Local Grass-Finished Beef – It’s What’s for Dinner (or Breakfast or Lunch)

By KRISTEN LEE-CHARLSON

In a recent trip to the Clark Fork Farmer’s Market, I spoke with Scott Barger, the ranch manager for Mannix Family Beef in Helmville, MT, located about 65 miles from Missoula in the Blackfoot Valley. It was crazy windy at the market that day but that didn’t stop folks from being out and spending their food dollars on local fare.

We are fortunate in western Montana to have land, water, and sustainably-minded ranchers, such as the Mannix family, to raise and bring to market this healthful local food product.

There is quite a bit of information available on the health and environmental benefits of grass finished vs. grain or corn fed beef. Here are a few key highlights – complete details at the source:

Grass-Fed Basics: If you are new to the idea of grass-fed beef, start here.

http://eatwild.com/basics.html – © 2010 by Jo Robinson

If you read no further – the most important and bottom-line is this: eating this type of food is The Healthiest Choice. When you choose to eat meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals raised on pasture, you are improving the welfare of the animals, helping to put an end to environmental degradation, helping small-scale ranchers and farmers make a living from the land, helping to sustain rural communities, and giving your family the healthiest possible food. It’s a win-win-win-win situation.

Other topics you may want to research include:

Back to Pasture
More Nutritious
The Art and Science of Grassfarming
Factory Farming
Unnatural Diets
Animal Stress
Caged Pigs, Chickens, Ducks and Geese
Environmental Degradation

Cooking: When you make the switch over to pastured meats, it is really important that you do not continue using the same cooking methods that you did for the conventionally raised products. The biggest mistake people make when cooking grass fed beef is over-cooking it. Following these steps will help ensure you don’t make that mistake.

Tips for Cooking Grass-Fed Beef (from Good Meat by Deborah Krasner)

  1. Never pierce the meat with a fork, as valuable juices will be lost. Use tongs or spatula to turn the meat. Use the back of a carving knife to hold the meat in place as you slice it.
  2. Add salt in the form of a rub, or in the pan as the meat cooks, not in a marinade, which tends to draw out the moisture.
  3. Use a meat thermometer to judge doneness, and stop cooking when it registers 10 or so degrees less than the ideal temperature. This allows for “oven rise” – the continued internal cooking that occurs when the meat is first removed from the heat source and is rested.
  4. Always let roasted meat rest for at least 15 minutes before carving – that is particularly important with grass-fed beef, as it contains less fat to hold in moisture than industrial meat does.
  5. Serve grilled, seared or roasted grass-fed beef rare – 120º F.

Note: And remember when carving to cut across the grain of the meat.

Starting simple… Everyone loves a good, juicy burger. Here is an easy recipe to get you started:

Salt Seared Burger (adapted from Good Meat by Deborah Krasner)

1 pound good grass-fed beef

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, such as Celtic (for pan searing only)

Bring the meat to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Blot the meat surface dry after removing it from the package. Form 4 burgers. Use your thumb to form an indentation in the top center of each.

Heat a dry, seasoned cast-iron frying pan or grill pan to hot over high heat. Pour the salt into the pan scattering it across the entire surface. As soon as the salt begins to pop add the burgers. Cook about 3 minutes on each side, turning as soon as they do not stick and are browned. Let rest for a few minutes to retain all of the juicy goodness. Enjoy!

Some good books on the subject:

Pasture Perfect by Jo Robinson

The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook by Shannon Hayes

Good Meat: The Comprehensive Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat by Deborah Krasner

Mannix Family Beef is sold in Missoula at the Good Food Store, through the Heirloom Project (for info, email project.heirloom@gmail.com), and at Scotty’sTable.

Here is even more information, copied from the Mannix Family Grass Finished Beef web site:

Mannix Family Grass Finished Beef sustains our fifth-generation ranch while enhancing the resources we depend on and the broader community in which we live. Our family’s ranch enjoys the legacy laid down before us by our forefathers while striving to instill the same strong conservation and stewardship values in the next generation. We have been blessed with abundant resources of water, wildlife, grass, timber, open space, and beauty. It has been our goal to maintain a viable ranching operation while enhancing the resources that sustain us. We also recognize that society values these same resources equally and we have a responsibility to protect the special qualities that fall under our management.

Mannix Family grass finished cattle are raised from birth to finish weight, at 20-24 months of age, on our ranch in Montana’s Blackfoot Valley. An all forage diet is the essence of our healthy product. Our cattle are never given growth hormones, antibiotics, or concentrated starch feeds.

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Kristen has been the publisher of edibleMISSOULA magazine for the past 4 years, a publication celebrating the bounty of local seasonal foods and farming. She is an accomplished chef, caterer and home-cook. As a mother, she is dedicated to educating and empowering others about traditional food preparation and the joy and economy of eating local. She sits on the board of the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition of Missoula County (CFAC) and serves on the Montana Food Systems Council; as well as being a strong advocate for more localized and sustainable food system. She is working on a new venture – the Heirloom Projectexploring traditional foods, farming & modernhomemaking.