Willy Street Co-op is proud to announce our own exclusive brand of local grass-fed beef! We haven’t started a farm but instead are working with one specific farmer, Dennis Dochtnel, of Scenic Heights Organic Farm in Dodgeville, WI, who has been raising cattle for many years.
We started this relationship because of the high demand and limited availability for a source of local, organic grass-fed beef. While the beef we are currently getting from Dennis is not organic, he is working to reestablish his organic certification and we are confident that this will be accomplished in the next year.
Willy Grass-Fed Beef is born and raised in Wisconsin, and like all of our beef it is pasture raised, never given any hormones or antibiotics, and is 100% grass-fed and finished. We receive one steer every week, which is processed locally and then split between our East and West stores with each location receiving a side of beef.
Among the benefits of eating grass-fed beef are that it usually contains less total fat than grain-fed beef, which means that gram for gram, grass-fed beef contains fewer calories. While the amounts of saturated, monounsaturated and Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats are similar between grass-fed and grain-fed beef, there are vast differences in the composition of the fatty acids, for example:
- Omega-3s: This is where grass-fed beef stands apart, containing up to 5 times as much Omega-3.
- Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): Grass-fed beef contains almost twice as much CLA as grain-fed beef. This fatty acid is associated with reduced body fat and some other beneficial effects such as reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, and osteoporosis.
- Vitamins: Several studies suggest that grass-fed diets in cattle elevate precursors for Vitamin A and E, are higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin, higher in beta-carotene, higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium as well as cancer fighting antioxidants such as glutathione, which helps to maintain a healthy immune system.
The benefit to the cow is simple: they are grazing on an open pasture, and eating what they are predisposed to eat. Like all ruminant animals, (cattle, dairy cows, goats, bison, and sheep) cows have evolved to eat fibrous grasses, plants, legumes and shrubs, not starchy low-fiber grain. When the transition from grass to grain feeding is made, they are at risk of developing sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA). This is basically a really bad case of acid reflux, and can lead to reduced or erratic feeding, weight loss, unexplained abscesses, and—left untreated—death. In order to help prevent this the animals are given small doses of antibiotics with their feed, which can lead to a whole host of other issues, like antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Eating grass-fed beef is not without its challenges, one of which is the cooking of the steaks and roasts. Since the final part of the cattle’s life is not spent being fedgrain and corn, grass-fed beef will never be as tender, mild in flavor, or fatty/well-marbled as grain-fed beef. By definition, pasture-raised cows are out walking around eating grass, not standing in a barn or a feedlot, so more grazing equals stronger muscle fibers. You can still enjoy a tender and juicy grass-fed steak or roast, but you may have to make some adjustments if you are used to cooking the fattier grain-fed beef.
The biggest culprit for tough grass-fed steaks is overcooking. Grass-fed beef is best for rare to medium rare cooking. If you like a well-done steak, then cook your beef at very low temperatures and marinate or brine to add moisture. Grass-fed beef is high in protein and low in fat, and will usually require 30% less cooking time compared to conventional. When cooking steaks, start with high heat and sear on both sides to create a nice crust to lock in moisture, then reduce the heat and cook medium-low until it reaches the desired doneness. The best way to check for doneness is by using a probe thermometer:
- Rare 120-125 °F
- Medium Rare 130-135°F
- Medium 135-140°F
- Medium Well 140-150°F
- Well Done 155+°F
Pull the steak 5-10° under your desired temperature and let it sit loosely covered. The beef will continue to cook for 8 to 10 minutes after removing from heat, and this will allow time for the juices to redistribute. This is also a great time to add extra flavor by adding a little olive oil or a nice compound butter.
There are many different types of beef roasts: rump, chuck, sirloin, round, brisket, and rib roasts among others, all of which require different cooking methods and degrees of doneness. The one thing they all have in common is that low and slow is the way to go, with the ideal cooking temperature between 200-250°. You can help encourage a nice crust by starting on a higher heat, which will seal in moisture before roasting at a lower temperature. Most importantly, like steaks, allow the roast to rest for 10 minutes before cutting to allow for moisture distribution. You can take this time to make a sauce or gravy out of the pan drippings from the roast.
Simply put, grass-fed beef is a smarter, healthier choice for us and better for the animal’s well-being and quality of life. It is a return to small, local farmers being able to provide pure beef without resorting to shortcuts like antibiotics and fattening the cattle up on corn to increase yield. It may require a little less cooking time but that’s nothing that keeping a meat thermometer handy can’t help with. We are here to help answer any questions you may have at our meat service case and encourage you to stop in and try Willy Beef today!