I had a delicious paleo breakfast of champions this morning: leftover grassfed beef steak, green salad (also leftover) with Lemonette Dressing (from my Garden of Eating Cookbook), fresh pineapple with coconut milk, and my favorite coffee alternative, Teeccino, with coconut milk, cinnamon, and vanilla stevia. I frequently eat meat, vegetables, and fruit for breakfast or brunch. This morning I had a special treat. Not only did I have a meaty bone to knaw on (the long thing in the front of the picture) and some exra juicy fat on the steak, I also had a rare delicacy.
Grassfed white beef
It wasn't just any grassfed beef steak I was eating. It’s white beef, something you’re unlikely to ever see in stores. It’s a genetic anomaly. I’ve been eating their beef for about six and a half years and last year was the first year they had (and I tasted) white beef. I had the ground white beef in tacos at their house. It looks like pork (see picture right) even though it’s beef; it tastes very mild, more mild than typical 100% grassfed beef, which can have a slightly grassy (some call it gamey) taste. It still has the nutrients you’d expect in beef and a lighter taste. It’s the other white meat! It's so delicious!
It’s probably similar to white King Salmon that I had on several occasions when I lived in Seattle, Washington. It’s appearance always unpredictable and when they had it at Larry’s Market, where I worked the year following the closing of my restaurant, Rachel’s Natural Foods Café, I would often buy it for its rich buttery flavor. “No farmer or rancher that we’ve ever talked to has ever seen it [white beef] or heard of it,” says Brenna Aschbacher of Fishhugger Beef & Salmon.
The white beef and most of the (regular red) grassfed beef I buy and eat comes from my friends Kenny & Brenna Aschbacher (known as the Fishhuggers in the Phoenix metro area and in Albuquerque, New Mexico). It’s raised on Kenny’s family’s farm in Sedan, NM, in the northeast corner of the state near the Kiowa National Grasslands. The cattle are raised on irrigated wheat, rye, and bermuda grasses. Whereas raw foodists grow wheat grass, juice and drink it, Kenny’s family graze and finish their cattle on the gourmet grass, a much better use of it if you ask me! Ruminants are far more efficient at digesting and converting the nutrients in grass into more important nutrients than humans.
Leaders in grassFAT beef
Kenny and Brenna are setting a standard for what they call grassFAT beef: their cattle are born and raised on the same farm their entire lives and spend about 3 years eating all grass, all the time. They are truly grassfed start to to finish. You may see meat in stores that’s grassfed initially, then finished on grain to make it fat fast! Technically, it’s no longer grassfed; once they’re fed grain the cows become grain-finished, a different animal altogether.
Grassfed is both a traditional old time practice, and a very new thing in our modern world. Lean grassfed beef can be easy to come by. As long as a cow has never been fed grain, it can qualify for the label “grassfed. We grabbed on to the term grassFAT to distinguish our meat from other [lean] grassfed meat,” explains Brenna. “Our animals are grassfed for their whole lives and they’re grass-fattened so they concentrate more of the nutrients that are found only in the fat."
Once cows reach sexual maturity (18 to 20 months old), when they’re done growing hair, skin, and bone, then they can lay down more fat. Some farmers butcher their cattle young so they can keep up with demand. Kenny & Brenna exercise more patience and allow their animals to live longer lives and eat more grass than most farmers in the grassfed movement. They want the animals to lay down more fat, particularly the kind of fat that 100% grass feeding produces.
Kenny and Brenna want to come as close to replicating what paleo hunters had access to and enjoyed the most. “We want the cattle to have a healthy life and really live to their full potential,” says Brenna. “It’s part of our commitment to the animals as well as to the quality of food.” You don’t want to trim off this fat before (or after) cooking. This if fat you want to eat! It’s good and rich and loaded with important nutrients that support health. Although many farmers and writer promote grassfed beef as being leaner than conventional grain-fed beef, their are many benefits to eating a higher fat diet. The fat content of cows, sheep, goats, and other ruminants depends largely on the breed of cattle, how the animals are raised, what they eat, and the age at which they are slaughtered.
Good fat is where it’s at!
"In the grassfed world most of the medicinal properties are found in the fat. All of our favorite vitamins (A, D, E, K) and essential fatty acids (long chain omega 3s) and cancer protective nutriens, such as CLA, are concentrated in the fat, moreso than the meat," explains Brenna. The meat provides a healthy protein, but we need the fat for other essentials that we can’t get or can’t get enough of from other foods. The hunter gatherers would go for the oldest, fattest animals. That produced the most energy for their efforts. Animal fat (yes, that means saturated fat!) is a traditional food our bodies are meant to run on.
The processor the Aschbachers use is located in Dalhart, Texas. It’s a small, Mennonite family-owned and operated USDA inspected facility about 30 miles from their farm that dry ages the beef for 14 days before cutting it and freezing it. Kenny and Brenna sell it to restaurants, individuals, and at farmers’ markets around the valley (Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Ahwatukee) from mid to late October to April, then they migrate to Albuquerque, NM, sell at markets there. During part of the summer, Kenny heads to Alaska to fish for wild salmon that's flash frozen on the boat. Some of that salmon gets sold to canneries, to the Japanese for the sushi trade, and some of it gets shipped to cold storage in Phoenix and Albuquerque to be sold along with the Aschbacher's beef.
If you’d like to buy and try some of their meat, visit the Fishhugger web site for the listing of farmers’ markets in the Phoenix metro area and in Albuquerque, NM, where they sell beef. You can also call them and arrange to pick up meat directly from them or have large orders delivered. If you are interested in saving money by purchasing in bulk, you can check out the Fishhugger Beef Bundles and 5th Dimension Food Shares. Half or whole beef orders are also accepted. Their beef stores well in a -10 degree F freezer for 1 year. Tell them Chef Rachel sent you!