The first grass-fed beef ever

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer June 13, 2012 03:51 pm
Grass-fed beef is all the rage these days. Everyone, it seems, wants to eat in such a way as to delay the heart attack until at least after dessert.

I was in on the ground floor of the grass-fed beef movement. The genesis. 

Our county 4-H fair was held in the middle of Eugene, a city of 100,000 in those days, if you included a few runaway steers tromping through the gladiolas.

My steer, however, was one of the tame ones. I had trained him well by holding the rope and water skiing behind him. Well, I was water skiing when we ran through the creek and grass skiing when we ran through the pasture.

We’d race from one side of the valley to the other and back again until he got tired and decided to eat more grass.

By fair time, my steer was tamed down a bit. He was willing to stand still, very still, during showmanship and market classes. I would be standing holding a 1,200-pound steer at the end of a lead. I wasn’t moving because the steer was normally standing on my foot.

The physical pain took away the emotional pain of being 13th in a line of 13. The top steers were grain fed, well marbled and led by children in suits and ties. My steer was skinny as an anorexic rail, a lean, mean, beef-making machine. I wore my Sunday best cotton shirt, blue jeans and what was left on my boots.

Frugal, not cheap

The grass-fed beef didn’t originate because our ranch was cheap. We were just frugal. And through our frugality we didn’t finish the steers with much grain but mostly kept them on a pure grass diet.

It was that way with all our cows. They seemed to enjoy just hanging out in the pasture eating. Happy cows make better beef.

Several years later, city folks began discovering the wonders of grass-fed beef. They would take a drive into the country and admire our beef with 8 percent body fat that if they turned sideways would pretty much disappear.

The city folks began to order a quarter of beef here, a half of beef there. And they paid a premium for meat that had cost us less to produce. We liked that business formula for sure. It would allow us to get new boots to replace the ones the steer had stood on.

Today with fast food joints on every corner, and people eating enough starch to make their clothes stand up without a body in it, a few brave folks are resisting and opting for lean beef.  My family, for one, is happy about the trend, at least my cousin and uncle, who are the only two left still involved in the beef industry.

I’m happy too. I’ll opt for grass-fed beef and keep my arteries free and clear, so I can have more Oreos.

No one’s perfect.

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