In my last blog I outlined why grass-fed beef is a better, more natural system of farming for the animals. But being a butcher, and an enthusiastic carnivore, grass-feeding has important positive knock-on effects for us and our tastebuds too…

What’s grass-fed beef got that grain-fed doesn’t?
Full of iron, protein and B vitamins, red meat is good for you. But grass-fed meat is even better for you. Meat reared outdoors on grass (or meat like venison that has experienced a wild diet, for that matter) will be more nutrient-rich than grain-fed meat. If you’re into your fitness, like me, you’ll know your body needs the organic acid, creatine, to make the most of its muscle function (that includes the brain) and grass-fed beef is a great natural source of it. As well as being packed with healthy omega 3 – essential for our joints and to keep us in a good mood – grass-fed meat contains higher levels of vitamins A and E, zinc, potassium and phosphorus. This makes grass-fed beef great for all-round good health.

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Worried about fat? Listen to our nutritionist, Dr Chris Fenn:

“Grass-fed meat is lower in fat than that from grain-fed animals. In fact, grass-fed beef can have the same amount of fat as skinless chicken breast or wild deer. Grass-fed beef also has a lower saturated fat content and two to four times more of the essential omega 3 fatty acids compared with grain-fed beef.”

Can you taste the difference with grass-fed beef?
Can you ever! For me, by far the most noticeable benefit of grass-feeding is the flavour of the finished meat. I could go on and on about this, but I won’t, because put simply, the taste is fantastic.

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Rich, deep, sweet and flecked with creamy fat, grass-fed beef is a totally natural product. Each steak will be slightly different, with its own delicious variances to offer. Across the board, though – and I can say this confidently as I have tasted all sorts of beef – grass-fed is far superior. It won’t leave a greasy aftertaste in your mouth, and when cooked to perfection, each mouthful will be a total joy.

There you have it – we’re all incredibly passionate about this at Donald Russell. I wouldn’t choose anything less than the best grass-fed beef for my plate, and neither should you. Choose grass-fed and enjoy the best flavour nature has to offer!

Mark Farquhar

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What are cattle supposed to eat?
Ruminants like cows have evolved to eat grass, and they do very well on it indeed. Their digestive systems include specialised chambers and bacteria to break down and ferment the plants they graze on. Like most natural processes, it’s slow, steady and can’t be rushed.

If it’s so natural why aren’t all cattle grass-fed?
Time, as you know, is money. In other countries (and now, alarmingly, even in the UK), cheaper farming systems mean that livestock are fed on grain, not grass. Because they put on weight more quickly, the meat costs less to produce.

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What’s the problem with grain-fed beef?
It’s not good news for the animals, whose digestive systems can’t cope with this unfamiliar foodstuff. A nasty foamy slime can form when they try to digest lots of grain – their stomachs just aren’t designed for it. This foam can trap digestive gases which can eventually put pressure on other essential organs like the lungs, making breathing difficult. Sometimes the only way to stop this condition before it becomes fatal is to manually pop the foamy bubble via the throat – very unpleasant for the animal, as you can imagine!

The acidity of their gut is also altered, making the animals unwell. They’re then given routine antibiotics to keep them ‘healthy’. This adds to concerns about unnecessary use of antibiotics raising tolerance levels in humans, and feeding into the possibility that antibiotic-resistant bugs will evolve because of this.

What about Donald Russell beef?
At Donald Russell, we insist that our animals are raised as traditionally and naturally as possible, able to move freely in their herd and graze outdoors on lush green pasture. That’s why we only sell grass-fed beef.

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What does ‘grass-fed’ actually mean?
It’s just about as simple as it sounds – cattle roaming in fields outdoors, grazing on the grass underfoot (or should I say ‘underhoof’?!). That’s not to say that our animals don’t have access to shelter though. In the depths of winter here in the UK, our grass-fed cattle may shelter in large sheds, to keep them out of the worst of the cold weather. During this time, when snow or hard frost covers the ground and affects the quality of the grass, their diet is supplemented with hay and silage. Both are natural products, made on the farm to preserve some of the spring and summer grass growth. Hay is just dried grass, and silage is grass that has been fermented to be rich in vitamins and good bacteria (a bit like us humans taking a probiotic yoghurt drink in the morning!)

Is grass-fed beef only about animal welfare?
No. Although it’s an incredibly important reason to choose grass-fed beef, animal welfare is only part of the story. As butchers we’re interested in the difference in quality that can be found with grass-fed beef – and we think you will be too! But that’s a whole other subject, which I’ll cover in my next blog.

Meanwhile, next time you’re tucking into your favourite steak, think about all the time and care that has gone into raising such excellent grass-fed beef!

Mark Farquhar

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Matthias Schmitt

I’m a chef. My job is to cook. And I’m not afraid to admit I’m extremely selective about what I choose to cook with. Quality is everything as far as I’m concerned – which is why I feel lucky to work here, where I have access to all sorts of top quality ingredients to play with (erm, I mean work, of course!)
I want my food to taste fantastic, to look and smell gorgeous, to make people smile. It’s nice to be appreciated, after all. But there are selfish reasons too – I want to eat really, really good food. Anything else is simply a waste – of food and of my time!

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Although I love what I do, I’m not going to deny that it’s hard work. Sometimes I’ll spend the best part of a morning making a dish that seems to disappear in seconds flat. Other dishes take even longer – blind baking pastry, simmering stocks, marinading things for days so that they take on all sorts of delicious flavours. Of course it’s worth it – it’s my passion – but if truth be told, when I get home after a long day’s work, even I don’t always feel like starting to cook all over again!

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I know that lots of our customers feel the same way. Some have busy lives, and are popping home to eat something fast before rushing off to the next appointment, or are trying to feed the entire family who all have different favourites. Others may no longer be able to cook from scratch, or may simply feel like they’ve finally earned a break from chopping veg. And some people enjoy eating well, but just have no interest in the cooking part (I know – sounds unbelievable, but it takes all sorts!)

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That’s where our chef-prepared meals and side dishes come in. It’s so reassuring to know that I (and our customers, of course) can simply pop one of these in the oven or the pan – often straight from frozen – and be enjoying a properly thought out, delicious, wholesome dinner in next to no time. The flavours speak for themselves – don’t even get me started on artificial flavourings! – and I know that there’s nothing in there I wouldn’t add myself. After all, I’ve often created the recipe!

Happy eating,

Matthias Schmitt

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