My family and I are traveling through the American West, and I am awed by its wild majesty and beauty. During a stop at Yellowstone, we paused by a river to watch six bison cross. Soon, we were treated to one of the most astonishing sights I’ve ever seen—something I feel grateful that my sons were able to witness. Those six bison were soon followed by their herd mates, and we were able to see something not many Americans have experienced since bison were hunted to near extinction in the 19th century: the awe-inspiring power of a bison herd on the move. Probably 200 bison forded that stream as they moved to new grazing lands, and witnessing it was an unparalleled experience. Despite their powerful size, bison are graceful creatures and move almost daintily, but with speed and purpose. And they really do thunder. In 1800, it was estimated that more than 40 million bison roamed the United States; by 1900, after an unprecedented and sustained massacre, fewer than 600 bison remained. Most of the bison you see today are descendents of a ragtag group of several dozen bison who had been saved by conservationists dedicated to their survival. Historically, bison were the lifeblood of a number of Native American tribes, providing meat, skins, and other important supplies. Indeed, bison meat has fed humans for thousands of years. Six years ago was the first time I saw bison being farmed for meat. The animals were being raised on 13,000 acres in Texas and were roaming their homelands in family groups, just as nature intended. They were carefully overseen by skilled stockmen who knew that the best management for these magnificent creatures was to ensure that they had the space and freedom to utilize the land to their own advantage.
Grassfed beef from two Animal Welfare Approved farmers has gone head-to-head with conventional beef in separate taste tests. The results are in and, well, to be modest, SMACKDOWN!
This past summer, AWA supporter Chef Bill Telepan issued a challenge to Mark and Dr. Patricia Whisnant of American Grass Fed Beef—bring him some grassfed beef that he deemed worthy of using in his famous burger and he would make the switch from the beef his customers had come to love. And so, on a muggy New York City afternoon, a small crowd gathered to see the gloves come off as 100% grassfed took on heavyweight conventional grain-fed. In a stunning upset, Chef Bill declared the 100% grassfed beef the winner, bestowing the crown of onion rings and French fries that top the famous Telepan burger on the Whisnant’s American Grass Fed Beef.
Kinderhook Farm, by way of Marlow and Daughters butcher shop, was the next to step in the ring, going up against a supermarket cut in the Village Voice’s Battle of the Dishes: Grass-fed Local Steak versus Supermarket Steak. The purpose of the taste-off was simple: while the animal welfare and environmental benefits of grassfed are clear, does it really taste better than conventional?
It was barely a contest as grassfed leveled a knock-out on its opponent. From the beginning, the Kinderhook steak was a stand-out: “It [conventional] had a grayish cast, while the steak from Marlow and Daughters was a rich brownish red, with a firm texture and cream-colored fat.” Kinderhook then went on to a swift and decisive finish, notably for practically cooking itself and developing a gorgeous brown sear, knocking the supermarket steak out of competition.
Chef Bill raves about 100% grassfed beef’s “great, deep beef flavor.”
The Village Voice’s Sarah DeGregorio enthuses, “This is probably how beef used to taste, before we all got used to flaccid, fatty, vaguely-tasty-but-characterless industrial meat.”
Don’t we all want a winner on our dinner plate?