Myth or Fact: Common Debates Among Meat-Eaters.

We all know the internet can be a wonderful thing. Information is readily available at a moment’s notice, blah blah blah. Unfortunately, another more frequently used tool of knowledge is word of mouth and more likely than not this information is wrong. The internet is funny in that it can either perpetuate the old wives’ tales we cling to, or enlighten people about them.

Once upon a time I was the administrative assistant to the Risk Manager at a hospital. She is one of the wisest people I know and she shared a story with the staff that has stuck with me to this day. She had been tired of hearing “well, this is just how we’ve always done things” when discussing why a certain approach was taken in patient care. Her intent in sharing this story was to show this is not always the best thinking. Just because it is common practice doesn’t mean it’s correct.

The story starts with a young girl watching her mother bake a Thanksgiving turkey. Her mother put the turkey in the oven and left the oven door slightly open. The girl asked her mother why she does that and she replied, “That’s how my mother always did it.” So the girl visited her grandmother and asked her, “Why do you leave the oven door cracked when you cook the turkey?” Her response was the same. It was something her mother had always done. The girl then went to her great-grandmother and repeated her question once more to which her great-grandmother replied, “When I was young we lived in a very small house. The oven was not big enough for the turkey so the oven door wouldn’t shut all the way.”

For the great-grandmother this was not a clever strategy but a necessity. Things may seem logical at one time, or may have been in a specific situation, but we have to keep in mind the weight of certain circumstances in that moment and maybe even accept that new knowledge or circumstances has surfaced rendering the old obsolete. Society is always learning and advancing but sometimes we refuse to budge from our familiar frame of mind.

Heavy stuff, right? This is actually kind of a fun little blog post today. There are a lot of theories out there regarding prep and cooking of beef and it’s something people apparently feel strongly about on both sides. I am not here to side with either theory but to simply shine light on these common debates. The rest is up to you. I am curious to know your personal opinions and practices!

#1. Should you rinse meat before cooking?

Some believe you should rinse meat before cooking to get rid of the bacteria that reside on the surface. After all, it has been drilled into our brains that is important to rinse fruits and veggies before eating them. It only makes sense to rinse meat as well, right? However, others disagree explaining this actually does not make much of a difference at all. In cuts you would rinse such as steak and roasts bacteria only lives on the surface and those bacteria will quickly die with exposure to high heat. They believe the only thing you manage to do when rinsing meat is easily spread that bacteria to your hands, sink and counters.

#2 Will letting meat come to room temperature allow for more even cooking?

This is one I see all the time and have always been curious about. It does kind of go against everything I learned in my food health safety course when I worked in the fast food industry. This is advice offered by everyone from a back country BBQ’er to renowned chefs. If you cook a steak straight out of the refrigerator the center will take much longer to heat causing the outside to overcook. It’s usually recommended to let the meat sit for 20-30 minutes before cooking. Several people have taken to test this theory and noticed that in reality it usually takes an alarming couple of hours before you could consider meat room temperature. On top of that, they didn’t seem to notice much of a difference between cold and room temperature in the final product.  Whether this is something you believe to be true or not, it does seem universally agreed upon that this only applies to whole cuts as bacteria doesn’t penetrate the meat. You never want to let ground beef or even cuts that have been tenderized to sit at room temperature for longer than a few minutes.

#3 Do marinades make a more tender meat?

I feel like this is one of the most debated theories out there. I even said myself in my pot roast recipe post that I love when I get to marinate meat. It’s not something I do often and feel fancier when a recipe calls for it. I always think the longer the wait, the better the meal is bound to be – something I have definitely proven wrong, by the way. Some say using certain marinades, such as something acidic, can actually have the opposite affect after too long of a period. Others say marinades only penetrate the very surface of the meat, not making too much of a difference. Who knows?

#4 When should you season meat?

There is some discussion on whether or not seasoning at a certain point in the cooking process makes a difference. I remember hearing from a famous chef that you can salt a steak before cooking but you should never use pepper until after because the pepper can burn causing an unpleasant taste, or something to that affect. Then again, I’ve seen this contradicted by that same chef. Other people believe salt will draw out the moisture creating a dry, tough steak. Another idea is that this is a good thing because a dry surface is how you get that good, seared crust. What do you do?

#5 Will searing meat keep juices in?

I’ve noticed in my research that people everywhere are VERY concerned about their meat juices. It’s pretty commonly taught that searing the meat will create some sort of barrier, keeping the juices in and your meat nice and moist. It is argued that this really doesn’t affect anything and juices will escape no matter what. In fact, some people even state this CAUSES more juices to leak out. The good news is the feeling I got from most of my reading is the difference is super minimal, so it may not matter regardless of which way you tend to lean.

#6 How many times should steak be flipped?

In line with searing, the idea is that you should only flip steak once in order to not release juices, also if you keep flipping the heat doesn’t have time to reach the middle, meaning an overcooked surface or under-cooked center.  The absolute complete opposite has also been said, that flipping actually helps get a more even doneness.

#7 Juice

Like I said above, people are serious about their meat juices. (Fun fact: Did you know the red juices you see running from beef isn’t blood? It’s actually a protein found in the muscle called Myoglobin and it dissolves in the water causing the pink liquid you often see.) For the sake of repetitiveness I’m going to group these all together:

You often hear, don’t flip with a fork, don’t cut open to check for doneness, and let meat rest after cooking. All of these revolve around avoiding loss of moisture or allowing the meat to absorb all it’s juices again. I think this is where basic human psychology comes in. When you poke a steak or roast the juices pour out of it. It looks like a lot of moisture and flavor being released!  Of course it’s going to be concerning. Apparently it’s not to some though. It is actually said that this loss is so minimal and actually unnoticeable in the meal. This is one that is probably just safer to agree to disagree with your neighbor.

#8 How to check if it’s done. 

Honestly, I didn’t even know this one existed. Most agree the best and safest way to test doneness is to use a meat thermometer, but need I remind you of the juice loss concern? So along came the “poke test” or testing with your finger or face. Now, hear me out before you start putting your face all over your steak. Apparently you can poke the meat with your finger and compare how much the meat gives with different parts of your hand or face (ex: a medium rare steak will feel like touching your thumb to your middle finger). This determines how done the meat is in the middle. Guess this depends on if your dedication lies with meat juices or clean hands.

#9 Bone-in or Boneless?

Do you think this makes a difference to taste? Some people think the bone in meat will give it better flavor. This has been argued, of course. I even read about a study someone did with mashed potatoes  cooked with and without a beef bone. Some people noticed a meatier flavor in the potatoes with the bone, but most didn’t notice any difference. I’ve also read there’s more science to it (mashed potatoes aren’t the same as beef), that it is only true to the meat directly surrounding the bone, that this makes a difference in certain cuts. I personally tend to go for boneless for the convenience. I’m lazy and I like to think I’m not alone, haha.

#10 Is well done the safest way to eat meat?

I think when it comes down to it, people’s preference of meat doneness again comes down to our mentality. Some people, regardless of how good it may taste, just don’t have the ability to get over the raw-ness of a rare steak. It is easy to believe it is not safe. Others simply do prefer the taste and texture of a well done piece of meat. As I have mentioned before I think it is universally agreed that with ground beef well done is the only safe way to eat it. However with whole cuts, this may just be a personal preference.

Some bonus grill theories for you:

Will oiling the grill grates prevent meat from sticking?

A lot of people do this to make life easier. I certainly have. I’ve also read you should oil the meat directly. Something about the cold temperature of the meat keeping the oil from burning and creating a bad taste. It seems to be a debate even among celebrity chefs. Some say oil hot grates, some say oil them cold. Try it out and see what you think!

How will lifting the lid affect temperature?

Another thing grill masters seem to be adamant about is lifting the lid to the grill as little as possible to avoid a slower cooking time. I figured this to be true but actually read something interesting. Some people say it’s the heat on the surface of the meat that cooks the inside. So while opening the lid will release a lot of hot air, this does little to affect how the meat cooks. I guess some could argue that it will just take longer to maintain that surface heat.

Sear first or last?

Grilling is one of those things I so badly want to excel at. I absolutely love the crusty charred goodness on any sort of meat but it’s something I haven’t mastered without overcooking everything. Well this is one I will have to work on. It is commonly believed that you should sear your meat directly over the heat source and then move to indirect heat to let it cook the rest of the way, however it is also rebutted that you should actually cook through first and then in the last couple minutes sear to perfection, known as the reverse sear. Either way, I just need to figure out how to succeed!

So there you have it. Almost every debate you will read about how to properly cook beef. I noticed a lot of the beliefs people hold on to really make sense, but so do the opposing arguments. As with anything, it seems near impossible to get a straight true answer. So I want to know what your meat beliefs are and challenge you to be open-minded, do your own research and try something new! You may find a new game-changer technique!

Comment below!

 

Grass Vs. Grain: How it Affects the Cow

This is honestly probably the most interesting post I’ve written so far. There was a time when I didn’t give any thought to any of this and frankly didn’t care what I ate. I love when things fall into place, when things just make sense, and that’s what this article is about today. The best part is you don’t need a science degree to understand it! I started out thinking I’ll talk about cow digestion. If you didn’t know it’s actually quite interesting. But I want to expand on it more. We’ve covered why grass-fed beef is better for humans, but how does eating grass vs. grain affect cows? So I did more research than what I already knew. You guys, it’s about to get real.

The Digestion

First, let me briefly explain the basics of cow digestion. Cows basically have four stomachs. Frankly, this can be hard to “stomach.” I won’t lie. It’s a pretty gross process to think about. Cows are ruminants like sheep, goats, deer, even giraffes which means they have a rumen, a part of the stomach that allows them to take grass and convert it into protein. They eat a lot of grass, not chewing it very much, swallow it and it gets stored in the rumen. This is the biggest part of their stomach. They then lay down somewhere, sort of regurgitate the previously eaten grass (another part of the stomach called the reticulum contracts to push it back into the rumen), “chew their cud,” and swallow it again (are you feeling queasy yet?). From there it goes through the omasum and abomasum, where further digestion and nutrient absorption take place, before it goes into the small intestine, etc. similar to human digestion. You can read a more detailed explanation on the FDA’s Website. They have the awesome ability to digest grass and anything left over from grain harvesting and extract the nutrients that humans and other animals can’t!

So, the BIG question is why do we feed cows something they’re not naturally meant to eat and digest when they have the tools to do something most animals, and definitely humans, do not?

Grain Digestion

Obviously, cows do have the ability to digest grain but it is an entirely different process. You see, when eating grass, cows can eat and digest all parts of it from stalk and stem to seed. They are not really equipped with the proper teeth to break into the few seeds they may eat so these simply pass through, and the manure acts as a fertilizer causing the seeds to grow again. It’s a perfect cycle. When grass fully sprouts into seed, however, the nutrients are leached from the grass into these seeds leaving no nutrient value in that grass anymore. The cows do have enzymes that can digest these grains, but it involves the stomach creating more acid in order to break these grains down and retrieve the few nutrients the grain now has. The stomach has to “switch” to a completely different way of digesting food. It is definitely more complicated than just this. You can read more about it in Comparing Grassfed and Grainfed Beef, and Why it Should Matter to You. This process is simply an “evolutionary back-up plan” for the cow’s survival in instances where their natural food source is scarce. The article goes on to explain how these two affect the actual beef differently, mainly how it impacts the type of fat produced by the cow and how it in turn greatly affects our diet. On a personal note, as someone who is a supporter of Keto and other low-carb diets, I found the following paragraph extremely interesting:

“Grain fed beef typically has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 4:1, which at first glance would seem to be the ideal ratio. But that’s not the only thing we eat. With grain fed beef already at a 4:1 ratio, there is no room for any grains (bread, rice, oatmeal, etc…) in your diet if you want to avoid the unhealthy side-effects of eating too much omega-6’s.

Small wonder then that doctor’s often recommend cutting beef from the diets of cancer patients…

Grassfed beef, on the other hand, has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 2:1. This leaves ample room on the dinner plate for some carbohydrates made from grains without the overall ratio of our diet exceeding the magic 4:1 ratio.

Which begs the question, what if doctors recommended that their cancer patients eat lots of grassfed beef, but cut the grains, breads, and cereals instead?”

Of course all of this can be debatable, but I do believe it makes sense that a lot of our health problems today don’t stem from beef, but rather the type of beef along with the increase of processed foods, how all of our food is prepared, and the imbalance we’ve gotten so used to in an American diet.

Further Down the Grain Path

So at this point in my research I was already somewhat unsurprised by what I found as far as how this affects humans, but I found the digestion difference and its effect on cows thought-provoking. Little did I know it was about to get a whole lot better. I found an interview PBS conducted with Michael Pollan, an author that examines how nature and culture collide and affect the systems we have in place. You can read the interview here. It’s a long read but I HIGHLY encourage that you take some time to check it out. He goes through each point, one thing affecting the other, like a cascading waterfall of logic. It just made sense. I found myself getting more and more excited as I caught on to what he was saying, almost beating him to the punch in my head.

He starts out by also marveling at this ability cows and other ruminants have but then goes on to explain why this natural process is interrupted. What it boils down to is the economic and financial benefits of the common commercial cow industry process. Grain (corn) is cheap and easy to grow. It fattens cows at a much higher rate and quantity than grass which means faster turnover in beef production along with higher profit.  How do local independent farmers compete? As I briefly mentioned in Cost: Is Grass-fed Beef Worth it? bigger companies have the resources to quickly push cattle through from calf to meat. They have an easier time meeting the demand and they can offer cheaper prices. What people don’t realize however is there is way more risk involved, and it is not only affecting our present but could be detrimental to our future.

Physical Impact

By now, you already know how we feel about the treatment of animals. There is an ethical way to raise and slaughter cows for meat and we abide by that. As much as we obviously support pasture-raised and free-grazing cows, we don’t think feedlots are evil. They saw an opportunity to speed up the beef production process, making it cheaper and more efficient, just at the expense of the calf. The fact is though cows aren’t meant to live in that environment or eat that type of food. The life expectancy of a cow living in a pasture is easily over ten years, close to twenty. They say the life expectancy of a cow on grain would only be a year or so after the point they would usually be slaughtered.

Remember what I said about a cow’s digestion of grain and the switch from grass-eating microbes to grain-eating microbes? It causes a higher acidity level in a cow’s stomach in order to soften those grains for digestion. This can lead to heartburn and bloat. They are not burping and releasing those gasses like they would normally. This, among other effects of this grain digestion, can have serious impacts on their health. Pollan explains this further and discusses how it can lead to liver abscesses. If the cow wasn’t going to be slaughtered soon anyway, this would certainly lead to eventual death. But we don’t worry about that, understandably. I can’t help but tie this in to what we always say about stress in animals and the effects on meat. If you suffer from frequent acid reflux *raises hand*, you get it.

The interview goes on to discuss in further detail why we started feeding cows grain in the first place, mostly due to economic gain. He talks about the antibiotics used, which I will summarize in a minute, the health problems we are facing, physical differences between the look of a cow in a pasture and a feedlot cow, his experience with his own cow, and just about every aspect of the beef industry. I couldn’t possibly reiterate everything he said without 1) plagiarizing, and 2) turning this into a novel. He is so thorough in his explanations but I also love that he tries to stay away from making too many assumptions, he gives people and companies the benefit of the doubt, and doesn’t point fingers or blame anyone for the potential mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. He understands the rationale behind the systems people have put in place.

If anything, his main point of his interview is we’ve implemented so many steps just to fix previous steps taken. Feedlots became the norm because of faster and cheaper production, however changing a cows eating pattern suddenly mixed with crowding them in a pen caused more illness than they would ever experience in a pasture, which created the need for antibiotics. A cow living on pasture doesn’t get infected with diseases such as E. Coli, but a cow on a grain diet has high stomach acidity in which E. Coli thrives. The antibiotics are not used as a treatment but instead a preventative measure. These antibiotics are in our food and water causing bacteria to be antibiotic-resistant. In turn, scientists and doctors are constantly working to develop newer and more effective antibiotics, but Pollan says it best when he says, “Nature will outwit any technology. This is what evolution has been doing for billions of years — figuring out ways to outwit threats to a given population.”

When you really stop to think about it, it’s dumb that we are, as Pollan puts it, using “band-aids” to fix the problems that literally occur ONLY because we disrupted the natural cycle. Had we kept things the way they were we likely wouldn’t have run into nearly as many problems with food-borne illness and antibiotic resistance. As I said before, and what I think Pollan touches on, is this all started with good intentions: cheaper and more available meat. However the cost saved is only being used to fix what came of that. Is cheaper meat really worth it? He believes we should go back to the system that was already in place. A system that worked. The question is, can we do this? Returning to a grazing-only method means a slower, longer and essentially more expensive process.

Of course there will be pros and cons to everything and going back to this old system wouldn’t fix everything, but it could help. Farmers are using rotational grazing patterns to help the environment, they are saying no to hormones and preventative antibiotics, and they are thinking about the future. Please, please, PLEASE go read Pollan’s interview and you too will be saying “Wow, IT JUST MAKES SENSE!”

May is Beef Month!

Happy Beef Month, everybody!

We are excited to be really focusing on getting the word out about our grass-fed beef this year. We stand behind our practices 100% and believe we sell a great product. In doing some reading this morning I came across Don’t Forget You Are Eating An Animal a great article that perfectly sums up a lot of our thoughts.

Certain diets have been mentioned on our website a few times recently, especially in our post about Bone up on Health: Grass-fed Beef and the Diets of Today. Grant Creek Ranch actually has no stance on any particular way of eating, however we are definitely behind the overall benefits of consuming wholesome, unprocessed grass-fed beef.

We’ve talked extensively about why you should make the switch to grass-fed.

  • Health: Not just the nutritional aspects, but the animal itself. The way we raise our cows results in less disease, stress, and other unpleasantness that can sometimes come from cows raised in feed-lots.
  • Treatment: Like the article mentions, humane treatment of our animals is one of our responsibilities as a calf-cow operation and we believe it truly makes a difference in the quality of meat you’re getting. Honestly, it’s even simpler than that. Where is the sense in mistreating our cows? What does it get us?
  • Cost: We’ve talked about why cost is a huge factor. It can get complicated, but in reality you’re saving so much by buying in bulk up front, having that meat ready to go at any given time rather than eating out, and not wasting money on questionable quality.

So, in celebration of Beef Month go grill up a beautiful, medium-rare steak slathered in garlic butter and thank a local farmer. Don’t forget to also start making plans for our beef sales later this year! Contact us if interested!