As I wait for Halloween goblins to arrive at the door, wondering if I run out of sweet treats if the little devils would like to have some cuts of lamb all packed for the freezer, I am also reflecting on the latest media releases about red meat. To add to that I listened with interest to the further media discussion about the difference that GRASS FED meat can make when choosing to eat meat.
In 2014 I fed grain to my sheep and had the feedback that they had quite a bit of fat on the meat.
2015 I decided to reduce fat, not by having the sheep do daily sit-ups and stationary bicycling exercises, but rather, to rely on having them make healthy food choices. The healthy food choice I provided was the rich and plentiful grass available at our Wiles Lake farmland. Wiles Lake is a "true to Lunenburg County" drumlin, a big hill of wonderfully rich soil dropped by a glacier exactly a gizzilion years ago as it made its way to the Atlantic ocean. My husband, John, uses 1/2 the drumlin to grow chardonnay and other interesting wine grapes while I use the other 1/2 of the drumlin, rich in knee deep grass in the height of the summer, to pasture my ewes and lambs.
There has been lots of talk in the news about meat and health, with strong indications that GRASS FED MEAT have health benefits not found in grain fed meat
Higher in beta-carotene
Higher vitamin E levels
Improved ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 ratio
Higher in total omega 3
Higher in B vitamins thiamin (B1) and riboflavin (B2)
Increased amounts of minerals, calcium, magnesium and potassium
Higher amounts of conjugated linoleic acid
Increased levels of vaccenic acid
Grass-fed meat is leaner than the grain-fed meat you may be accustomed to buying from your local grocery store.
And, so, I have discovered a very informative article (not you-tube but yes the internet) about working with the Grass Fed beef which I am told is the same as working with grass fed lamb. It was such an education for me I thought I would share for anyone else new to the meat from these "health conscious" sheep.
"...consequently, there are a few key differences that you need to be aware of when it comes to thawing and cooking grass fed meat to ensure that you preserve its tenderness and flavours.
Never microwave grass fed meat to thaw it.
Microwaving to thaw it makes the meat tough because the microwave turns some of the moisture to steam, which allows this valuable moisture to escape from the beef. Preserving moisture is key to keeping your meat tender. Grass-fed meat is even more vulnerable to moisture losses during microwave-thawing because it has less external fat to trap steam from escaping.
The best way to thaw meat quickly if you are in a hurry and don’t have time to let it thaw on the fridge or counter (and without thawing it in a microwave) is to take the frozen beef out of the butcher wrapping, give it a quick rinse, then put it inside a watertight Ziploc bag.
Submerse the entire package in cool water inside a bowl or in the sink. Make sure that there are no large air pockets in the bag - you want to ensure good contact between the water and the meat, otherwise it will not thaw any faster than simply leaving the meat out on the counter. Close the bag with the majority of the bag held underwater to help force as much air out as possible.
It’s okay to let the meat package float in the water bath, but if you are in a hurry you can hold the meat under water by placing a heavy item on top of the package to hold it underwater. This ensures maximum contact between the wrapped meat and the water.
A 2-lb package of ground meat or chops usually thaws sufficiently within 15 - 30 minutes to be able to begin cooking. Even if the meat does not completely thaw before you pull it out of the water, the frozen center has typically softened enough that you can cut it with a knife or break apart the remainder of the ground meat in the frying pan with a spoon or spatula.
Cooking Time and Cooking Temperature
Cooking meat serves two purposes:
1. Heating meat to a certain minimum temperature kills bacteria - this is a simple precautionary food safety strategy.
2. Cooking changes the protein structure of the meat, which gives cooked meat a different texture and flavour and makes it more digestible.
Changing the proteins during cooking to achieve a desired flavor and texture depends not only on the temperature of the cooking process, but also on the rate of temperature change experienced by the meat during the cooking process.
A slow temperature change during cooking allows the protein fibers to remain relaxed. A very rapid temperature change is a shock that will cause protein fibers to contract. Slow-cooking steaks and roasts ensures that the proteins don't contract and become tough during the cooking process.
Slow-cooking meat at lower temperatures also means less moisture in the meat will turn to steam and escape.
Your cooking process needs to prevent excessive moisture loss from your meat. Searing meat at high temperatures to create an outer crust is a great technique to lock in moisture, but cooking chops and roasts at high temperatures during the remaining cooking time will cause the meat to lose too much moisture and dry out during the cooking process, which will make your meat tough.
So, let's have a look at what this little bit of theory actually means in practice when you're cooking grass-fed meat in your oven, on your stove top, or on your grill:
Since fat acts as an insulator, it should come as no surprise that lean meat cooks faster than fatty meat because the heat from the grill, oven, or frying pan is able to penetrate through the entire beef cut more quickly.
Since grass-fed meat is leaner than grain-fed meat, expect to shorten your cooking times by 10-25% when using grass fed meat in your recipes. Just start checking your grass fed meat roasts and steaks a little sooner than you normally would check your store-bought grain fed meat to make sure you don't overcook them.
Reduce cooking temperatures by 10-15% when cooking grass fed meat . So, if a recipe normally calls for 350° cooking temperatures, turn down the heat to around 300-315°.
For best results when grilling, begin by searing the outside of your steaks to create a crust to lock in moisture. Then turn the grill to low to finish the cooking process on low (slow) heat to prevent excessive moisture losses and protein fiber contraction."