The Cow Jumped Over The Moon
Ever perused a menu or strolled the meat aisles and wondered what the difference is between grain fed beef and normal rump? Aged beef vs wagyu? I have to confess to not knowing and assuming cows roam happily on the range eating grass and lying in the sun.
For many years, beef and lamb in Australia were all â€˜free-rangeâ€™. No matter how big the operation, the animals roamed free, grazing on the wide open spaces Australia has to offer. Beef and sheep feedlots are now becoming more common, and the drought is speeding things in this direction as grazing land in many areas is drought-affected, making feedlots more attractive. (from Choice magazine)
Â Grain fed beef: Cows are pasture fed for some time before confining to a feedlot. A feedlot is an intensive confinement feeding system for cattle. Each animal has 5 to 10 squares metres and is in a pen of 50 to 200 cattle. The cattle are forced to stand and sleep in their own dung and urine; this is converted to â€˜hard packâ€™, which is like concrete when itâ€™s dry and sewer slurry when it rains. When itâ€™s dry, the dust generated by hooves is primarily faecal particulate, and this causes respiratory problems for the animals. The cattle are â€˜treatedâ€™ for these respiratory problems with antibiotics. Some feedlots are providing â€˜constant dosageâ€™ to prevent respiratory problems. They are fed a special ration made up of mostly grain, hay to stimulate digestion and artificial products to modify beef taste for anywhere from 100 days to 600 days depending on the market intended for. The result of the feedlot is a faster growth rate e.g. from 200kg and after 100 days 450kg. This process can vary from producer to producer. (from Mountain Creek Farm)
Â Grass fed beef: Cows are allowed to roam pastures, feed on a natural diet of grass and are supplemented with hay when grass feed is low. This is a much a slower rate of growth and environmentally intensive requiring more land.
Â Wagyu beef: Wagyu is a Japanese breed of cow genetically predisposed to marbling i.e. how the fat is distributed throughout the beef. Wa means Japanese and Gyu means cow. How wagyu cows are raised will vary from producer to producer. The most economical feeding regime is to background on good pasture or crop and grain feed the last 100-200 days. The common myth about massages and being fed beer is probably a historical throwback back to days when cattle in Japan were massaged to relieve muscle cramping in crowded farm conditions and not a pre-requisite of wagyu cow rearing!Â Â
Â Dry aged beef: Once the cow is slaughtered, the meat is hung to dry at near freezing temperatures for a period of time. Moisture is evaporated from the muscle and natural enzymes break down the connective tissue in the beef leading to a greater taste and tenderness.Â
Â Organic beef: Beef that is produced and certified by an accredited organic certifier should meet certain standards including:Â â€œTo provide livestock with conditions which satisfy their behavioural and physiological needsâ€ NASAA certification. Â This doesnâ€™t guarantee that meat is free range or not grain fed. Â