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Archive for November, 2009

>Recipes for Crockpot Grass-Fed Beef – with beans, gravy, or as lasagna

Posted by Thrivelearning on November 8, 2009

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I know that all this writing about naturally pasture-finished beef recipes has probably put on pounds just in the research. But I could hardly wait to bring these to you.

Beans and beef have been a staple on this continent ever since settler times. These recipes – even the lasagna – are for easy cooking and delightful dining – especially for those of us on a hectic schedule.

Now note: today, I’m bringing ones you may want to try over the weekend, when you don’t have to be away from your kitchen all day. After all, you can smell the delicious aroma’s through the whole house – so coming in after some morning exercise or sports will make lunch a true treat. Or maybe a quick dinner for friends you’ve been out with all afternoon…

Again, I’m recommending a crockpot for these first few grass-fed beef recipes, as it helps lock the moisture in and further tenderize the beef.

CROCKPOT BEANS

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3/4 lb. fried crumbled bacon
  • 1 c. chopped onions
  • 1 c. ketchup
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. hickory smoke flavoring

1 lb. can each pork and beans, lima beans, butter beans, and kidney beans
-Cook on low in crockpot for 4-8 hours. The longer it cooks, the smokier it tastes.

CROCKPOT BEEF AND GRAVY

  • 2-3 pounds roast cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 packet Lipton’s Onion soup mix
  • 2 cans Cream of mushroom soup

Place pieces of roast in crock pot. Sprinkle packet of onion soup on meat. Cover with cream of mushroom soup. Let cook up to 9 hours. Stir about 1/2 way through cooking (but I’m sure you could just stir at the end). Serve over mashed potatoes or pasta.

CROCKPOT ALMOST LASAGNA

  • 1 box rotini (or ziti), any fun, flavorful pasta will do
  • 2 – 28-oz jars pasta sauce(one with tomato chunks works well)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb sausage
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 C. parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 C italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 bag mozzarella cheese
  • 16-20 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C. parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp. parsley flakes
  • dash salt & pepper

Grease crock-pot, or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Cook rotini according to package directions, drain. Brown and drain meat. Toss pasta with olive oil. Add pasta sauce to mixture, toss well. Stir together parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, egg, 1/2 bag mozzarella cheese, and browned meat. Can sprinkle lightly with garlic powder. Beat together ricotta, 2 eggs, parmesan, parsley, salt & pepper. Pour half of pasta/sauce/meat mixture into crock-pot. Spread entire ricotta mixture over first layer of pasta. Cover ricotta layer with remaining pasta mixture, and cover with remaining cheese. Cover, and cook on low 4-6 hours.

And now we again visit La Cense – those Montana grass fed beef experts – for a chili recipe specifically designed around the incredibly flavorful natural beef they raise: 

Chili Con Carne

Ingredients

  • 1 pound La Cense Ground Steak Burger
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1-14 oz can pureed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican Oregano
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 cup beef broth (optional)
  • Salt, cayenne and pepper to taste

Instructions
Brown meat in large heavy pot on medium high heat, drain excess fat if desired. Add onions and garlic and saute until soft (about ten minutes). Reduce heat and add tomatoes and spices. Salt and pepper to taste, if you like your chili hot add cayenne pepper (1 teaspoon for medium and 2 teaspoons for hot) but be careful!

– – – –

While I raise my own grass-fed beef here in Missouri, I suggest you try a vendor such as La Cense Beef if you want to sample some truly wonderful, Montana-raised grass fed beef.

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Posted in cooking natural beef, crock pot, grass fed beef | Leave a Comment »

>Just what you need – a juicy, tender, grass-fed beef steak…

Posted by Thrivelearning on November 7, 2009

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Nothing like a juicy steak, cooked to order.
Unfortunately, except for some weekends, who has the time on our busy schedules to cook steak just the way we like it? And with this economy – how are you going to afford a restaurant that will cook grass-fed steak for you?  (Most don’t even know there’s a difference between grain-fed and natural, pasture-finished beef!) 
A crock pot is our best remedy for cooking this lean beef just the way we like it, while also keeping the moisture and tenderness in. Set it up in the morning to cook, come home at night and enjoy!
I was looking around for recipes recently and came across two recipes for scrumptious crockpot steak.

Have fun with these:

CROCKPOT BEEF STROGANOFF III

  • 3 lb. beef round steak, 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2 med. onions, thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 2 (4 oz. each) cans sliced mushrooms, drained or 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 (10 1/2 oz.) can condensed beef broth
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/4 c. flour

Trim all excess fat (if you can find any) from steak and cut meat into 3 inch strips about 1/2 inch wide.

Combine 1/2 cup flour, the salt, pepper and dry mustard; toss with steak strips to coat thoroughly. Place coated steak strips in crock pot; stir in onion rings and mushrooms. Add beef broth and wine; stir well. Cover and cook on low setting for 8- 10 hours. Before serving, combine sour cream with 1/4 cup flour; stir into crock pot. Serve stroganoff over rice or noodles.

CROCKPOT BRACIOLE

  • 2 1/2 pounds Round steak
  • 1/4 to 1/2″ thick 1/2 pound Bulk Italian sausage
  • 1 tablespoon Dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Leaf oregano
  • 2 cloves Garlic — minced
  • 1 large Onion — finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 can Italian style tomatoes — 16 0z
  • 1 can tomato paste — (6 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Leaf oregano
  • 10 large Tomatoes or 2 28 oz cans tomatoes
  • 5 cloves Garlic — chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 2 large Onions — chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Flour
  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar

-Trim all excess fat (if you can find any) from round steak. Cut into 8 evenly shaped pieces. Pound steak pieces between waxed paper until very thin and easy to roll. In skillet, lightly brown sausage. Drain well and combine with parsley, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, garlic, onion, and salt; mix well. Spread each steak with 2 to 3 tablespoons of sausage mixture. Roll up steaks and tie. Stack steak rolls in crock pot. Combine tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and 1 teaspoon oreagno; pour over rolls. Cover and cook on low setting for 8 to 10 hours. Serve steak rolls with sauce.

-SAUCE: Place all ingredients except flour, oil, and vinegar in crockpot; stir well. Cover and cook on low setting for 8 to 10 hours. Remove cover and turn to high setting for the last hour to reduce excess moisture. Before removing sauce from crock pot, stir in flour, oil, and vinegar. Allow to cool. Pour 3 cups of sauce at a time into blender container; blend until smooth.

From the folks at La Cense – the premier Montana grass-fed beef folks – I’ve found this marvelous recipe for steak. So set aside some time to really revel in luxury – maybe one of those longer holidays coming up…

Steakhouse-Style Bone in Tenderloin Filet

by Ulla Kjarval

Ingredients

Instructions

Salt and pepper the steak and rub with a bit of olive oil. You want to bring the steaks to room temperature so let them sit for half an hour before you broil them. Preheat the broiler for 15 minutes. You will need to broil the steaks for about 5 minutes on each side, but broilers vary greatly so use your discretion. This is a perfect dinner for two. Serve with creamed spinach and oven-fried potatoes. Enjoy!

– – – –

While I raise my own grass-fed beef here in Missouri, I suggest you try a vendor such as La Cense Beef if you want to sample some truly wonderful, Montana-raised grass fed beef.

Posted in beef steak recipe, cooking natural beef, grass fed beef | Leave a Comment »

>Grass Fed Recipes – moisture-rich cooking for busy people

Posted by Thrivelearning on November 6, 2009

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Here’s some recipes I’ve uncovered in my research. Now you cooks out there, have patience with this old cow-boy. My best meal to date has been Pancakes, followed closely by French Toast.

But the key with Grass Fed Beef is to realize it doesn’t have that extra fat in it. So these recipes mostly use a crock pot to keep the moisture in and additionally tenderize the beef.

The other advantage to crock pots is that it can safely cook all day while you are at work, creating a warm and satisfying meal (or several) ready for you when you return that night. So even if you don’t enjoy a rural lifestyle like many of us, you can enjoy the beef we grow!

CROCKPOT BEEF AND BEANS

  • 1 1/2 lbs of stewing beef
  • 1 tbsp. prepared mustard
  • 1 tbsp. taco seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 can 16 oz diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 med. onion chopped
  • 1 can Kidney beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 can chili beans

(I also added 1 can of black beans)
-Combine mustard, taco seasonings, salt , pepper and garlic in a large bowl. Add beef and toss to coat!
-Put the beef in your crock pot and add the rest of the ingriedients. Cover and cook for 6 -8 hours on LOW.
-Serve over yummy hot rice!

CROCKPOT BEEF AND GRAVY

  • 2-3 pounds roast cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 packet Lipton’s Onion soup mix
  • 2 cans Cream of mushroom soup

Place pieces of roast in crock pot. Sprinkle packet of onion soup on meat. Cover with cream of mushroom soup. Let cook up to 9 hours. Stir about 1/2 way through cooking (but I’m sure you could just stir at the end). Serve over mashed potatoes or pasta.

CROCKPOT BEEF FAJITAS

  • 1 1/2 pounds beef flank steak
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 green sweet pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. cilantro
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (or 1/4 tsp. garlic powder)
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 can (8oz) chopped tomatoes
  • 12 8inch flour tortillas

Toppings: sour cream, guacamole, shredded cheddar cheese and salsa

Cut flank steak into 6 portions. In any size crockpot combine meat, onion, green pepper, jalapeno pepper, cilantro, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander and salt. Add tomatoes. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours or high 4-5 hours. Remove meat from crockpot and shred. Return meat to crockpot and stir. To serve, spread meat mixture into flour tortillas and top with toppings. Roll up.

More pointers on cooking grass-fed beef

La Cense – the Montana Grass-Fed Beef experts – have some additional pointers about cooking pasture-finished, natural beef:

Like all grass fed meat, La Cense Beef cooks differently from the grain fed beef found in most supermarkets and butchers. This will help you get the tastiest results – every time!

Keep It Frozen!
Keep your La Cense Beef frozen until you’re ready to use it. Then thaw it completely before cooking. To defrost, we recommend placing each individual vacuum-packed cut in the refrigerator overnight. If you’re in a rush, you can also defrost in a bowl of cool water. Never use warm water.

Less (Heat) Is More (Flavor)
Because La Cense Beef is lean, lightly marbled and lower in fat than conventional grain-fed beef, its flavor is accentuated by cooking at a slightly lower temperature and for slightly less time. So, unless a recipe specifies grass fed beef, reduce the temperature in the recipe by 50° when cooking with La Cense Beef. Even at the lower temperature, cooking time for grass fed beef will be about 30% to 50% less than for conventional beef.

And as well, here is one of there top recipes from Ulla Kjarval:

Roasted La Cense Boneless Prime Rib Roast

Ingredients

  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 Boneless La Cense Prime Rib Roast- about 3 pounds
  • Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

Instructions

Defrost the roast in water the day before keeping it in the plastic in a large bowl of water. This should take about 3 hours. Place in the refrigerator overnight. Two hours before you cook the roast take the roast out letting it reach room temperature. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees, season the roast and slather it with olive oil, roughly chop rosemary and place on top with garlic, set in a roasting pan. You will be roasting this quickly at about 5 minutes per pound – I had mine in the oven for about 20 minutes. It is important to have a meat thermometer so that you can monitor the doneness, as most ovens vary greatly (mine takes a long time) you will want it roasted to an internal temperature around 130°F to 140°F which is medium rare. Let it rest in a tin foil tent for 10 minutes before you serve! Enjoy!

– – – –

While I raise my own grass-fed beef here in Missouri, I suggest you try a vendor such as La Cense Beef if you want to sample some truly wonderful, Montana-raised grass fed beef.

Posted in cooking natural beef, grass fed beef, rural lifestyle | Leave a Comment »

>Why my grass fed beef won’t replace any corn for your tortillas any time soon

Posted by Thrivelearning on November 5, 2009

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Sure, I’m just joking about the tortillas – practically, the seeming biggest use of corn is sent to animal food. 1% is sweet corn, 25% goes to ethanol (and the byproduct leftover is then fed to animals), 20% is exported and another tiny bit is used for food ingredients, chemicals, fabrics, and plastics. (Source: EcoProducts)

But one of the big whoppers being told by the “animal rights” activists and other enviro’s is that cattle are taking the land we’d be growing crops on.

Look, I’m from Missouri, where we are #2 behind Texas in raising cattle. If the land is good enough to raise profitable crops, you won’t see a cow anywhere near it.

Good crop ground makes between 150 – 200 bushels of corn an acre. It takes 2.5 acres to keep a cow alive in Missouri (more out West.) So if you are getting $800 for a full-grown steer or could take those 500 bushels of corn off those same 2.5 acres and sell them at $4 each ($2,000) – which would you do?

That’s probably why we shifted over to feeding cheap corn to cows instead of having them munch away at prairie grasses. But you will also see the big feedlots in crop country, not down in the rolling hills that start where I live and keep going further down into southern Missouri.

But I’m awfully tempted to take the rest of my 45 acres I farm as crops and convert it to pasture. Why? Because it doesn’t make but about 80 bushel per acre of corn. And the cost per acre is the same, whether you get a 200 bu. yield or nothing.

Crunching the numbers for the land I have showed that I got about $2,000 profit off those 45 acres last year. Pays the taxes and the bills, barely. Now, say I had a crop which didn’t require inputs and was pure profit. 45 acres should keep about 18 more cows. If I sell their calves at about $600 profit, then I make $10,800 – so which is more profitable?

That’s what these other big-city complainers just don’t get – cattle are raised on marginal land which won’t produce any decent sort of food otherwise. Our own farm land is all marginal, even the stuff we crop right now. Mostly trees, shrubs and clay ground under about 2-3 inches of top soil. Raises better grass and trees than anything else.

You go 40 miles north or east and it’s a different scene. 6-8″ topsoil and that 200 bu. corn I mentioned earlier.

The trick is to raise that low-maintenance, low-input, environmentally-friendly grass fed beef.

Because the land only gets better when you raise your beef right. And the quality of the beef is the best that can be produced. Award-winning and lab-tests to prove how heart-healthy it is.

And it will make this farmer improve his own rural lifestyle by being able to maybe quit his day job – one day, anyway.

If you follow what Nature laid out, not the government, you generally have an easier time of it. At least, that’s what I’ve experienced.

Try it for yourself and see…

– – – –

While I raise my own grass-fed beef here in Missouri, I suggest you try a vendor such as La Cense Beef if you want to sample some truly wonderful, Montana-raised grass fed beef.

Posted in beef cattle, government cost, grass fed beef, rural lifestyle | Leave a Comment »

>Why you probably won’t ever see Organic Beef coming from my farm

Posted by Thrivelearning on November 4, 2009

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The reason is pure economics. Has nothing to do with the quality of beef produced. Let me lay it out for you.

I’ve already covered in a broad sense how grain-finished beef is more expensive to produce than grass-fed beef.

Let’s look this over:

  • I don’t have to have a lot of expensive equipment to run my farm or produce my crops.
  • I don’t have to spray anything as the cows eat almost all of the weeds.
  • I don’t have to deal with insects, since the more I can get in the pastures (well, except maybe face flies) the better the pastures do.
  • If I do it right and manage my grazing, I don’t have to even cut and bale hay for the winter.
  • And If I manage my herd properly, the soil will actually improve in quality – which means I can actually start adding more cows just to keep up with the grass.

Follow the money…

What’s my net cost for each calf I produce? About $40 in shots for the new ones (and I’m beginning to think those are even unnecesary…)

Now, per beeffrompasturetoplate.org,

The truth is it takes 2.6 pounds of grain and 435 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef in the United States.

When you take a 400lb just-weaned calf up to 1100lbs, you are using 1820 lbs of grain (usually corn and soybeans, ground and mixed). If it were just corn and I had to buy it at commodity prices, I’d be paying at least $4 per bushel (more or less) – so a rough cost would put the extra cost at $7280 – at least on paper. Large operations will get their feed much cheaper than this (and have to.) But that tells you right there why you pay high beef prices and farmers still go broke.

My own experiences, from fattening cattle on this farm, told me that the feed bills alone took half the calf crop. We never made enough corn on our land to feed out cattle, so we’d sell the corn we raised (for real minimal profit) and then buy the other feed.

Now, the funny thing was when I found out feeder calves (sold right after weaning) made as much income as keeping those calves up to fattening weight – well, I never fattened cattle on corn again. (And I got to keep the money from that corn we raised.)

The next price break was when I found that a calf fattened to a year old on just grass will give me about $600 profit per head – and that’s taking out the cost of keeping them and their mother alive during the winter with hay.

So my profit of selling these calves as yearlings was better than feeding them on corn I didn’t have.

The next break – selling them as finished cattle (about 20-22 months) was no better profit, because you have to winter them over with hay again. Since they are now eating more to put those last few pounds on, it’s a wash for those extra months. (Of course, when I go over to “mob grazing” and no hay in the winter – every calf is nearly sheer profit…)

The cost of Government-inspected Organic Beef

Here’s where organic comes in. Annually, I would have to keep paperwork and get this inspected to prove that I didn’t add anything to the land or the cattle. So I pay a fee to have my paperwork checked – for every single acre and animal (as I understand it.) Essentially, this is a government tax at work.

Right now, the premium paid for locally-raised, grass-fed beef is the same or higher than organic beef. Why? Because people know where it came from and who butchered it.

And the last case of e-coli infecction I heard of came from what? USDA Government-inspected beef – which came from cattle out of four states and two countries, all mixed together into a yummy, tasteless, uniform-sized, frozen, plastic-wrapped, gray patty.

So if it costs more to get the government involved, but I make the same amount of income – which is more profitable? Pasture-finished or organic pasture-finished? (And we’re leaving out the idea of making organic corn – a whole ‘nother expense…)

That’s why I’m not going to be raising organic beef anytime soon. It gets the government into your operation and makes it cost more. I’ll make more money and higher quality beef, even if I just sell to my neighbors in our local cities.

– – – –

While I raise my own grass-fed beef here in Missouri, I suggest you try a vendor such as La Cense Beef if you want to sample some truly wonderful, Montana-raised grass fed beef.

Posted in beef cattle, government cost, grass fed beef | Leave a Comment »

>How grass fed beef improves the land it comes from

Posted by Thrivelearning on November 3, 2009

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A lot of exaggerations are used by “animal rights” activists to forward their own agenda. One of these is how natural grass-finished beef is lumped in with all the rest of the ways beef is produced in the US.

Practically, they’d be better off taking more vacations from the urban blight they live in and go get some lessons from their country cousins. (Or maybe just try to raise some of this stuff themselves for once instead of giving advice all the time…)

While New York and other coastal cities are busy dumping its waste into the ocean on a daily basis, as well as covering huge masses of land with their garbage landfills, the lowly cow recycles between 75-100% of what it eats directly back onto the ground (depending on what study you believe).

You see, cows are some of the most efficient and environmentally-friendly automatic harvesters we have. And not only that, they also produce another of themselves every year.

Factory approach to meat production

It’s only since WWII, when we started feeding grain to cattle that we started interrupting their natural process with our man-made “efficiencies”. When you add the cost of planting, fertilizing, spraying, and harvesting miles of corn just to coop up animals in a concentrated feeding operation – well, that’s where things get messy. Literally.

In their natural environment, cows roam around the pastures, usually with one calf at their side and another on the way. For about every 50 cows or so, a bull keeps it that way – year in and year out. Meanwhile, all concerned are simply eating all the forage they can. When they get full, they rest and digest, then get up and go at it again.

As they eat, they drop their manure in the pasture, where it is digested and improves or restores the ecosystem with concentrated nutrients. And when their calf is born on a grassy field, there is little bacteria that they can’t handle on their own – because they are already immune to most everything out there.

However, when you take that calf and shut it up in a dirt feedlot to eat grain on a schedule, that whole ecosystem is interrupted. Grain puts on low-quality pounds of flesh, with a lot of fat to go along. While their mothers had high Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios (bad fat to good fat), grain-fed beef are known for their heart-stopping renditions of the “Cholesterol Blues”.

Grain does another funny thing – it robs the flavor. Anyone who’s ever gotten a hamburger from a pasture-finished beef and then went to eat one of these fast-food wanna-bes will tell you – nothing from a supermarket has any taste at all compared to an all-natural grass-finished beef burger.

And with all those cows in a small space – there’s a lot of cleaning up to do. Literally mountains of manure being piled up…

Let’s look further at the land it comes from – when you have a cow on pasture, you don’t have to spray for weeds or insects. Sure, there are a lot of insects out there – and they all have plenty to eat. Because there are thousands of varieties of plants out there. It isn’t a problem that we can only raise one type of plant and have to spray to keep any other plant from growing out there – or to get rid of just a few insects that attack that particular plant you are trying to raise.

Plenty for everyone.

And about those weeds – depending on the particular breed of cow you have, they are just as likely to become a meal as to get to their full height where they can shed their seeds.

Everything-bunched-up-together-and-on-schedule, please

Let’s look at another problem with these Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s): just like when you put a bunch of people into a small space and force them to live together, any disease spreads quickly through such a herd. The current veterinarian practice is to load the whole herd up with antibiotics to keep everyone safe.

And what about these hormones? These are used to create growth spurts so that the animal gains weight more quickly. The idea being presented is that you can factory-ize these animals.

  • All cows chemically suppressed and then artificially inseminated so they are giving birth at the same time.
  • Cattle are weaned at 7 montths. Either at birth or at weaning, the bull-calves are neutered so they put on extra weight. Calves are sent to a feed lot for fattening on corn or other grain rations.
  • At 14 months, the steers are sold to a packing plant – and the heifers (if not also slaughtered) are now ready to be inseminated.
  • If you check the schedule, this means that these heifers can now take their place in the herd besides their mama’s – and the whole oragnization keeps right on schedule. Fattened calves are sent off, the pens are cleaned – and just in time for the next set of feeder calves.

Grass finished beef is different.

It takes around 20-22 months to fatten a calf on grass. So it doesn’t fit that once-annual factory schedule. As well, the natural insemination from a bull isn’t as definite as an artificial one. So there are “windows” of birthing – weeks, not hours.

But everything is in sync with the natural conditions around them. Illness and sickness – rare. Visits with the vet – rarer. Cost and overhead – nearly non-existent. Just move your cows to fresh pastures frequently or infrequently and both the cows and the pastures stay healthy. And that makes for healthy beef.

When you know how your beef is raised, you know how healthy it is for you – or not.

Choose healthy beef to begin with – chose grass fed beef.

– – – –

While I raise my own grass-fed beef here in Missouri, I suggest you try a vendor such as La Cense Beef if you want to sample some truly wonderful, Montana-raised grass fed beef.

Posted in beef cattle, CAFO, cooking natural beef, grass fed beef | Leave a Comment »

>How my local beef is better than your supermarket version – and I can prove it!

Posted by Thrivelearning on November 2, 2009

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While I’ve been working to improve the quality of the beef I raise, I find that many people don’t know that they can buy their beef directly from the farmer. Factually, this will actually save them money when they do.

Additionally, they know how that meat was raised and what it was fed.

Most local beef is raised in an environmentally-friendly and responsible manner. This is why a great deal of it is grass-fed, also known as pasture-finished. It’s as natural as they come.

Government Intervention in Beef

Now there is some discussion about organic versus natural versus grass-fed beef. And another discussion about USDA-inspected or not.

My rule of thumb is this: the less the government is involved, the better. The Feds own the organic trademark and license it’s use. That doesn’t mean you get the best quality – but you can guarantee it costs more.

If you stick to the USDA definitions for these types of beef, you’ll quickly see that they are nearly impossible to achieve – as they are so limited. So that again means that you are going to have higher costs.

Same with USDA-inspected. All meat lockers and processors have to have regular inspections from the state health inspectors. When the USDA is involved, they have to check into other special items, like the conditions of the lymph nodes, and so on. All USDA means is that you can re-sell the pieces of a cow (like a single steak or just one pound of hamburger) and it’s guaranteed safe. (Well, almost always…)

Again, this just raises the overhead for the beef – which is passed right on to you.

The more your beef is connected to the government, the more it’s going to cost you.

Buying grass-fed beef directly

The best guarantee of your beef quality is to know how it was raised, where it came from, and who butchered it.

You should be able to drive out to these places and visit them. (Try that with Argentinean beef when you are in New York…)

I was looking around and found this great explanation from the University of Washington:

Many farmers do not sell meat by individual cuts, but offer it in sides, quarters, or smaller packs containing a variety of cuts. It may be more economical for you to purchase a whole, half (side), or quarter of grass-fed beef if you have the freezer space to do so. It is important to understand how you are buying the beef if you choose to buy a large quantity.

A variety of factors affect the amount of meat a whole, half, or quarter will yield. First, the dressing percentage (the weight of the carcass after the hide, blood, and organs are removed) will alter the amount of meat a 1,100-pound live steer will yield. Typically, dressing percentages range from 56 to 65%, so a 1,100-pound steer would result in a carcass weighing between 616 and 715 pounds.

Cutting yield is the amount of meat remaining once a carcass is further processed. Typically, with grass-fed beef, there will be a loss of 25–30%, which is attributed to the removal of bone and fat. Losses can be greater when the consumer prefers more boneless cuts. With a 650-pound carcass, a consumer can expect to take home 455–487 pounds of beef. A side of beef will yield about 200–240 pounds of beef, and a quarter will yield 100–120 pounds.

When buying meat as a whole, half, or quarter, be sure to ask who will pay the processing costs. In most situations, the consumer works directly with the processing plant and pays the processing costs; however, some farmers will pay the costs for processing and then include that charge in the overall price of the meat.

If you are unfamiliar with negotiating regarding cuts of meats and costs, ask the farmer from whom you are buying the meat to assist you with this process. Most farmers consistently work with the same processing facilities and should be able to address any questions you may have. You will need to follow up with the processing plant soon after the animal has been delivered to the facility to provide cutting instructions as well as any special requests you may have (e.g., sausages or special cuts). Depending on how long the carcasses hang before they are cut up, the meat will not be ready for 2–3 weeks. The processing facility should call you when your meat is ready. Payment is expected when the meat is picked up.

Questions to ask the producer

Farmers use a variety of production practices to produce high quality meat products, and it is worthwhile to talk to the producers about how their animals are raised. Typically, beef cattle are slaughtered at 18–24 months of age. Grass-fed beef is usually produced without growth-promoting hormones or other additives, but be sure to ask the producers about their production practices if it is important to you. Grass-fed beef may or may not be produced with corn. Some pasture-based farms feed a little grain to “finish” the animal.

One benefit of buying directly from farmers is you can talk with them about their production practices, develop an understanding of their actions, and learn the reasons for their production decisions.

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While I raise my own grass-fed beef here in Missouri, I suggest you try a vendor such as La Cense Beef if you want to sample some truly wonderful, Montana-raised grass fed beef.

With thanks to University of Wisconsin – A Consumer’s Guide to Grass-Fed Beef – A3862 – http://www.uwex.edu/ces/cty

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