Burke’s Garden, an Amish farm in “God’s Thumbprint,” a crater-shaped valley at the top of Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains, produces grass-fed, grass-finished beef the old way: without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, growth hormones, or antibiotics -- just the natural grass pasture the cattle graze, and an added treat of organic kelp. Farmer Elmer Lapp’s conscientious management, gentle handling, and rotational grazing make for bold-flavored steak so good that he hasn’t eaten beef from another farm in decades.
Elmer is raising a herd of Murray Grey and Devon cattle, two breeds known for producing highly marbled, rich-tasting steaks on a diet of grass. Murrey Greys, which hail from Australia, are a handsome gray color not seen very often in the United States. Devon is one of the oldest breeds in the world, having descended from the small, aboriginal cattle Bos lonqifrons on the British island. Bred by Elmer for calmness (which is more important to the taste of your steak than you might realize), the cows at Burke’s Garden live peaceful lives on the rolling fields of the valley. They make for a stunning postcard vista from the Appalachian Trail at the valley rim, where thru-hikers often stop in their tracks to take in the view of the crater, the farm, and the sight of Elmer’s buggy making its way down the one road that winds in and out of the valley.
Residents of “God’s Thumbprint” since Elmer’s forefathers immigrated from Switzerland generations ago, the Lapp family is raising exceptionally nutritious beef from animals that lived idyllic lives.
Grass-fed, grass-finished beef is delicious, make no mistake about it. Speaking of mistakes, many people who write-off grass-fed beef make the mistake of preparing it the same as the grain-finished beef that they're so used to. At Crowd Cow, we've found more often than not, that the difference between a great grass-fed steak and a sub-par one all comes down to knowing how to cook it correctly.
At Crowd Cow, we've had the good fortune to taste a lot of grass-fed, grass-finished beef -- from different cuts and different producers. We've found that grass fed beef usually takes 25-30% less time to cook. You might be used to cooking your rib steaks 4 minutes per side, but for grass-fed beef, you'll want to only give it 3 minutes. Better yet, try sous-viding your grass-fed steaks or preparing them with a reverse-sear.
Lastly, consider a marinade or rub. These can often overwhelm more-mellow grain-finished beef, but are perfect for rounding out the flavor of grass-fed beef, and marinades in particular are helpful in keeping the meat moist, preventing it from overcooking and drying out.