A Steak is a Steak… Right?

Have you ever wondered why a steak seems to taste different when you travel, or when you try organic, grass-fed or grass-finished beef?  Or have you ever visited with someone who was raised on a farm or ranch, and they told you “store-bought” beef tastes bland to them?  Maybe you have had a steak that you know was beef, but it tasted more like venison. So, why would a steak fresh off a ranch in northern Arizona taste any different than a steak from South Dakota or Alberta?

What is “Beef Terroir?”

There is a very good reason for the differences in flavor of steaks from different areas. It’s known as the “terroir” of beef.  This probably sounds like something you might have heard about wine or root vegetables.  It’s the effect of an area’s specific soil, water, native plants, local fungi and environmental conditions on the flavor of foods.  When it comes to beef, cattle allowed to graze and browse –as nature intended– taste different than cattle raised on grains and who-knows-what-else in a feedlot.

In the last few years, more people have become concerned with where their food comes from.  This, in turn, has sparked more interest in the sources of natural flavor variances.  For example, Jeff Duba’s November 15, 2012, blog entry on “DubaandCompany.com,” was about “The Terroir of Beef.”  He compares regional differences—and the reasons for those differences–in the flavor of Scotch to the potential for flavor differences in beef.

In 2014, Danielle Fisher, a Biology educator and owner of “Crazy Mountain Grass Fed Beef” in central Montana was featured in a YouTube video (posted by Charlotte Henricksen) titled “Tasting Terroir of Beef.”  Her study focuses on how the “…variability in the taste of grass-fed beef is as much a part of the complexity of the landscape as it is a specialty.”

More Insight on the Flavor of Meats

Another good read is a recent blog entry (January 9, 2018) on “Eat Sip Trip” (USA Today 10Best) by Kevin Farrell (“What it really means when your meat tastes ‘gamey'”).  In this article, Farrell brings up the topic of terroir in beef and game animals, as well.  He describes the “stronger, more intense” flavors of meats from animals that graze [or browse] –as opposed to that of captive animals fed grains and such.

If you are willing to step outside the comfort zone of supermarket beef, you will find a world of flavors that our ancestors’ palates knew well.  Are you game?

Rafter W Ranch Grass-Finished Beef

Here at Rafter W Ranch, we offer the flavor—the “Beef Terroir”—of grass-finished beef right off the High Plains of Colorado. Try some of our steaks, roasts or burgers at your next family cookout to see for yourself what better quality tastes like. We’re sure you won’t want “store-bought” meat anymore.