We’d like to start right off the bat and say that good grass-fed beef shouldn’t taste strange or gamey! Have you tried grass-fed beef because you’ve heard it’s healthier only to be disappointed with the flavor?
Some people complain that it is a little fishy or “wild”. Others say that it is a little tough and leathery compared to regular beef. If the animal has been correctly raised, it will not be like that!
Farmers who are experts in raising grass-fed animals tell us that the reason for these issues is that it is difficult to fatten animals on grass.
Fat – particularly good marbling through the meat – is what gives the meat that melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness and tenderness that all meat-eaters love. The trick is, according to our farmer expert, to fatten the animal well at the end of its life.
However, there are other reasons for grass-fed meat tasting different from feedlot beef that we’ll look at just now.
Why Eat Grass-fed Beef?
There are many reasons to choose grass-fed over feedlot beef, ranging from environmental to animal welfare to nutrition.
We won’t get into the environmental or welfare sides here, but certainly, the saying, “you are what you eat” also applies to cattle. The way the cattle are fed has a big effect on their meat’s nutrient composition (and flavor).
Feedlot cattle are fed in what is called “concentrated animal feeding operations”. They are fattened quickly on soy or corn-based meal. This is an unnatural diet for them, added to which they are given antibiotics and growth hormones.
All this affects the nutrient composition of the meat. Grass-fed beef usually contains less fat than grain-fed beef, thereby containing fewer calories. Also, the fat of grass-fed animals is predominantly monounsaturated.
Also, grass-fed beef contains a lot more omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (all good things, by the way). It also contains more carotenoids and vitamin E. These reasons alone should answer the question, “Why eat grass-fed beef?”
So, Why Does Grass-Fed Beef Taste Gamey?
While well-reared grass-fed animals shouldn’t have a gamey flavor, here are the reasons why some do:
- Gender – bull meat tends towards gaminess because there is testosterone in the animal’s system.
- Breed – Angus cattle tend to have sweet, rich meat. Dairy breeds tend to have a more gamey taste.
- Animals that are not well-treated or are fed grass that’s below standard will be stressed. For example, if they have to fight for their food all the time, if there’s a poor water supply, or if they don’t have a comfortable area to rest in the shade. This stress will negatively affect the taste of the meat.
- Feeding is the main factor that will cause gaminess in the meat. A farmer cannot just put a cow in a field and expect that it will eat well. What they’re eating needs to be carefully monitored and they must have access to very nutritious grasses and legumes.
- Stress during the slaughtering phase will cause the animal to release adrenaline. This will spoil the meat, causing it to be tough and gamey.
- The hang time after slaughter greatly affects the taste and tenderness of the meat. Good beef should hang for at least two weeks.
How To Remove Gamey Taste From Grass-Fed Beef?
Now that you understand what gave the meat a gamey flavor, to begin, you’ll want to know how to make it taste better if you’ve already purchased it.
There’s no need to discard it – the meat isn’t off and it won’t harm you to eat it. Please don’t try to treat it with vinegar as this will destroy the taste and texture. Here’s what to do:
- Use buttermilk. This is how game hunters get the strong wild taste out of their venison. Simply marinade the meat overnight (in the fridge) in buttermilk before cooking it. Before cooking, discard the buttermilk and pat the meat dry with paper towels.
- Remove fat. Most of the wild taste will be in the fat. Remove any excess fat on your cuts of beef before cooking.
- Use lemon. After cooking your meat, instead of just seasoning it with just salt and pepper, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the mix. This is particularly delicious on barbequed steaks.
- Use a good marinade. A strongly flavored sweet and sour style marinade will mask the gamey flavor and help to tenderize your meat.
We hope this article has given you some insight into why grass-fed beef can sometimes have a gamey taste and what you can do about it.
However, bear in mind that it shouldn’t be this way so don’t give up until you have found a good supplier whose products came from a farmer who understands how to raise excellent grass-fattened beef cattle.