After 60 years as a fine-dining restaurant and steakhouse, Duba’s Restaurant was known throughout West Michigan as one of its finest. A son of the third generation of the Duba’s Restaurant Family has devoted years to an on-going quest for the country’s best beef. He is convinced that the best beef begins with grass-fed cattle. But that’s only the beginning! This guide highlights the five key factors that produce the highest-quality beef, the first of which is pasture…
PastureUnlike grass-fed beef, conventional grain-fed beef yields meat with uniformly bland flavor. If grain-fed beef were beer, it would be Budweiser: very predictable but uninteresting when compared to craft beers. Grass-fed beef, by contrast, yields meat with expressive flavor, full of complexity–every bit as unique as the land on which it was raised. Like wine, pasture-raised beef has terroir: the ability to taste the geography in food (and drink).
From the first bite, my palate sang praises…The delicate crunch of the caramelized exterior was perfectly balanced with the lightly earthy flavors of the rarer meat beneath…distinctive notes of black walnut and warm oak leaves, a bouquet of orchard grass on a sunlit day (Forrest Pritchard in Gaining Ground with a forward by Joel Salatin, on tasting his first grass-fed beef)
MaturityA 12-year old Scotch is good. But a 15 or 20-year Scotch is even better. The maturity of a steer or cow at harvest affects the quality of its beef for, as the adage goes, “Age imparts flavor.” This is why Mark Schatzker, author of Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef, emphatically states:
The most important question to ask is age at slaughter. For flavor reasons, be wary of steak from a cow younger than 20 months.” (“Having a Cow About Steak Quality”, The Wall Street Journal)
Heritage beef breeds have maturity built into their genetics–they grow slowly, which gives them an unfair taste advantage.
BreedAfter millennia, farmers have distinguished certain cattle breeds as producing exceptional beef. These farmers have also played a role in developing the beef breeds. For the past 100 years, however, the conventional beef industry has selected breeds on their ability to yield more beef, quickly. They have further enhanced that yield through the use of growth hormones, this, to the detriment of quality and flavor. The savvy buyer focuses on those cattle breeds that history has shown to provide beef of the highest caliber, breeds like the Highland, Red Poll, Shorthorn, and others.
‘Quantity and quality are two opposing goals,’ [Temple] Grandin pronounced, neatly diagnosing the central problem of today’s meat industry. It didn’t matter how quantity was cranked up—hormones, genetics, drugs—there was always a price to be paid in quality.” (As Quoted in Steak: One Man’s Search for the Tastiest Piece of Beef, Schatzker)