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)Cattle at sunset

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.

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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)

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CraftRaising beef on pasture is an art-form requiring an expertise that comes with time. Done rightly, grass fed beef will be the best you’ve ever had. Done incorrectly, well, you might as well stick with conventional beef. Look for seasoned farmers who have been at it for years, whose expertise of land and livestock consistently translates into exceptional beef. Look for newer farmers who stand on the shoulders of giants, employing time-honored traditional farming practices that have consistently yielded superior results.
old muddy farmers boots
Dry-AgingThe country’s finest steakhouses dry-age their beef. Why? Dry-aging tenderizes meat while concentrating and enhancing its flavor. A week to 14 days of dry-aging is good, but if you can get it look for beef dry-aged at 21 days: a rare find, indeed!
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s online merchants of heritage meats, we at Duba & Company have set up our beef product pages to reflect the importance of these five factors so you can shop with confidence. And, since we’re relentlessly scouring the land for the best in grass-fed heritage beef, we encourage you to visit our product pages often. There, you’ll always find something new and exciting; we love introducing our customers to new farms and new breeds that represent the “color palate of beef flavors” that can be found in heritage meats.
You’re invited to meet us personally through this video introduction…
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