Tender Beef

What improves the quality and tenderness of beef?

Mr. Alexander

Mr. Alexander

Kolohe Bull

Kolohe Bull

Mr. Alexander and Kolohe joined our Sylvan Dale herd in July 2013.

Some breeds of cattle do better than others when it comes to getting fat on grass.

Come meet our new bulls; Mr. Alexander is a registered Red Devon bull, an English breed preferred by many in the grass-fed beef world for flavorful, tender meat.

Kolohe (Koh-LOH-hay), which means “rascal” in Hawaiian, is a registered Lowline Angus bull, the original angus breed before it was selectively modified over the years for maximum weight on feedlot grain.

Both breeds produce smaller offspring than most cattle used in commercial feedlot operations. This means fewer pounds of meat per animal, but more pounds of meat per acre. The reason: these breeds need a lot less forage to mature.

In other words, they are more efficient in converting grass to meat, so you can have more cattle on a given amount of pasture.

Most of our cows are a mixed red angus breed, also known for tenderness. We’re eagerly looking forward to the offspring produced by this combination. Check back in two years to see the result.

The results are in, and our pure grass-fed beef scored a win.

Every year we retain one small rib-eye steak out of most processed animals to send to a local meat lab to be independently tested for tenderness. Out of forty-one steaks tested, forty scored as tender. The breakdown is as follows:

Very Tender (Shear test score less than 3) 61%
Tender (Shear test score 3-4) 27%
Medium (Shear test score 4-5) 10%
Not Tender (Shear test score greater than 5) 2%

We’re pleased that our Heart-J Beef score high in tenderness, it confirms we’re on the right track in our beef-raising practices. For a more complete discussion of the factors that contribute to tenderness, see The Grass-Feeder’s Dilemma.

Of course, tenderness is a consideration mainly for steaks, about 25% of the cuts in a side of beef. Ground beef—about 40% of what’s included in a bulk purchase—is always tender, because it’s, well, ground.

And the remaining 35 percent of the cuts, mostly roasts and stew meat, are wonderfully tender when properly cooked, slow and over low heat. Six to eight hours in a croc pot is great.

For cooking tips, download our free Heart-J Beef Cooking Guide.

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By David Jessup

Time Magazine calls it the “next food frontier.”  Consumer demand for grass-fed beef is growing at a rate of 20% a year.  People are catching on that beef from grass-fed cattle is lower in saturated fat and higher in Omega-3 anti-oxidant vitamins than meat from their grain-stuffed, feedlot raised cousins. 

But there is a potential problem.  Grass-fed beef can sometimes be tough.  Some producers make this a virtue by labeling it “lean.”  But according to Alan Nation, the Johnny Appleseed of grass-fed beef, the product will never realize its potential until better quality and consistency is achieved. 

If we lived inFrance orArgentina, where people tend to slow-cook their meat, it might not be such a problem.  But here people like fast-cooked, seared meat.  Tender, juicy and well-marbled.  Is there a tradeoff between health and edibility?  Read more on The Grass-feeders Dilemma…

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