If someone asked you, “What’s the best beef?” the answer might depend on where you’re from. A large majority of Americans favor grain-fed, while Australians love grass-fed, and Japan is known for wagyu. When it comes to buying the best beef, what do you usually go for at the supermarket or if you buy online? A lot of us think back to our mom’s recipes and try to get the product that will produce that same taste. Some of us worry about the cut and grade. But even if you’re going for nostalgia or trying something new, there are so many options when it comes to red meat and a lot of it comes down to the diet of the cow. Red meat is one of the best sources of protein out there and is full of heme iron, zinc, and various B-vitamins. And in today’s market, there are so many choices out there depending on where you live and what you like. Is there a difference between organic and grass-fed? What about wagyu? What are the tastes like? Let’s talk about the differences and why you will see differences in taste.
What qualifies as organic beef?
There are strict regulations for beef to be labeled organic by the USDA. For organic beef, livestock must be raised in an environment that “accommodates their natural behaviors” (meaning if they want to graze in the pasture, you let ‘em). They can’t be given hormones or antibiotics, so if an animal does get sick, they can’t be considered organic. Livestock must be fed 100% organic feed. The animals then have to be processed and handled by a certified organic inspector, without coming into contact with materials that would be considered nonorganic.
Grass-fed beef can be organic, but not always. But generally, the name is just like it sounds: cows that are fed on a diet of grass or other natural forage. While there aren’t strict rules around this one by the USDA, the American Grassfed Association is a good resource.
Difference in Taste: Grain-fed vs. Grass-fed
Whether what you’ve got is organic or not, you’ll probably notice the difference in taste between beef that is grain-fed or beef that is grass-fed. Overall there will be differences on everything from breed to location to the aging technique used if any, but here we’ll mostly focus on location.
Grain-fed is more popular in American culture. Usually, these cows are on a diet of corn and soy or corn byproducts. It’s rich and fatty, and the marbling is prominent throughout. Marbling is the streaks of fat within the meat, and it’s usually one of the main ways meat quality is graded.
Grass-fed beef is often imported from Australia or New Zealand. Because the diet is, well, grass, these cuts of meat are often leaner than their American counterparts. There is less marbling to be found. The taste and texture is kind of gamey or chewy compared to grain-fed.
Why is grass-fed beef usually imported?
A major reason why grass-fed is imported is due to the climate. With the seasons changing over here in America, it’s not easy to have a consistent growing pasture for the animals to feed on.
All about Wagyu beef
When you think of Wagyu you probably associate it with Kobe beef, but Kobe is just one variety. There are actually four different breeds. Most Americans know of the Japanese Black or the Japanese Brown (sometimes known as Red Wagyu) varieties. In Japan, herders keep their cows for up to 5 years — something that doesn’t happen in the U.S.
What’s Wagyu taste like?
Remember that marbling we talked about earlier? Wagyu has the highest level of marbling of any other meat. If you ever taste pure wagyu, you’ll likely experience a buttery, rich, melt-in-your-mouth flavor that’s well worth its price tag.
So what’s the best beef?
If you’re feeling nostalgic, the best beef is what your mother fed you. Whether you’re a fan of organic, Angus, grass-fed, grain-fed, wagyu, or you want to try something new, there are differences in taste and texture that are worth exploring.
If you’ve got a product or recipe that you want to stand out from the crowd, our team at Calvetti Culinary Creations can help. What makes us unique at Calvetti Culinary Creations is our ability to replicate our superior products. We’re experts at combining science with art and we can produce a valuable and unique outcome.
This article first appeared on LinkedIn.