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.
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