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Grass Fed Beef in Chicago?

Grass Fed Beef in Chicago?
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  • Grass Fed Beef in Chicago?

    Post #1 - December 30th, 2006, 7:48 pm
    Post #1 - December 30th, 2006, 7:48 pm Post #1 - December 30th, 2006, 7:48 pm
    Does anyone sell grass-fed beef in Chicago?
  • Post #2 - December 30th, 2006, 11:59 pm
    Post #2 - December 30th, 2006, 11:59 pm Post #2 - December 30th, 2006, 11:59 pm
    Both Whole Foods and Sunset Foods sell at least one brand of grass-fed beef (Tallgrass). Fox & Obel does, too.
  • Post #3 - December 30th, 2006, 11:59 pm
    Post #3 - December 30th, 2006, 11:59 pm Post #3 - December 30th, 2006, 11:59 pm
    Yes. Green City Market has a vendor there who sells a largely grass-fed beef. I bought a roast of him last autumn and it was very good: tight, tense muscle, quite lean and yet flavorful.

    I believe Whole Foods offers Bill Curtis' Tall Grass beef.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #4 - December 31st, 2006, 12:32 am
    Post #4 - December 31st, 2006, 12:32 am Post #4 - December 31st, 2006, 12:32 am
    HI,

    If you want a specific cut of grass fed beef, then you are advised to call in advance. I needed a quantity of Tall Grass flank steaks last summer. Fox and Obel had them, though Sunset Foods in Highland Park did not. Sunset did contact Tall Grass to special order the flank steaks. They declined Sunset because they only get yield a box of flank steaks per month. Obviously there is a very small volume of meat being produced by Tall Grass.

    I have seen Australian grass fed meat at Trader Joes in the freezer section.

    Wherever you do choose to shop for this, I recommend calling in advance to confirm availability of the cut you may want.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #5 - December 31st, 2006, 8:35 am
    Post #5 - December 31st, 2006, 8:35 am Post #5 - December 31st, 2006, 8:35 am
    Can someone explain to me why grass fed beef is suddenly all the rage? When I lived on the West Coast, where grass fed beef is de riguer, people went crazy for midwestern corn fed beef, citing it's superior flavor and tenderness. Is this simpley a case of "the grass is greener" (so to speak).
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #6 - December 31st, 2006, 10:21 am
    Post #6 - December 31st, 2006, 10:21 am Post #6 - December 31st, 2006, 10:21 am
    stevez wrote:Can someone explain to me why grass fed beef is suddenly all the rage? When I lived on the West Coast, where grass fed beef is de riguer, people went crazy for midwestern corn fed beef, citing it's superior flavor and tenderness. Is this simpley a case of "the grass is greener" (so to speak).


    There are probably a number of reasons for the interest in this meat, but speaking strictly for myself, Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma got me interested in sampling what beef might have tasted like before the "military-industrial-food chain" starting mass producing cheap corn, which made its way into beef and something like a third of the other items on our grocery store shelves.

    Corn fed beef is fatter and marbling is a key component of the meat grading system. I'm not sure you could even produce a Prime cut on grass. My guess is that we are now so accustomed to the taste of corn fed beef that there's no way from an aesthetic (not to mention an economic) standpoint that grass fed beef could make a comeback. So it remains a speciality item...and like all specialty items, it carries some cache.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #7 - December 31st, 2006, 10:44 am
    Post #7 - December 31st, 2006, 10:44 am Post #7 - December 31st, 2006, 10:44 am
    Cynthia wrote:Both Whole Foods and Sunset Foods sell at least one brand of grass-fed beef (Tallgrass). Fox & Obel does, too.

    Foodstuffs (in Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, and Lake Forest) also sells Tallgrass beef.
  • Post #8 - December 31st, 2006, 10:50 am
    Post #8 - December 31st, 2006, 10:50 am Post #8 - December 31st, 2006, 10:50 am
    Also, it is said that the grass-fed beef is healthier, with more omega-3 fatty acids than corn-fed beef. So while some are buying it for cache, some are buying it because they want what they perceive as being more healthful food.

    For myself, I wanted to try grass-fed beef to see what all the fuss was about. I will say that my experience was that, while I won't say it was the best steak I ever had, it was mighty tasty. It didn't need any "help," in the form of garlic or rubs to taste good, and it tasted "beefier," more like I want a steak to taste. Is it worth the price? Sometimes -- if you want a nice piece of unadorned meat. But the difference isn't so great that it would come through heavy amounts of preparation, spicing, sauces, etc. But I'd definitely recommend trying it.

    Somewhat relatedly, I was just reading an article (in Food&Wine? Wine Spectactor? sorry, don't remember which) about wagyu beef, which apparently can get marbled on grass and has more "good" cholesterol than regular beef, regardless of what you feed it. And it has even more cache.
  • Post #9 - December 31st, 2006, 10:50 am
    Post #9 - December 31st, 2006, 10:50 am Post #9 - December 31st, 2006, 10:50 am
    David Hammond wrote:
    stevez wrote:Can someone explain to me why grass fed beef is suddenly all the rage? When I lived on the West Coast, where grass fed beef is de riguer, people went crazy for midwestern corn fed beef, citing it's superior flavor and tenderness. Is this simpley a case of "the grass is greener" (so to speak).


    There are probably a number of reasons for the interest in this meat, but speaking strictly for myself, Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma got me interested in sampling what beef might have tasted like before the "military-industrial-food chain" starting mass producing cheap corn, which made its way into beef and something like a third of the other items on our grocery store shelves.

    Corn fed beef is fatter and marbling is a key component of the meat grading system. I'm not sure you could even produce a Prime cut on grass. My guess is that we are now so accustomed to the taste of corn fed beef that there's no way from an aesthetic (not to mention an economic) standpoint that grass fed beef could make a comeback. So it remains a speciality item...and like all specialty items, it carries some cache.

    Hammond


    I'm still confused. Everything in this posting (better marbling, more fat) confirms that corn fed should (all other things being equal) taste better and be more tender. Is it strictly the quest for the "flavor of the month" that is creating the buzz about grass fed beef? Is there an anti-corn lobby out there?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #10 - December 31st, 2006, 10:58 am
    Post #10 - December 31st, 2006, 10:58 am Post #10 - December 31st, 2006, 10:58 am
    stevez wrote:I'm still confused. Everything in this posting (better marbling, more fat) confirms that corn fed should (all other things being equal) taste better and be more tender. Is it strictly the quest for the "flavor of the month" that is creating the buzz about grass fed beef? Is there an anti-corn lobby out there?


    There are certainly people who worry about the amount of corn in our diet, but I think this is more part of the "back to nature" movement. And, as I noted above, it is said to be more wholesome, and it definitely has good flavor. I quite enjoyed it and would recommend trying one and finding out what you think. Of course, the price will somewhat limit how many grass-fed steaks I eat, but that's another issue.
  • Post #11 - December 31st, 2006, 10:59 am
    Post #11 - December 31st, 2006, 10:59 am Post #11 - December 31st, 2006, 10:59 am
    stevez wrote:I'm still confused. Everything in this posting (better marbling, more fat) confirms that corn fed should (all other things being equal) taste better and be more tender. Is it strictly the quest for the "flavor of the month" that is creating the buzz about grass fed beef?


    I believe there is a "flavor of the month" cache to grass fed beef. I would not argue that it's "better" than corn fed beef, just different, and so it's interesting to eat every now and again. I'm not bashing the corn fed variety, and that's why I wanted to acknowledge its higher fat content and more popular flavor. I would definitely like the option of buying grass fed beef at a more competitive price -- not that I would eat it exclusively, but just to vary the flavors on the plate now and again.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #12 - December 31st, 2006, 11:47 am
    Post #12 - December 31st, 2006, 11:47 am Post #12 - December 31st, 2006, 11:47 am
    I tend to think in terms of the (probably false) analogy:

    grass-fed beef is to free-range chicken

    as

    corn-finished beef is to battery chicken.

    Aesthetically, the differences are mostly in flavor and texture, noticeable but not overpowering.

    Morally, the differences are mostly in what you can get away with claiming. : )

    I've got to admit that the best turkey I ever cooked/ate was a free-range traditional breed; and the best steak I ever had was in Argentina--totally Pampas-fed.


    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #13 - December 31st, 2006, 11:54 am
    Post #13 - December 31st, 2006, 11:54 am Post #13 - December 31st, 2006, 11:54 am
    Geo wrote:I tend to think in terms of the (probably false) analogy:

    grass-fed beef is to free-range chicken

    corn-finished beef is to battery chicken.

    Morally, the differences are mostly in what you can get away with claiming. : )


    The moral issue is out-of-mind for many of us most of the time, but it does seem that a cow probably has a better life swinging around on pasteurland eating grass (which the ruminant stomach evolved to digest) as opposed to spending his 18-month life in a feedlot developing acidosis, which pathogenesis is cut short by the slaughterhouse.

    Either way, of course, the outcome is the same: IN MY BELLY!

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #14 - December 31st, 2006, 12:26 pm
    Post #14 - December 31st, 2006, 12:26 pm Post #14 - December 31st, 2006, 12:26 pm
    I'm with you Hammond.

    Now, for those who might be interested in a bit of background, here's a story about the best (according to interested parties, of course!) cattle-feeding grasslands in the world, the Kansas Flint Hills:

    http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2001/may/2 ... e_call_in/


    This is an achingly beautiful area: as you drive into it, you feel like you're entering the shore area of an ocean. Simply gorgeous.

    And for those of you who are really interested in the bottom line, here's how grass-feeding beef works:

    http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/library/lvstk2/sb638.pdf




    I don't know for sure, but I'd bet that it would be possible to buy a Flint Hills-finished steer.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #15 - December 31st, 2006, 12:37 pm
    Post #15 - December 31st, 2006, 12:37 pm Post #15 - December 31st, 2006, 12:37 pm
    Geo,

    Thanks for posting the research.

    Skimming the KSU study, I was reminded that another interesting aspect of grass fed beef is that the flavor of the meat* will vary based on the grasses consumed. This flavor variation is less likely, of course, with consistently produced industrial corn feed.

    Hammond

    *Milk flavor will also vary based on different grasses consumed, viz "Napoleon Dynamite."
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #16 - December 31st, 2006, 12:43 pm
    Post #16 - December 31st, 2006, 12:43 pm Post #16 - December 31st, 2006, 12:43 pm
    You can also go to the Tallgrass Beef website and click on "Why is it better?" for their explanation.

    I'm not saying their beef is, or isn't, better. I like what tastes good!
  • Post #17 - December 31st, 2006, 12:47 pm
    Post #17 - December 31st, 2006, 12:47 pm Post #17 - December 31st, 2006, 12:47 pm
    nsxtasy wrote:I'm not saying their beef is, or isn't, better. I like what tastes good!


    Like you, the "which is better" argument is not one I'd want to have.

    What I would argue is that it's good (better, if you will) to vary the flavors one puts in one's mouth; you got lots of taste buds; why not use 'em all? Having grass fed beef now and again is a way to savor different flavors that are less likely to develop with cattle raised on corn.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #18 - December 31st, 2006, 12:56 pm
    Post #18 - December 31st, 2006, 12:56 pm Post #18 - December 31st, 2006, 12:56 pm
    I'm currently reading The United States of Arugula and during the discussion of the United States' post-war move to grain-fed beef for economic reasons, a mention is made of the stress that grains puts on the digestive system of younger cattle (this stress and subsequent illness in cattle led to the need for prophylactic antibiotics).

    The discussion led to Bill Niman and how his cattle begin as grazing cattle and when they're sufficiently developed they're switched to a grain mixture. So, Niman Ranch beef is a pretty good example of grass and grain fed beef.

    Beyond an argument of humaneness or health aspects of antibiotics, there is a taste argument that an animal under less physical stress will yield better food.

    I can't say if I think one tastes better than the other, but the history of grain-fed beef in the US is quite interesting. This particular chapter, if not the whole book, is worth a read.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #19 - December 31st, 2006, 1:03 pm
    Post #19 - December 31st, 2006, 1:03 pm Post #19 - December 31st, 2006, 1:03 pm
    And then there are those worries about "industrial cannibalizm," the processing of cattle byproducts into cattle feed, passing along any problems one group of cattle may have had to the next one, including residual hormones and antibiotics. I think that, even if you don't eat grass-fed beef, a good case can be made for looking for good qualities of meat that are raised on vegetarian diets or not pumped full of hormones or antibiotics -- if you can afford that meat, that is.
  • Post #20 - December 31st, 2006, 1:04 pm
    Post #20 - December 31st, 2006, 1:04 pm Post #20 - December 31st, 2006, 1:04 pm
    eatchicago wrote:Beyond an argument of humaneness or health aspects of antibiotics, there is a taste argument that an animal under less physical stress will yield better food.


    I take that as a matter of faith.

    Further, and I have no science to back this up either, it seems that a cow that has survived without antibiotics, just like a plant that has surivived without chemical fertilizers, may harbor good mojo that cannot develop when artificial supports supplant the organism's innate ability to thrive.

    And on the taste issue, French wine may taste as good as it does because the vines have to work hard to grow in relatively inhospitable soil.

    If the organism does not work to survive disease and harsh environmental conditions, perhaps it cannot develop the same complex and pleasing flavor profile (and perhaps healthful nutrients). Same applies to humans, in the sense that adversity develops character.

    Hammond
    Last edited by David Hammond on December 31st, 2006, 1:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #21 - December 31st, 2006, 1:10 pm
    Post #21 - December 31st, 2006, 1:10 pm Post #21 - December 31st, 2006, 1:10 pm
    David Hammond wrote: Same applies to humans, in the sense that adversity develops character.


    Thank you for this. It's the first thing that popped into my mind when I read the line about French wines in inhospitable soil.
  • Post #22 - December 31st, 2006, 2:25 pm
    Post #22 - December 31st, 2006, 2:25 pm Post #22 - December 31st, 2006, 2:25 pm
    Cynthia wrote:
    There are certainly people who worry about the amount of corn in our diet, but I think this is more part of the "back to nature" movement. And, as I noted above, it is said to be more wholesome, and it definitely has good flavor. I quite enjoyed it and would recommend trying one and finding out what you think. Of course, the price will somewhat limit how many grass-fed steaks I eat, but that's another issue.


    I'm not sure about the validity of not eating corn to get "back to nature", but I'll certainly make a point of trying some grass fed beef soon to see what the fuss is about. If it has a different flavor profile, I'd like to check it out, though my memories of the grass fed beef we were forced to buy in Washington State and California back in the 70's was that it was tougher and not nearly as flavorful as the midwest corn-fed variety. Back then I was able to maintain vegetarianism for 5 years, mostly because I couldn't get a good steak. :lol:
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #23 - December 31st, 2006, 2:35 pm
    Post #23 - December 31st, 2006, 2:35 pm Post #23 - December 31st, 2006, 2:35 pm
    stevez wrote:I'm not sure about the validity of not eating corn to get "back to nature",


    Sorry I didn't state it more clearly. You had asked if there was an anti-corn group, and I was trying to affirm that yes, there is something of an anti-corn group, because it's not great nutritionally. Then the "but" in my sentence was meant to say that the grass-fed beef was something else, the back to nature thing. The two are not unrelated, but I didn't make it clear that I was contrasting them.

    I, too, have eaten tough, bad steak, both out West and in the Southwest. This stuff from the prairies is much better. It may not convert you to grass-fed, but it certainly won't drive you to vegetarianism. :-)
  • Post #24 - December 31st, 2006, 3:16 pm
    Post #24 - December 31st, 2006, 3:16 pm Post #24 - December 31st, 2006, 3:16 pm
    Cynthia wrote:
    stevez wrote:I'm not sure about the validity of not eating corn to get "back to nature",


    Sorry I didn't state it more clearly. You had asked if there was an anti-corn group, and I was trying to affirm that yes, there is something of an anti-corn group, because it's not great nutritionally. Then the "but" in my sentence was meant to say that the grass-fed beef was something else, the back to nature thing. The two are not unrelated, but I didn't make it clear that I was contrasting them.

    I, too, have eaten tough, bad steak, both out West and in the Southwest. This stuff from the prairies is much better. It may not convert you to grass-fed, but it certainly won't drive you to vegetarianism. :-)


    Grass-fed beef is also more “natural” in the sense that cows are supposed to eat grass (see ruminant stomach evolution point, above) and prairie grass, unlike industrial feed corn, is not pumped up with petroleum-based fertilizers on corporate farms.

    The whole “natural” issue (which is also being addressed in the Lay’s potato chip discussion), is extremely slippery, but if by the word we mean “things that grow with minimal human intervention,” then I’d say that grass-fed beef is closer to that than corn-fed beef.

    None of which addresses the taste issue, of course.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #25 - December 31st, 2006, 8:12 pm
    Post #25 - December 31st, 2006, 8:12 pm Post #25 - December 31st, 2006, 8:12 pm
    stevez wrote:Can someone explain to me why grass fed beef is suddenly all the rage? When I lived on the West Coast, where grass fed beef is de riguer, people went crazy for midwestern corn fed beef, citing it's superior flavor and tenderness. Is this simply a case of "the grass is greener" (so to speak).


    In my prior situation back in Ohio, we had a number of our employees who were very active in 4-H.

    Each year, the company would purchase a steer, a hog, a flock of chickens and a lamb to support our employees' 4-H projects and the local 4-h programs. Since we were filling our freezers with a portion of the meat (with the rest going to the local food bank, we always requested that the young steer's diet be supplemented with grain in order to ensure proper marbling. Of course, this was in addition to the normal grazing in the local fields. And the meat turned out quite well.
  • Post #26 - January 1st, 2007, 1:42 am
    Post #26 - January 1st, 2007, 1:42 am Post #26 - January 1st, 2007, 1:42 am
    jlawrence01 wrote:we always requested that the young steer's diet be supplemented with grain in order to ensure proper marbling. Of course, this was in addition to the normal grazing in the local fields. And the meat turned out quite well.


    Beef vendors I spoke with at Farmers Markets in Oak Park and Lincoln Park said they used some corn feed during final "fattening up" periods. This seems like a reasonable compromise to me: let the critters eat grass in open fields for most of their lives, then during their twilight years -- roughly months 14-18 -- let them gorge on corn to make themselves more tasty for our tables.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #27 - January 1st, 2007, 2:04 am
    Post #27 - January 1st, 2007, 2:04 am Post #27 - January 1st, 2007, 2:04 am
    there is also evidence that suggests that the e-coli that presents a problem for humans (i forget which number) only surfaces during the 'fattening' period in which the cows are fed corn and the bacteria makeup of their gut changes.
  • Post #28 - January 1st, 2007, 2:19 am
    Post #28 - January 1st, 2007, 2:19 am Post #28 - January 1st, 2007, 2:19 am
    David Hammond wrote:
    jlawrence01 wrote:we always requested that the young steer's diet be supplemented with grain in order to ensure proper marbling. Of course, this was in addition to the normal grazing in the local fields. And the meat turned out quite well.


    Beef vendors I spoke with at Farmers Markets in Oak Park and Lincoln Park said they used some corn feed during final "fattening up" periods. This seems like a reasonable compromise to me: let the critters eat grass in open fields for most of their lives, then during their twilight years -- roughly months 14-18 -- let them gorge on corn to make themselves more tasty for our tables.

    Hammond


    ...but isn't that how virtually all cattle is raised? Most steers are raised on grass until they're sent to feedlots, where they get pumped full of antibiotics and corn.

    The whole point of grass fed beef is to skip this step. Also, grass fed cattle tend to be older at slaughter.. 2-2.5yrs on grass instead of 1.5 on corn.

    If you're going to try grass fed beef, go for beef that was raised 100% on grasses. It's not going to be prime, and the fat is going to be yellow, but it will taste markedly different from corn fed beef.

    While you're at it, pick up some bison steaks. Also grass fed, and with a taste and texture and fat content similar to grass fed beef. It's a bit more gamey than grass fed beef, though.

    I eat a lot of grain fed beef, and not much grass fed beef (an issue of economics and availability), but I find that grain-fed beef tastes kind of... watery compared to grass fed. Less beefy. Less intense. The texture and mouthfeel are great, the flavor just isn't as nice.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #29 - January 1st, 2007, 2:33 am
    Post #29 - January 1st, 2007, 2:33 am Post #29 - January 1st, 2007, 2:33 am
    gleam wrote:
    David Hammond wrote:
    jlawrence01 wrote:we always requested that the young steer's diet be supplemented with grain in order to ensure proper marbling. Of course, this was in addition to the normal grazing in the local fields. And the meat turned out quite well.


    Beef vendors I spoke with at Farmers Markets in Oak Park and Lincoln Park said they used some corn feed during final "fattening up" periods. This seems like a reasonable compromise to me: let the critters eat grass in open fields for most of their lives, then during their twilight years -- roughly months 14-18 -- let them gorge on corn to make themselves more tasty for our tables.

    Hammond


    ...but isn't that how virtually all cattle is raised? Most steers are raised on grass until they're sent to feedlots, where they get pumped full of antibiotics and corn.


    Gosh, Ed, I sure don't think that's the way most cattle in the U.S. are raised. My understanding is that most cattle in the U.S. spend most of their lives in feedlots eating corn.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #30 - January 1st, 2007, 2:59 am
    Post #30 - January 1st, 2007, 2:59 am Post #30 - January 1st, 2007, 2:59 am
    Yeah, you're right on further review. They spend about 6 months on grass and then 8-10 on corn/grain.

    I was misremembering this NYT magazine article by Michael Pollan from 2002.

    It's worth a read.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.

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