on grain-fed beef and were more accustom to preparing fattier steaks. The excess fat in grain-fed beef adds more "moisture" to the steak, thus making it easier to prepare, however with careful attention, getting used to preparing grass-fed beef is quite simple. Due to the fact that grassfed beef is very lean, it’s important not to lose the flavor and tenderness by overcooking. We don’t get too fancy grilling our steaks; we usually season with Lawry’s Salt, quickly sear each side on high heat, and then grill on low heat for 7minutes on each side- which gives us medium to medium rare tasty steaks. We also have our steaks cut at least 1" thick to help maintain the tasty juices when grilling. The following are some additional tips for grilling or cooking your grassfed beef we picked up along the way.
1) Thawing Beef: Never use a microwave to thaw your grass fed beef. Either thaw your beef in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for a few hours. (If it’s in a vacuum sealed package, you can soak in water for a few minutes)
2) Bring your grass fed meat to room temperature before cooking: do not cook it cold straight from a refrigerator, nor partially frozen (= tougher steak).
3) Always pre-heat your oven, pan or grill before cooking grass fed beef, and never use a fork to turn your beef (the goal is to preserve the tasty, precious juices within.) Always use tongs.
4) Grass fed beef has high protein and low fat levels, the beef will usually require 30% less cooking time and will continue to cook when removed from heat. For this reason, remove the beef from your heat source 10 degrees before it reaches the desired temperature. If desired, using a thermometer to test for doneness and to get accustomed to cooking grassfed beef may be helpful. Since grass fed beef cooks so quickly, your beef can go from perfectly cooked to overcooked in less than a minute.
5) When grilling, sear the meat quickly over a high heat on each side to seal in its natural juices and then reduce the heat to a medium or low to finish the cooking process. Basting throughout the grilling process is an additional option for adding moisture. Don't forget grass fed beef requires 30% less cooking time so watch your thermometer and don't leave your steaks unattended.
6) When using your stove top to cook your steaks, you have more control over the temperature than on the grill. You can use butter in the final minutes when the heat is low to carry the taste of fresh garlic or other seasonings through the meat.
7) Your biggest culprit for tough grass-fed beef is overcooking. This beef is made for rare to medium-rare cooking. If you like well-done beef, then cook your grass fed beef at very low temperatures in a sauce to add moisture.
8) Resting Prepared Beef: Let the beef sit covered and in a warm place for 8 to 10 minutes after removing from heat to let the juices redistribute (We use either the microwave or oven(shutoff of course)).
If you still desire more tender steaks, the following tips may be helpful:
2) If you don't own a meat tenderizer you can try marinating your beef in the refrigerator before cooking, especially the lean cuts like NY Strip and Sirloin Steak. Choose a recipe that doesn't mask the delicate flavor of grass-fed beef but enhances the moisture content. Some people use their favorite Italian salad dressing. If you choose to marinate, use slightly less than you would use for grain-fed beef as grass-fed beef cooks quicker, shortening the time for the marinade to cook off.
3) If you do not have time to marinate and don't own a meat tenderizer, just coat your thawed steak with your favorite rub, place on a solid surface, cover with plastic and pound your steak a few times to break down the connective tissue. As an added benefit your favorite rub will be pushed into your grass fed beef. Don't go overboard and flatten your beef unless your recipe calls for it. If you don't have a meat mallet, use a rolling pin or whatever you feel is safe and convenient.
If you have selected 85-90% lean ground beef from the butcher, you may want to consider the following when preparing hamburgers on the grill. Use caramelized onions, olives or roasted peppers to add low fat moisture to the meat while cooking. Some moisture is needed to compensate for the lack of fat. Make sure you do not overcook your burgers, 30% less cooking time is required.
1) When roasting, sear the beef first to lock in the juices and then place in a pre-heated oven, with added water, or in a crockpot.
2) Reduce the temperature of your grain-fed beef recipes by 50 degrees i.e. 275 degrees for roasting or at the lowest heat setting in a crock pot. The cooking time will still be the same or slightly shorter even at the lower temperature. Again, watch your meat thermometer and don't overcook your meat. Use moisture from sauces to add to the tenderness when cooking your roast.