Three* Things to Know About Grass-Fed Beef


Grass-Fed Beef. What's so good about it, for you? 


This Pemmican project was born out of a love for pure grass-fed beef…

But not just the beef – we have a love for the grass, a love for the land, a love for the piercing call of the killdeer when you’re out moving electric fence on a dewy pasture morning. And -of course- a love for the cattle.

Pemmican was originally, for us, a tool to support grass-fed farming. Pemmican is a pasture’s vitality, compressed and preserved for human nourishment.

That’s why grass-fed beef matters to me, as a cattleman. And greater beauty in a production system translates to better benefits for you, when you use the product.

So here are three* things YOU should know about grass-fed beef, as a beef enjoyer.

(*We may or may not have included a bonus fourth thing, at the end of this article. You'll have to read to find out.)


1) The fat is better. Much better.

It’s well-known that fat deposits are storage units for excess energy and nutrients.

The fat of grass-fed beef has a higher ratio of SATURATED fat, while grain-fed fat contains more poly-unsaturated fat (aka PUFAs). As we have discussed in previous posts, saturated fat is better for you. Furthermore, grass-fed fat contains up to 3x more micronutrients such as Vitamin E and beta carotene, both of which are fat-soluble. You can see high beta carotene levels in the amber-colored liquid fat of pasture-raised livestock:

Fat can also store toxins, to isolate them from an animal’s blood. Grass-fed cattle often live in more pristine, open, clean environments than grain-fed, feedlot-finished cattle. This means that their fat will have lower levels of toxins.


2) Cattle are hyper-specialized grass-digesting masters.

It’s been said that the digestive system of a cow is as complex as the cognition of a human. I guess the truth of that statement depends on which human we’re talking about. But it is true that cattle digestion is a miraculous work of alchemy.

It takes a blade of grass 12 days to move through a cow, on its voyage back to the pasture (in the form of a cow-pie). During that passage, the grass undergoes tongue scraping, molar grinding, saliva bathing, acid washes, enteric fermentation, more chewing, and meticulous carbohydrate extraction.

Yes, the cow does all that. No wonder they spend so much time just laying around: they’re working hard to change grass into steak.

To patient observers, this transformation appears to be a sacred process. Ruminant animals are “clean” in Scripture, and are one of the main objects of idol worship.

‘Rumination,’ which is the name of this digestive process, is also our word for deep, considerate thought, where we develop good ideas.

Now, cows often love eating a bit of grain, but an all-grain diet for a cow is an affront to the intricate order of nature.

It’d be like us eating only ice cream.

This is part of why cattle on feedlots tend to need antibiotics and other medical treatments more than their pasture-dwelling cousins.  


 3) Good grass-Fed Beef has ‘terroir.’

Last year, I did a month-long experiment eating only unsalted Pemmican. Just dried lean beef mixed with rendered fat. And the craziest thing happened.

My sense of taste sharpened. By the end of the month, I could taste whole new layers of flavor within the beef. It had notes of sweet, bitter, herbal, and floral.

I was tasting the pasture.

This is why grass-fed ranches such as Alderspring, in Idaho, are renowned for their high-end steaks: their cattle forage dozens -if not hundreds- of species of wild plants in the alpine wilderness.

And then the meat from those cattle expresses the unique, subtle flavors of those plants.

This is one of the reasons grain-fed beef is more commercially popular than grass-fed: most people like uniformity. They are used to beef that tastes the same as the beef they’re used to.

Grass-fed beef is much more variable.

That also means that some grass-fed beef is better than other grass-fed beef. Some stuff that is labeled “grass-fed beef” comes from cows that spent most of their lives in a feedlot eating alfalfa pellets.

On the other hand, some grass-fed beef comes from gorgeous places like Rocker 3 Ranch, in Central Oregon:


This dichotomy leads us to a special secret bonus point about grass-fed beef:


*4) You should visit (or at least see pictures of)
your source of grass-fed beef.*

It’s always hard to tell where your food came from, until you go and shake your farmer’s hand.

That’s what we did, and we can’t wait to get back out to visit the good folks behind Oreganic Beef Company, the source of all of the grass-fed lean beef in Steadfast Pemmican.




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