Bubbyswhollycow’s Weblog

The Word From Our Steer Man Ken
May 22, 2008, 2:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Here is a (edited) note from Ken Jaffe…


The blog is great. Very cool that there is no one else really using the whole steer.

In terms of tenderness, I simply do not believe there is science (or real world experience) to support a statement that tenderness declines between 14 and 16 months, and in particular to quantify that difference as 30%. Tenderness is “measured” by something called Warner-Bratzler sheer force and it tends to correlate with genetics, marbling, somewhat with age, and how the carcass is handled post mortem, which includes time of aging/hanging. Josh Applebaum at Fleischers in Kingston ages his own carcasses (which are slaughtered elsewhere) of grass fed cattle for a long time—a month or more—to get a very tender product with a very intense beefy flavor.

In any case, you won’t find grass fed grass finished steers at that 14 to 16 months. Typically forage based production gets cattle to maturity (which is the age at which the meat starts to marble) at around 24 months. This can vary between 18 and 30 months. I am told that chefs in Europe value animals of this age (and even much older) because of the better flavor, and I personally believe this.

Its hard to be sure of the differences between grass fed and corn fed beef because the age of slaughter is only one of the factors that are different—which include diet, activity, often genetics, and use of antibiotics in the feed, etc. You might want to talk to Josh at Fleischers about his experience and process because I think he knows more than anyone else around here about how the various factors in production and handling impact on meat flavor and tenderness.

I can send you a bunch of dense academic articles on tenderness and how it correlates with various factors if you want to wade thru this. Here’s a link to a short article from Stockman Grass Farmer—the ‘bible’ of grass fed producers—on grass fed beef characteristics.


Don’t know what Alice is thinking exactly. It is more difficult to finish on grass in the winter. We need to be very selective about our hay choices and use hay with high protein content (we test this thru Cornell Cooperative Extension) for our finishing steers. They gain weight more slowly in the winter, but neither I nor my customers have noted a difference in the product from summer/fall killed animals on grass verses winter/spring animals that were on stored forage. The sample steak I first sent to Josh was a Porterhouse from a steer killed in late winter, which prompted him to want whole steers. But the question sounds like a good study for a blind taste test which we can get published in one of those academic journals.


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