By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat
All too often, when shopping for grassfed meat, I find myself asking, “Where’s the fat?”
The ugly truth is that far too much grassfed meat has all the visible fat trimmed off, and has very little fat in the meat.
The most nutrient-dense component of grassfed meat is the fat. The fat of grassfed animals is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and many other nutrients.
The fat also gives great flavor and enhances tenderness. The Weston A. Price Foundation advises always eating meat with fat. Traditional peoples, from the peoples of old Europe, to the Native Americans, to the Chinese, always ate meat with plenty of fat.
Yet many producers and sellers of grassfed meat trim off all the visible fat from their meat, and some deliberately raise their beef to be lean. For me, the most frustrating part of buying grassfed meat is getting meat with enough fat.
The key is to buy meat that comes with enough fat, both visible and internal. This involves careful shopping and lobbying producers. But sometimes, no matter what I do, the meat is just too lean. I have learned to compensate for this, just like our ancestors did.
If the fat is not in the meat, then you can bring the fat to the meat.
Tips for Buying Fattier Grassfed Meat
There are several indicators you can look at to find fattier grassfed meat. Here are some of them:
The Breed of Cattle
Genetics have a lot to do with the fat content in beef. Breeds that have been raised for meat, such as shorthorns and Angus, are much more likely to have more fat. Breeds that are noted for leanness, such as Galloway or Charolais, are much more likely to be very lean.
The Time of Year the Beef Is Processed
Traditionally, cattle were processed for meat in the late spring or early summer, after they had been eating the rich green grass of spring for as long as possible. This was the best natural way to put fat in the cattle, and meat processed at this time has more fat, more flavor, and more tenderness.
There are a number of ranchers and producers who only process their beef at that time of year, and freeze it. If you have enough freezer space, that is a particularly good time to buy a large quantity of meat.
I have also found bison and lamb processed after feeding on green grass for a while to be fattier, more tender, and more tasty.
The Philosophy of the Producer
The attitude and belief of the rancher actually raising the meat animal has a huge impact, as there is much they can do to make the meat fattier or leaner. If the producer brags about how lean and fat free their meat is, the meat is going to be very lean.
If the producer talks about the benefits of grassfed fat and why it is good to leave some fat on the meat, then your chances of getting fattier grassfed meat are a lot better.
If the producer praises the virtues of grassfed fat, and also praises the leanness of their meat, you may have a choice.
Many producers and butchers carry both lean and fattier grassfed meat. I have found that just asking for the fattiest grassfed cuts they have makes a huge difference. Asking for fattier meat also tells a wise producer that the demand is out there, and may well increase the supply of fattier grassfed meat.
How to Add Good Fat to Lean Meat
Often, no matter what I do, the meat that is delivered is just too lean, or the meat available is just too lean. Fortunately, our ancestors often faced the same problem, and developed some solutions. Here are some of the solutions I use:
1. Butter. Pastured butter is the best friend of lean meat. You can coat the meat with softened butter before cooking. You can sauté the meat in butter. You can baste the meat with butter. You can put butter directly on the hot meat when it is served at the table. All of these methods will improve the meat and give you the fat that should be eaten with it.
2. Beef tallow, lamb tallow, and bison tallow. Tallow can be placed directly on roasting meat, so it can baste the meat as it cooks. You can also sauté meat in melted beef tallow. You can melt some tallow and use it to baste the meat as it cooks. You can melt some tallow in a roasting pan and roll the meat in the melted tallow before cooking.
3. Bacon. You can place fat slices of bacon directly on a roast, or render the fat from bacon and use it for sautéing.
4. Natural, unhydrogenated lard. You can rub softened lard all over the meat prior to cooking. You can sauté the meat in melted lard. You can place lard directly on top of a roast, and baste during the roasting.
Tender Grassfed Meat contains a lot of information on how to add fat to meat, and how to cook meat with the right amount of fat.
By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat
The new dietary guidelines issued by the United States government are a disgrace. These “guidelines” recommend large quantities of high-carb foods that can make people fat and sick, while practically banning the traditional animal fats we need for our bodies to function properly. The new guidelines were once again shown graphically in a new “food pyramid.” This new pyramid should be turned upside down, as all its recommendations are backwards. We need animal fats and proteins, not processed carbohydrates.
These new guidelines are simply a more extreme version of the previous guidelines. The previous guidelines were a miserable failure, as Americans got considerably fatter and sicker. The old guidelines did result in a huge increase in profits for the processed food industry, the diet industry, the drug companies, and the medical profession, and maybe that was the point.
Whatever the reason, the bureaucrats ignored a mountain of evidence and studies provided by the real food movement and low-carb advocates, including the Weston A. Price Foundation, many other organizations and scientists, and my friend Jimmy Moore. Kimberly Hartke has an index of testimony by many experts, including Sally Fallon Morell: USDA Dietary Guidelines Controversy. Here is a link to Jimmy’s excellent testimony on the subject: Having My Say. The testimony showed the harmful effects of the previous food guidelines. Overwhelming scientific evidence was presented to show that people need animal fats and proteins to function properly, and a wide variety of foods, while grains and carbohydrates should be limited. The evidence showed that processed foods and sugar in all its forms should be severely limited. None of this evidence appeared to make any difference to the Dietary Guidelines Committee.
The Weston A. Price Foundation has published its own set of Dietary Guidelines, which are based on science, not profit. My rejection of the new government guidelines inspired me to create some new high-fat, low-carb recipes that could be used as side dishes in place of high-carb foods like pasta and potatoes. This recipe meets my standards, since three of its four ingredients are practically banned by the new government guidelines, as they are rich in animal fats. It is also delicious, and goes well with any meat. This recipe also makes a nice breakfast.
Cheese Eggs with Onions and Butter
4 tablespoons pastured butter
1 medium organic onion, sliced
1 cup full fat natural cheese of your choice, chopped into small pieces, (cheddar and Havarti are very good with this dish)
4 organic eggs, with the yolks, beaten with a whisk or a fork until many small bubbles appear
1. Heat the butter over medium heat in a 10 inch pan, preferably cast iron. When the butter is melted, add the onion, and sauté for 5 minutes.
2. Add the cheese to the eggs and mix well. Pour the mixture over the onions. Reduce the heat to medium low. Cover, and cook until the eggs have set, about 5 minutes.
Serve with the grassfed meat of your choice, or enjoy for breakfast.
By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat
Our culture has a phobia about animal fat. The horrid nutritional guidelines just issued by the U.S. government tell us to eat meat only occasionally, and eat only lean meat. This is truly a shame, because animal fat from pastured animals contains many vital nutrients that are easily absorbed and hard to get elsewhere. Animal fat from grassfed animals also gives great taste, tenderness, and satisfaction (unlike the lumpy, greasy fat so prevalent in factory meat).
All grassfed meat is leaner than factory meat. Many producers advertise how lean their grassfed meat is. Some grassfed meat is much leaner, and some contains more fat. So which is better? For our ancestors, the choice was simple. Fat meat was desirable and cherished—lean meat was eaten to avoid starvation or thrown to the dogs.
For me, the answer is also simple. Most of the nutrients in grassfed beef are in the fat. Fattier cuts of grassfed meat have more flavor and come out more tender. The fattier the better, when it comes to grassfed meat.
Grassfed Fat vs. Factory Fat
There is a great difference in the content and composition of the fat of grassfed animals and the fat of factory animals finished in the feedlot.
The fat of grassfed animals has a much higher ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids, has much more CLA, and is much richer in other nutrients. The fat of feedlot-finished factory animals has a much higher omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio, much less CLA, and contains substances from the feed that get stored in the fat.
The fat in grassfed meat appears both as a covering over the cut of meat, and in small white flecks that can be seen in the meat itself. These small flecks are called marbling. The fat of feedlot-finished factory meat also appears as a covering, but it can often be seen in the meat itself as thick, blocky veins of fat, or lumps of fat. No grass finished meat has this appearance.
I personally find the fat in grassfed meat to be delicious and satisfying. It smells so good when the meat cooks that it makes me very hungry. I find the fat in feedlot-finished factory meat to be greasy, unpleasant, and downright disgusting. Factory meat does not satisfy me, and leaves me hungry and bloated. Grassfed meat always leaves me feeling satisfied and good—which is one of the main reasons why I only eat grassfed and grass finished meat.
What about the Studies?
The media often publicizes studies that claim that eating meat, especially fat meat, is unhealthy.
While I never blindly believe any study, knowing how flawed and biased they can be (though some are completely valid, you just have to study the details), I have noticed two important points that make them inapplicable to grassfed meat and fat:
- All of these studies include the eating of highly processed factory meat, meat that is full of preservatives and chemicals, such as luncheon meat. It is impossible to know if the negative results claimed by the studies come from the meat or the chemicals.
- None of these studies are limited to the eating of pastured meat processed without the use of chemicals, but are based almost totally on feedlot-finished factory meat that has been raised with artificial hormones, chemicals, antibiotics, species-inappropriate feed, and other factors that were never used by our ancestors. It is impossible to know if the negative results claimed by the studies come from the meat or the hormones, chemicals, antibiotics, species-inappropriate feed, or other factors, or any combination of them.
The main studies we have on the nutritional effects of traditional meats, fats, and diets are the customs of our ancestors, and the vital research of Dr. Weston A. Price. These traditions and the research of Dr. Price support the health benefits of eating traditional unprocessed animal fats.
Why Fattier Grassfed Meat Is Better than Leaner Grassfed Meat
Once again, the traditions of our ancestors are the key to understanding. Every traditional meat eating culture preferred fat meat to lean meat. Traditional recipes for meat always make sure that it is cooked and eaten with plenty of fat, with roasts being inevitably covered by a glorious crown of their own magnificent fat. The most prized, luxurious cuts of meat were always the fattest.
Traditional Inuit were known to reserve the organ meats, fatty meats, and fat for themselves, while throwing the really lean meat to their dogs.
The most valued traditional foods included the fats of pastured animals, with lard, beef tallow, goose fat, duck fat, and chicken fat being heavily used for cooking in traditional Europe. The Native Americans used bear fat, bison fat, and the fat from other game. Lamb fat was prized in the Middle East, where breeds of lamb were raised that had huge tails composed almost completely of fat, which was used in all kinds of cooking. Lard was the most important fat in China, used for cooking almost everything.
I am convinced that cooking traditions reflect the collective experience of the people who have them, representing thousands of years of trial and error, passed down from parent to child, from teacher to student. The wisdom of these traditions was proved by Dr. Weston A. Price, who discovered that traditional peoples eating their traditional diets were completely free of the chronic diseases that afflicted modern peoples, remaining healthy and vigorous into extreme old age. Every one of the peoples studied by Dr. Price only ate meat with plenty of fat.
An example of this wisdom is pemmican, a staple preserved food of the Native Americans who lived on the Great Plains of the United States. Pemmican consisted of dried bison meat, dried cherries, and a great deal of bison fat. The Native Americans knew that the fat was absolutely necessary for the pemmican to sustain life.
Most of the nutrients in grassfed meat are in the fat, not the meat itself. Very lean grassfed beef, that has no visible marbling, will have fewer nutrients than grassfed meat that is nicely marbled. A roast that has all the fat cover trimmed off will have fewer nutrients than a roast cooked with a cover of its own natural fat.
I have found that the fattier the grassfed meat, the more tender and tasty and satisfying it is. You can make lean grassfed meat tender and delicious, with the proper technique and marinades. But the grassfed meat that has the little flecks of fat in the meat will be more tender, and more tasty, and more satisfying. The grassfed roast cooked with a cap of its own magnificent fat will always come out much better that the totally trimmed roast. Our ancestors knew this, and it is a delicious and healthy tradition to follow!