What is the difference between grass fed and grain fed beef?
To find out I visited Hopkins River Beef, Dunkeld Victoria with Meat and Livestock Australia as part of Target 100: an environmental initiative with a “commitment to deliver sustainable sheep and cattle farming in Australia by 2020.”
Cattle farmer David Maconochie helped me put aside some misconceptions about the differences between grass fed and grain fed beef. Although I visited the family Meadowbank property where the grass fed cattle graze, part of the reason for my journey to Hopkins River Beef was to visit one of their feed lots. I wanted to see one for myself. To tell you the truth I was surprised. The cattle mob has a load of space but bunch up in one group (which I also observed in the cattle at pasture) yet, the two biggest surprises were that the grain fed beef are only finished on grain (they start their lives on grass), and that the diet in the feed lot is a mix that is more than just (82%) grain.
Personally, I like to eat grass fed beef. As David explains (in the YouTube video above) it’s seasonal, with the fullest flavour bursting through in spring, though the grass fed beef is not consistent all year around. Grain fed beef is less seasonal and produces more consistency throughout the year in both flavour and texture. One of my friends said today that grass fed beef can be “tough.” Well I wouldn’t call it that; but yes grass fed can be harder to chew in different seasons. But I like to chew (then I know I am eating, and I reckon, that’s what why we have teeth.)
Perhaps the final word on the difference between grass fed beef and grain fed beef should come though from David Maconochie, who raises and sells both. He says that they’re just different, and both very important to Australian agriculture.
Hopkins River Beef was also selected for the visit to showcase the sustainability intitiatives of the Maconochie family. “Carbon Hoofprint” they call it. One of those initiatives is compost, managed by Sam. Initially the compost project was started to reduce waste on the farm and to put nutrients back into the soil by natural methods. Now, it will also earn revenue, as the family will retail the compost under the Farmers Own label.
As a paddock to plate adventure, there could not have been a better finish to the day, when after visiting the Hopkins River Beef properties we trotted along to the award winning (and local) Royal Mail Hotel for dinner. Chef Dan Hunter provided a splendid spread with dishes from both the bistro and restaurant menues, including a dish of local Dunkeld Hopkins River Beef. All were incredible, with light and shade, contrasts in texture, and a cornucopia of colours. Each dish sang of the season. Each item was important to the dish, and had a reason. Most of the produce came from the Royal Mail Hotel kitchen garden, selected on the morning in the garden by the chefs.
The only thing that could possibly come close to topping that, was eating a steak on the same Meadowbank property where the cattle were raised, the next day at lunch. Splendid! Beef never tasted so good. And was accompanied with a dose of good old fashioned Maconochie country hospitality.
Rebecca Varidel went on this fanastic paddock to plate educational journey courtesy of Meat & Livestock Australia.