We talk about Elmwood Stock Farm’s beef as “organic, grass-fed, grass-finished, dry-aged, USDA Choice grade, Angus-Wagyu beef.” This is a mouthful, and every detail is important! That the beef you purchase from us is grass-fed and grass-finished is surprising to many, as it actually has more flavor, tenderness and moisture than you might expect.
Here, farmers Mac Stone and John Bell explain why Elmwood Stock Farm beef is tender and flavorful, and they and farm chef Alex Jenkins explain exactly how to cook this grass-fed, grass-finished beef to perfection.
“I do not think cooking Elmwood beef is any different cooking than any other Choice grade beef, it only brings more flavor,” says Mac.
Chef Alex agrees, saying Elmwood Stock Farm meats—steaks, in particular—have a deeper or richer flavor. (Our organic, grass-fed ribeye steaks are her favorite.)
Part of the flavor difference comes from the varied forage diet. “The forages perform differently when consumed by the same animal depending on the time of year and stage of growth of the plant. Plus, the cattle do sometimes graze annual plants and seasonally varying weeds,” says John.
Plus, Mac explains, “the fat on grass-fed beef has a yellowish tint, imparted from the beta-carotene in the grass.”
This varied diet, as opposed to one of grains and dry or fermented forage, adds complexity to the beef flavor profile.
USDA Choice Grass-Fed Beef
The main difference between Elmwood Stock Farm grass-fed, grass-finished beef and others is in the USDA grade. On the five-level USDA grading scale, three grades are most commonly labeled for “people food”: Prime, Choice and Select (in order from most flavorful and tender to least).
All of the Elmwood Stock Farm beef cuts grade Choice or better, whereas many grass-fed beef brands grade Select. We are not bragging, but this is an important distinction!
“John ‘finishes’ our beef on grass; no grains needed. We know the cattle are doing well when they have that bloom—a shiny coat and healthy look—which is an indicator of intramuscular fat (marbling) and fat cover,” explains Mac.
This grass finishing has taken some time to work out, and we’re always learning how to produce the best beef we can. Finding the right mix of forages and the right breeding for animals to thrive on the forages is more difficult than turning out cattle on a pasture and calling the beef “grass fed.”
“Different forages provide high energy at different times of the year. So to raise cattle on forages requires a lot of planning. It also results in less consistent year-round supply of the forage, so it’s harder to have a consistent year-round supply of our beef,” John explains. On our end, we work hard so you aren’t so impacted by the supply ups and downs.
“If the beef is lean, it is often dry, as well, and is more likely to be tough. Intramuscular fat adds moisture and flavor within the meat and can reduce the connective strength between muscle fibers, thus the meat is more likely to be tender,” he continues.
As Mac often says, producing heart-healthy, environmentally conscious meat this way is simple, but it isn’t easy. You all (and our farmers) want to eat Choice grade grass-fed beef, so we produce Choice-grade grass-fed beef.
“We are determined to not compromise the quality of the beef just so we can call it ‘grass-fed,’” John says. “And since it is forage fed and finished, it has a fat profile that is not only not bad for you but actually good for you. And since the cattle are grazed in a manner that at times resembles how bison herds migrated while grazing across this area centuries ago, our beef production builds soil, sequesters carbon and contributes to climate remediation.”
Cooking Beef: Start Here
If you’re not so sure where to begin in cooking Elmwood Stock Farm beef, try these recommendations:
* I suggest ground beef or ground round for tacos, hamburgers or spaghetti sauce,” says Mac. “That will give them a good flavor profile.”
* “Chuck roast in a slow cooker with 1/2 inch of beef broth or water—just enough to steam. Add salt and pepper, and let it cook on low for half a day. It will be fall-apart tender, flavorful and moist. Awesome,” says John.
* Try Chef Alex’s “fancy French” braising liquid for your roast: red wine, beef stock, thyme and a bay leaf.
“In my experience, the roasts are where Elmwood Stock Farm beef dominates. It’s packed with flavor and the yield is excellent, even after braising for a long time,” she says.
* John’s favorite: New York Strip steak, grilled two to three minutes on one side, then flipped and grilled for about 5 minutes on the other. Salt it fresh off the grill.
“Go light on the marinades and spices, and enjoy the natural, satisfying flavor of beef from animals raised with integrity,” he says.
Mac agrees with John’s steak preparation but prefers the organic, grass-fed, grass-finished ribeyes.
* Make beef broth with our grass-fed, grass-finished beef marrow or beef soup bones. Use this broth in place of water for many cooking needs, including in making rice, as a base for soup and to jump-start your roast marinade.
* Try the premade hamburger patties. Mac calls these “fast food,” because they don’t even have to be fully thawed before you cook them.
“If you like to cook, you can make your own burgers. Otherwise, our patties are pretty cool. It’s really hard to make your own patties that are consistent and flat without them falling apart,” John says.
Cooking Beef: In Summary
Foolproof Method for Cooking Elmwood Stock Farm Grass-Fed Beef:
Step 1: Order online to receive your preferred cuts at the farm or farmers market, delivered to your home, or shipped nationwide.
Step 2: Thaw your beef in its original packaging in the fridge. To speed thawing, submerge the package in a bowl of cold water, not warm water. Read the US Department of Agriculture’s safe beef thawing tips.
Step 3: Season and cook as you would other types of beef.
Step 4: Enjoy your meal knowing you’re eating beef that’s lighter on the planet and better for your body.
Looking for more guidance? Let Mac be your grass-fed, grass-finished beef concierge! Contact us, and we’ll answer all of your beef cooking questions.