Grass fed beef is all the rage in healthy beef eating. But before you splurge on a grass-fed only cut of beef or before you insist on ordering a fully grass fed steak in a restaurant there are some things you need to know. What your Wagyu eats matters.
Years ago I worked for a famous candy company known for their use of the freshest and highest quality ingredients. They would only use Blue Diamond Almonds, Challenge Butter, and C&H Pure Cane Sugar in their products. Everything from blueberries to dates were sourced from local farms.
Their name to this day is associated with a higher level of quality, after about 100 years in business. They are insanely successful with legions of rabid, loyal fans.
When I went to work for them I knew their reputation. Our family had been consumers of their products for years because there simply was nothing else like them out there on the market.
They are pricey, for sure. But you can count on the experience of true quality every time.
But it was not until I went to work for them that I began to understand the concept of flavor profiles and how that played a part in how their product was made.
Every new shipment of nuts and fruits was not only tested for food safety but it was also tasted. It had to have the right flavor profile.
The real lesson came from watching the chocolate being made.
The company sourced chocolate from just a few suppliers of cocoa beans. They wanted a specific type of bean, grown in a specific region, and bearing a specific kind of flavor.
I was fascinated to see dozens of types of beans from regions all over the world in testing for what they could be used for in new candy products.
That same kind of care in profiling food of every type happens with quality producers. That is why some producers are so successful.
You take a blueberry grown in Maine and it will look and taste different than a blueberry from California.
Different products are made simply because the same variety of food can have a different flavor profile, a different texture, and a different taste.
The same thing is absolutely true of beef.
When we cook beef we select it like we select a good melon. It has to look just right and be prepared “just so”.
In fact, beef is likely one of the most flavor driven foods we consume. How we cook it is something we debate (rare vs. well done?).
For example, I recently took a departure in my family-famous chili. In our house chili is a fall and winter season meal. I have a very simple recipe born of necessity when my children were little because they hated vegetables. It’s always been a very beefy recipe, usually using ground beef.
But I had this Wagyu chuck roast and I had pulled it from the freezer for a Sunday meal.
Sunday came and went and the meal didn’t get done and I needed to use it. So I cut it up and threw it in the chili.
I had a full crowd that night, with children, spouses and grandchildren present. Their expectation of Dad’s traditional chili was shattered with the addition of Wagyu chuck roast.
It shifted the expected taste of the chili and made it so much better I had kids swearing they could hear angels sing.
I was even surprised myself. I knew it would be better but sometimes you get taken to such a higher level with Wagyu its shocking.
Now my chili can never go back. It’s Wagyu chuck chili from here on out.
That’s the thing about beef and about Wagyu in particular.
We might cook it in an oven, or in a skillet, or over fire, wood and coals. We might season it, sauce it, and marinate it to get a specific taste. It is all about the taste – the experience.
This is one reason why we began to raise full blood Wagyu beef. When we eat it we can taste the difference. It has a stronger flavor profile than other breeds of beef.
Bloodlines, you see, matter.
The DNA of the animal is tracked so carefully that we can literally create a unique beef product based on where we know it comes from genetically.
But there is so much more to the science of flavor. We have learned that what our wagyu eats matters.
Traditional beef producers, especially in the United States, have mass produced incredible populations of common cattle breeds and have for generations fed them with one thought in mind: get them fat.
After all, the fatter a beef cow is the bigger the profits will be. They use a lot of corn, grain and fillers in the effort to fatten them up.
But the process of making them fat affects their flavor.
That is why full blood Wagyu producers generate such flavorful differences in their meat.
We’re not feeding our cows just anything.
Our cattle are free range. They graze on natural high-altitude mountain grasses.
We watch them. They are particular in what they eat, too. Cows are like everyone else. Flavor matters to them.
So we watch them for the kinds of grasses and plants they prefer to consume. We study what those natural food sources do to their flavor.
We provide two and only two kinds of cattle in our Wagyu: those that are grass fed only and others that are grass fed for the entirety of their lives until the last 90 days or so when we adjust their diet to include grain.
The beef that comes from these two methods vary widely in taste. Both are high quality and full of flavor. But they are different from each other.
A grass fed-only animal will be leaner. You’re going to notice they are more muscular and the full blood flavor of the meat is distinctly “earthy”. Some describe it as having a heavier, nuttier kind of flavor. A grass fed-only animal will have a different texture, making the eating experience very unique compared to a grain-finished animal.
Grass fed beef cooks a little differently as well. Ask any chef. The overall lower fat, leaner proteins and different enzymes causes performance differences from processing to plate.
Some who change to fully organic grass fed beef take some time to adjust their routines in cooking and seasoning, too. It is simply a different product.
A grain-finished animal is going to have a more robust taste – a kind of burst of flavor and aroma you do not get with a grass-only fed animal.
The grain does result in a beefier cow. In Wagyu, that translates into meat that is easier to cut and one that lingers longer in the mouth as it is consumed. This comes from the good fats of Wagyu.
We offer both grass-only and grain-finished products because both give a satisfying and unique beef eating experience.
We have had some observe that the full blood Wagyu they get from us which is produced in the Wasatch mountains of the American West tastes different than full blood Wagyu from a rancher in, say, the lush valleys of Pennsylvania.
This makes perfect sense.
We can have the same genetic make-up in our cattle and yet create unique flavor profiles due to the differences in our grass, water, environmental conditions and even the “type” of sunshine they get. Honestly speaking, this is what the Japanese ranchers have done over generations that made Wagyu so famous around the world.
Beef shopping these days is literally like walking into wine shop: you can get greater variety now based on dozens of factors that result in uniquely flavored products.
Whether you choose grass-only or grain-finished Wagyu from us is not really important. It is a preference.
What is important is the great experience we hope you have from our beef. Please reach out to share with us what those experiences are and don’t be shy in sharing what you think would help our Wagyu to taste even better.