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What caused my fresh grass-fed beef to taste & smell so ‘off’ this time?

16622 Views 43 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  haypoint
So I post this question as a consumer, reaching out to those of you who'd likely know the ins & outs of these things quite well. This relates to an expensive order I made from a local farm, that’s highly reviewed online by the few who know about it, and they check all the boxes for my standards in terms of their beef being a) 100% grass-fed & finished and b) certified organic. The owners seem like fantastic people from my interactions with them, and I can tell they’re quite knowledgable about the industry, and share many of the same views on nutrition and the benefits of grass-fed beef as I do.

Today I defrosted some striploin steaks I bought as part of my large order. Prior to putting them on the BBQ, I could tell they had quite a noticeable scent to them. I don’t know if “gamey” accurately describes what it was, or “barnyard-y” — but something just seemed off about the smell overall. I cooked them anyway, but that ‘off’ smell came out in the taste. Unfortunately I couldn’t finish it. I was frustrated and confused.

I’ve ordered & eaten organic, 100% grass-fed/finished steaks before while in another city (aka from other farms), yet there was no taste or smell issue for me.

These striploin steaks + the rest of my order were also very, very fresh and delivered to the farm by the butcher just a day before I went. I remember when I bought meat from this farm last year as well, that the butcher or slaughter date noted on the sticker was just 2 weeks prior. So really fresh stuff. If anything, I thought that the closer you are to the slaughter date of the animal, the more mild/lack of taste the beef will have? So what’s with this noticeable smell & taste I’m picking up this time around? Also, last year I made tartare from this same farm’s cut of tenderloin, and I know for sure I wouldn’t have eaten it if the smell was what I’m noticing now.

It’s also not exclusive to the striploin steaks I tried today, because I began defrosting some of the rib steaks from the same batch, and it seems like they have the same smell & could turn out tasting the same. :(

What would you speculate the potential issue is? Could it be the breed of cow? The 'freshness' of the steak? Whether it was dry-aged or not? (I'm going to ask them, but if I had to guess I don't think it is).
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The stress thing is way overblown. Having had game animals that were harvested with a single shot, caught unawares compared to animals that were harvested after being chased by a pack of hounds most of the day. Also farm animals harvested in the most humane circumstances possible, those harvested when things didn't go as planned, and those that were downright mercy killings after unfortunate circumstances in which an attempt to harvest meat was carried out in spite of those circumstances. Never been able to tell a difference. In fact, some of the extremely stressed animals have been some of the best tasting. Sped up the aging process was my theory.

That brings us to a huge factor in meat quality, and that is aging. The more the aging, the more tender and better flavor. Another huge factor is diet. Probably the biggest factor is growth plane. You catch an animal that is in the process of losing weight, it's going to be tough and taste bad. If it is actively gaining, it is going to taste better. A lot of grass fed beef operations find themselves in situations where the animals are stressed because they are running out of pasture, and they are losing fat. Cattle don't typically reach harvest weight in a single growing season. Pasture quality when a particular animal is harvested is going to play a huge part in customer satisfaction and customer retention. Lush spring grass that is mostly water and late winter hay is not going to promote the active gaining, nutritionally unstressed condition that promotes consistent quality. Neither is late summer drought. The cattle industry has been aware of these challenges for quite some time, and this is why commercially produced beef is grass fed and grain finished.
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I have never tasted grass fed beef that was as good as properly grain finished beef when I have butchered my own. The grass fed tastes just like summer deer, has the same off flavor. I have had beef sold as grass fed and have enough experience to know when someone is telling a fib.
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