I bought a 1/4 grass finished cow (I had a good experience with a 1/2 pig from the same seller, so didnt feel the need to start small).

We cooked some ground beef, and it was fine. But the second cut we tried were the NY strips and the fat on them tasted strongly of fish. I prepared the steak as i would any other store bought steak. I salted then fried in a cast iron pan on high with a little oil, removing the steaks from the pan at 125F. This normally produces steaks I enjoy a lot.

Based on a little research, it is common for grass finished beef to have some odd flavors if you are used to grain finished beef (almost all beef is raised on grass, the difference is what they are fed in the end to fatten up).

So, if all my steaks did taste fishy, is there a preparation method to mitigate the fishiness?

I'm familiar with gamey flavors of meat, having eaten quite a lot of moose, caribou, rabbit and the parts of a cow most people don't seem interested in. This fishy flavor was not like those. The fat tasted like I had bitten into one of those fish oil pills, and it was only the fat that tasted this way, I separated it from the flesh to check.

  • 3
    Are you sure that the oil you used hasn't gone rancid?
    – John Feltz
    Dec 15, 2016 at 14:58
  • 1
    Yes, I am unfortunately familiar with the flavor of rancid oil. Also, this oil is the same olive oil I use for everything else, so it would have ruined my grilled cheese the day before. Dec 15, 2016 at 15:06

8 Answers 8


Grass-fed (and finished) beef fat tastes fishy because it effectively is similar to fish oils. In particular, grass-fed beef fat is dramatically higher in omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acids) as opposed to omega-6 (linoleic) fatty acids; this NIH funded study for example found:

... overall average of 1.53 and 7.65 [omega-6 to omega-3 ratio] for grass-fed and grain-fed, respectively, for all studies reported in this review.

Meaning that grass-fed beef might have a 3:2 ratio of o6:o3 fatty acids, while grain-fed beef has a 13:2 ratio - a ratio over 4 times higher.

Fish tends to have even more omega 3 fatty acids, tending to a ratio of less than 1 (so, more omega 3 than omega 6); so I wouldn't imagine your beef tastes entirely like fish. But you're definitely going to taste some 'fishiness' in there in grass-fed and grass-finished beef as compared to grain-finished or grain-fed.

As far as how to prepare it, the challenge with beef is the strong beef flavor that you don't want to entirely cover up (or you wouldn't be buying a nice grass-fed side of beef, you'd be buying something from the local megamart).

My suggestion is to take your cue from fish itself: specifically, from strong tasting fish, and fish that is commonly eaten in steak-like preparations.

  • Steak Tartare or Beef Carpaccio is one suggestion. By not melting the fat, you're not going to release as much of the 'fishy' flavor, and in fact this is a common preparation for fishier fish as well (Tuna and Salmon in particular).
  • Add an acidic sauce, such as hollandaise. Acidic flavors cut the fishy flavor well, just as spritzing some lemon juice onto your salmon does.
  • Braised preparations such as how short ribs are commonly prepared work well because not only can you introduce an acidic flavor but you also allow some of the oil to be extracted from the fat and blended into the meat where it's not quite as concentrated as simply eating the steak. While braised beef can be very heavy on the sauce, a simple braise in red wine might be effective at counteracting the oil flavor while still keeping the beefiness.
  • Removing the fat before cooking (trimming) will work well for cuts that have solid fat. Even something like a ribeye (which has a lot of both marbling and solid fat), simply doing this might be sufficient if the taste doesn't bother you too much.
  • Frying in butter, or in a fat that is not high in omega-3 fatty acids, may help as well. Olive oil should be fine (very little omega-3); avoid flaxseed oil or blended oils that list omega 3 fatty acids as a health benefit. This probably won't help with the solid fat, though, only with the marbling.
  • Finally, you will get used to this taste just as you did with gaminess. So, simply eating it and not trying to alter it may be the right path if you are going to continue buying grass-fed and grass-finished beef in this manner. Many tastes are possible to get used to after five or six meals of them.
  • The Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio is really interesting! Nice source
    – Caleb
    Dec 16, 2016 at 23:18
  • Thanks for explaining why the meat tastes fishy, and for the preparation suggestions. We ate a ribeye using the fat removal suggestion and it was pretty effective. Dec 19, 2016 at 15:35

There is actually quite a lot of information if you Google this topic, which surprised me. I suspect you are tasting "gamey" beef for the first time. There are a lot of variables impacting what the final product will taste like to you, including: type of finishing grass, region, or other "grass fed" beef you've had could have been grain finished to keep the game flavor away.

Here's the answer to a relevant question asked on Reddit:

"I'm a butcher and I get asked this question a lot. Where in the country was it raised? Grass fed beef definitely has more of a "gamey" flavor, but it's usually a lot less harsh if the steer was finished on grain as opposed to 100℅ grass. Another factor in the taste is where it grazed. You're essentially tasting the grass that the cow ate. Again, finishing the steer on grain will mitigate this somewhat."

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/meat/comments/3mmi4g/i_have_20_pounds_of_grass_fed_beef_it_tastes_like/

If you'd like to "cover up" the gamey flavor you should consider preparations that cover the meat in sauce. Stroganoff could be a great place to start.

  • This doesn't really answer the question I asked. How do I fix the fishy flavor in steaks I already own? also, i added a little more detail in my question. Dec 16, 2016 at 14:29
  • I added something to my answer to cover that last point, although I don't think you'll be able to cover it up completely.
    – Caleb
    Dec 16, 2016 at 23:16

You might try to trim the fat. Then bake them with a light coating of orange or pineapple glaze. Is it possible sea weed was added to the feed for filler or minerals were you live? That will give a fish flavor to fat on animals. Orange glaze is good on salmon as well baked.


We raised a steer a few years back, he only ate grass and hay with no grain finish, the taste of him was so strong "fishy" I will never finish a steer on hay/grass ever again. Had to give most of the steaks to the dog it almost seemed as you got closer to the bone the taste "fishy" became stronger, we will continue to finish all future steers on a grain diet.

  • I found no way to change the taste FYI just chalked it up to a loss May 18, 2017 at 23:16

Soaking the meat in milk or buttermilk has worked for me. Maybe this has something to do with the lactic acid?


We raised a steer on grass and free bread from our local food pantry. Some of the fat tasted fishy. Not all of it though. Half the steer was turned into hamburger. And none of the hamburger tasted fishy. So if you have some grass fed beef that has a fishy taste to it, turn it into hamburger. It's the fat that has the fishy flavor. And when you cook it as hamburgers on the grill, the fat melts out of it. So you won't taste any fishy flavor. We also used it to make meatballs, and made hobo stew with it. I like it ground as hamburger now more than steaks. So that's what I'm going to do with our next steer, all hamburger!


I had Hawaii Island grass fed beef- one of the purest and finest, but the gamy/fish taste was off-putting. I ate it in hamburger form and it was worse. The restaurant cooked it plain so it was strong. I usually prep the local grass fed beef with wine/spirits/alcohol- some olive oil, and a few spices and it is way better. If you want to get rid of the fish taste and still enjoy tender beef that tastes world class- add some alcohol. blk pepper, some onions/dehydrated onions, garlic salt can also make the flavor even better. If you dont like alcohol, add some ketchup and worstershire sauce - just a tad bit to bump up taste.


you can marinate the steaks in balsamic vinegar and honey overnight, this completely lost the fishies of our beef and tenderized the steaks as a bonus. Hope this helps.

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