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So this relates to an expensive order I made from a local farm, that’s highly reviewed online by the few who know about it, and they check all the boxes for my standards in terms of their beef being a) 100% grass-fed & finished and b) certified organic. The owners seem like fantastic people from my interactions with them, and I can tell they’re quite knowledgable about the industry, and share many of the same views on nutrition and the benefits of grass-fed beef as I do.

Today I defrosted some striploin steaks I bought as part of my large order. Prior to putting them on the BBQ, I could tell they had quite a noticeable scent to them. I don’t know if “gamey” accurately describes what it was, or “barnyard-y” — but something just seemed off about the smell overall. I cooked them anyway, but that ‘off’ smell came out in the taste. Unfortunately I couldn’t finish it. I was frustrated and confused.

I’ve ordered & eaten organic, 100% grass-fed/finished steaks before while in another city (aka from other farms), yet there was no taste or smell issue for me.

These striploin steaks + the rest of my order were also very, very fresh and delivered to the farm by the butcher just a day before I went. I remember when I bought meat from this farm last year as well, that the butcher or slaughter date noted on the sticker was just 2 weeks prior. So really fresh stuff. If anything, I thought that the closer you are to the slaughter date of the animal, the more mild/lack of taste the beef will have? So what’s with this noticeable smell & taste I’m picking up this time around? Also, last year I made tartare from this same farm’s cut of tenderloin, and I know for sure I wouldn’t have eaten it if the smell was what I’m noticing now.

It’s also not exclusive to the striploin steaks I tried today, because I began defrosting some of the rib steaks and it seems like they have the same smell & could turn out the same. :(

What would you speculate the potential issue is? Could it be the breed of cow? The 'freshness' of the steak? Whether it was dry-aged or not? (I'm going to ask them, but if I had to guess I don't think it is).

  • I'm not sure, but the age of the animal prior to slaughter might be the cause here. – LSchoon Jun 2 at 7:26
  • Hmm. I checked the farm's website and while it doesn't say explicitly at what age they slaughter, it does make a comparison between their cows and factory farmed ones by citing the difference in weight at 18 months (which seems to be a standard, common age for when beef is slaughtered). So that may not be it :/ – Tommy B Jun 2 at 7:41
  • Have you considered the possibility they'd simply gone bad? – GdD Jun 2 at 7:46
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    What did the farm say about your issue? You say they are knowledgeable and "fantastic people." Why not ask them? – moscafj Jun 2 at 10:50
  • Without being able to taste the meat, I don't know that anyone could provide a satisfactory answer. That said, my experience has been that truly grass-fed beef, i.e. entirely raised on pasture grazing, does in fact have a different smell/taste from supermarket grain-fed beef, and that this is inherent in the product. It can be a bit of an acquired taste, and I would suggest that if you had other beef advertised as grass-fed but which tasted the same as regular grain-fed beef, that it probably wasn't really grass-fed (i.e. falsely advertised as grass-fed). – Peter Duniho Jun 6 at 17:31
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Based on your explanation I can only speculate a bit. I have ordered beef and other meats including yak (which is from a bovine) online from various places. I prefer grass fed and free range beef and also eat some game meats (venison, rabbit, ostrich, boar, etc) so am familiar with some variety of meats besides the farm raised packaged meat in most grocery stores.

Free range meat tends to be leaner, and a bit tougher and gamier, with stronger smell and flavor, than grocery store meat. The best way I'd describe "gamey" is a flavor somewhat like liver, and sometimes what seems like a slightly powdery texture or mouth feel. It can indeed smell a bit musky. The meat tends to be leaner and tougher and so depending on how you prepare it can be chewier. Not sure if this describes your experience? One person might find this appetizing while another might find it off-putting.

In my experience the fat on free-range meat often has a yellow color rather than pale white, has a stronger smell and flavor, and often a lot of the gaminess in the meat is actually in the fat. So if it is very well trimmed you can eliminate some of that.

Another possibility is that the meat wasn't handled well between slaughter and when you got it. The meat needs to be hung before it is processed, as short as 3-5 days and as long as 21, this varies based on the animal and how it is prepared, and this is where the experience and quality of your producer come into play. It is not true that fresher i.e. closer to the slaughter date is always better, the meat needs to hang for a while to become tender. A cattle is a huge animal, hundreds of pounds, and it takes a while for the meat to age before processing. It could also be that something went wrong with the shipping, maybe the steaks were allowed to thaw and refreeze or exposed to air.

I would take all of these questions to your beef producer and see if you can figure it out.

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