Does Grass Fed Beef Taste Gamey? {Ask the Readers}

I want to start by thanking those of you who shared your story on last week’s Ask the Readers question. You all are the best! That is not an easier subject to talk about and I really appreciate so many of you being willing to share your story. That was a question from a reader, but I enjoyed reading the comments so much. Knowing others understand and have walked the same path makes it much easier. Thank you!

Now for this week’s question. This one is also from a reader and I am hoping you all can help.

I have a question. Are you familiar with grass fed beef? We have a freezer full and when I use the ground beef it seems to have a taste I’m not use to, like a gamey or wild taste. Any suggestions on getting the taste out or helping with the taste?

We covered cooking with venison several years ago for an Ask the Readers Question, but we have not talked about grass fed beef, so I thought this would be a great subject for ask the readers.

I grew up eating beef that my parents raised and we now buy half a beef each year from a local rancher and I have never noticed a gamey taste. Although, I am probably not the best person to judge a gamey taste, since I am used to eating deer and elk.

Grass fed beef does taste different, but to me it tastes better. It has a stronger beef taste, but is not something I thought of as gamey.

Some venison does taste very gamey to me and I usually use it in food that has a strong flavor like chili or mexican food. The strong spices often cover up some of the gamey taste. So, my suggestion would be that you could probably do something similar with the beef to cover up some of that flavor that you do not like.

So, what are your thoughts? Can you help?

Have you noticed that grass fed beef tastes different and gamey? Do you have any tips for helping with it if you do not like the taste of it? 

Lynn's Kitchen Adventures

Comments

  1. I’m interested to hear what people have to say. The beef we get is all corn/grass fed. I’m considering buying grass fed beef. I hope not. I really can’t stand game taste at all.

  2. I buy grass fed beef from Trader Joe’s. It doesnt taste gamey to me, just tastes like regular beef. I am not a vension fan (like in roasts) but will eat deer “hamburger” and this doesnt taste like deer at all to me.

  3. Margaret Flynn says:

    Lynn,
    I’ve been getting grain/alfalfa fed beef for years, but each year it started tasting more rancid. It seemed like the rancher was feeding it more grain and the fat marbling was greater and huge hunks of hard fat were left on the cuts of meat. I declined to order another one 2 years ago.

    So this last year I got a quarter of a grass fed calf, raised locally. I find that it doesn’t have much taste at all as it is young and doesn’t have much fat. It was tender, but steaks weren’t that good. I liked having bones in my roast that I could later make into broth. I don’t think I’ll get another one from this particular person,

    So much of the flavor not only comes from what the cow is fed, but the age, the method of processing, length of time hanging, and cuts of meat.

    I’m still searching for a locally raised cow that isn’t too fat or too old!

  4. I’m a city kid that most certainly didn’t grow up eating grass-fed beef or any game meats. Now we buy 1/4 grass-fed cow each year, and I love it. It just takes rich and beefy to me, no gamey flavor, in my opinion.

  5. I don’t think it tastes “gamey” however, I have heard people say it has a tougher texture ( I disagree). If anything,I think different varieties of beef just differ in taste, so some have more flavor, etc. Now organic free range Turkey, that tastes gamey to my family. But its probably what it is supposed to taste like!

  6. We buy part of a cow every year, and they are grass-fed angus. Never noticed a strange taste. We love ours! Really lean and the steaks are always delicious!

  7. Elizabeth says:

    We buy natural beef from various sources. In the past year I’ve had grass-fed, organic beef from a local farmer; natural beef from Whole Foods; and just plain hamburgers from McDonald’s. I can’t taste a difference between any of these sources, except that the beef from our local farmer is much leaner than, say, a McD’s burger! In terms of taste…I just don’t know what would give beef a gamey taste. It sounds unusual to me.

  8. The only thing I really notice on grass fed beef is a very rich flavor. I also noticed that I needed to turn the fire DOWN when frying hamburgers (plus I sometimes add a little butter to the pan because the beef is so lean).

  9. To me, yes, it does. I WANT to prefer the grass fed beef. I know it’s better quality and better for me. But I don’t like the taste. I first realized this when I was at a great restaurant with friends, and they ordered an expensive filet for me….and I didn’t enjoy it at all. So I guess I’ll stay with my previous plan: just don’t much beef.

  10. I don’t know much about how different feeds affect the taste of the meat, but i do know that the length of hang time makes a big difference in the taste of the meat. The slaughtered animal should hang for several days-up to at least 3 weeks. During that process, the blood drains out and the enzymes in the meat start breaking down and releasing. When it doesn’t hang properly, you’ll have a gamey taste. We learned the hard way. We butchered our own a few years back. The timing was so that it had to be done over Christmas holidays. We hung it in the shed so that it could drain a few days, but didn’t count on the fact that it was so cold the whole thing froze solid overnight! We used the meat, but it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. I did several things that helped. I soaked the meat before I cooked it in salt water, then drained it several times. I used seasonings in the meat as i cooked it–salt, garlic, pepper. Onions in the cooking process helped a lot. I also found that it was much better in things than plain, especially tomato based meals, like spaghetti and chili. I know disappointing it is!! Hope this helps.

    • Thanks! I will have to try these things. My husband and others don’t taste what I do so I have no idea what the deal is unless its due to me being pregnant.

    • Yes, this does help, thank you. I got some grass-fed beef from a local person and yuck, it has such a gamey taste to it. Maybe this is why. I’ll soak it and use lots of spices to cook the rest of it.

  11. connie mcgalla says:

    Well, we raise grass fed Irish Dexter cattle. Given, they do taste different than those other types of beef since they have a lower fat content. But with that said, I do not think they have a gamey taste. To me the only way to describe the taste is …..clean. It just taste clean. My husband is a hunter and we have eaten venison for years. I have discovered that the gamey taste in venison is not the meat, but in the fat and the way the deer is processed. Less fat left on the meat and no aging will give you a very clean taste with no gamey taste at all. I think it is the same with beef. The fresher it is and the less fat you have, then no gamey taste….just clean and very yummy! BTW..thanks for the blog…love it!

  12. Gamey tasting meat needs to be marinated. Some people marinate in milk, buttermilk, cider, or vinegar for a few hours in the frig. to remove the gamey taste before cooking. Personally, grass fed beef that I’ve eaten is not as good as beef that has been fattened the fast four weeks with corn. To improve texture and flavor is why farmers began fattening beef with corn many many years ago.

  13. Is the taste somewhat fishy? Grass fed beef is higher in the Omega oils that other beef. We have found the extent of the “flavor” to us it is fishy depends on how long the beef was “hung” after slaughter. Most times it is hung for 14 days. We have ours hung only for 10 days. We had a 1/4 side that was hung for 21 days and it was almost inedible for my family’s tastes. =(

    This is only our 4th time with grass-fed and the last two times we have only had the beef hang for 10 days and there is only a trace fishy flavor which you really do not notice at all in the ground beef, steaks or even roasts.

    Interested to see what others have to say

    Marjorie

  14. Grass fed beef has almost no fat, and you have to know how to cook it. I add water or cooking spray, or butter to the pan. Also, if the farmer doesn’t have them on “good” grass, they will not taste as good. Deer eat brush, if a cow isnt’ given good grass, maybe clover or fescue, they will taste more like deer. Probably also depends on the breed of cow. Ours are black angus or ‘brangus” (brahman – angus), which you know from the Hardees commercial are beef cows.

  15. The gamey taste is associated with beef fed dried distiller’s grains, a by-product of ethanol production.

  16. I just asked my cattle farmer dad about this. He said that if the cow was what he calls wild, crazy, or goofy to begin with or got upset right before being slaughtered it could cause this taste. I help him work cattle through the shoots and I have seen first hand wild and crazy cows. Most just walk (or slow run) through and express a very mild disliking of the situation but a few kick and buck and sling their heads and act, well, crazy.

    I won’t give details on what he said about getting upset before being slaughtered but he did know of it to happen once and the meat didn’t taste right. He said if they get upset the adrenaline and hormones can cause the meat to taste funny.

    Hope that helps!

    • This is absolutely true Morgan. We do “homekills” every year. We had one steer who didn’t go straight away, if I can put it that way. The animal tenses, stresses (understandably) and you will end up with tough meat. We are talking chewy, only suitable for hamburgers meat. We have them shot at home so they don’t have the stress of a trip to the abbatoir, etc. It sounds mean but it is kinder when they are simply in their paddocks and unaware of the forthcoming event.

      I am not sure about in the US but in NZ/Aus most meat is only hung for a a max for 3 days before it hits the supermarket. This effects taste too. We hang ours for a minimum of a week and the meat is perfect! Our guests are always singing it’s praises (frankly I think it’s because I am great chef … lol)

      We also never corn feed cows they are fully grass fed. Why mess with nature but I suppose in some parts of the world grass supply may be limited. With what is in corn these days (GE, etc) there is no way I would eat corn fed meat unless I knew that the corn was organic.

  17. We get a 1/2 of a grass fed cow each year. It definately is a different taste than grain fed grocery store beef. I notice it in the smell more in roasts and in the flavor more in the ground beef. I have also found that it depends on who/where you get it from. I would ask the farmer you are getting your beef from for a small sample pack, you will probably have to purchase these but they will give you a taste of different cuts. I have also found that grass fed beef does need to be cooked differently than grain fed to not be tough.

  18. When ever we would get wild meat, before i would cook it i would always soak it in buttermilk overnite and then rinse and dry with paper towel. I would cook it then. The meat would then taste like regular beef. As for ground, we always ground our own. so if it’s already ground, just cook and drain and then try it. sometime’s it is the grease from the fat in it that meat that is the culprit.

  19. We’ve been buying in on a cow with my husband’s family the last 2 years and I wont go back. Its way, way cheaper and healthier. Our meat has tasted better than grain fed organic which tastes better than the who knows what you’re getting “beef” at the grocery store.

    I will say 2 things about grass-fed. I was at first turned off that the meat looked darker…I thought maybe it was bad, but it turns out thats what the blood in red meat is actually supposed to look like. Grocery stores tend to inject their meat with chemicals to prevent spoiling and to make them appear brighter and fresher so consumers will be more likely to purchase it. (ever see the neon-red hamburger meat at wal-mart? YUM.) Secondly, I’ve never been a fan of the smell of red meat as it cooks. I’ve noticed that the grass-fed beef smells worse when its cooking. It smells GREAT once its done…its just the cooking process. My husband says I have a weird nose because he doesnt notice it. I wonder if it has something to do with the extra omega 3’s but it tastes great. Like someone else mentioned above, I dont care for filets. I never have though, even pre-grass-fed. I’ve always thought they tasted a little too rich, too beefy. My husband also says this is weird LOL.

    Good luck with this! I agree with the idea of sampling a farm’s selection prior to purchasing an entire cow. Also, a relationship with a LOCAL farmer is invaluble. They WANT to keep your business and truly VALUE your opinion!

  20. I agree with saying it has a more “beefy” taste! I wasn’t really sure about the taste the first time I got grass fed beef-very different than what I was used to. Now I will never go back!

  21. Morgan and Lisa Rose are spot on. We’ve bought cows over the last couple of years. Our first cow was hung for 10 days and we could barely eat it. We talked with our farmer and she said she thought they hung it too long. They also make sure that they deliver the cows 2 days before they are slaughtered so that there is no bad meat taste. If they are slaughtered immediately the cows are stressed and the hormone surges taint the meat. It’s best to either slaughter before transport or to wait a couple days and let the cows chill out. And hanging time taste better between 4-7 days.

  22. Sam Swank says:

    I have been eating grass-fed beef now for about six months. It started out as a quest to find more flavorful beef. First, I tried Buffalo meat…. it was OK but a little gamey. Next, after some research, I tried grass-fed beef. I am hooked ! I don’t think I will ever go back to grain-fed. Not only do I find grass-fed beef to be MUCH tastier (not “gamey” at all) but also I feel better about both the added nutrients (like CLA) and, philosophically about the way the cattle are raise and finished. Mostly, its the MUCH BETTER flavor and nutrition of the grass-fed beef that keeps me coming back !

  23. Well, I see there’s a lot of conflicting comments on this subject. I’ve noticed a very strong unlikable flavor in the grass fed beef we’ve tried from one particular source. It’s not rancid tasting. Just extremely strong and not a good flavor. It’s very difficult to describe. It reminds me of some ground deer meat my mom tried to cook like beef and serve. So I’m guessing that means “gamey”.

    So some comments advocate hanging longer, some not hanging long at all. Some say marinate (this didn’t help with our meat because we did try that). So, now I’m confused and don’t know what to try. :(

    The meat we’re having issues with came out of western Colorado.

  24. Agree on the weird taste, I’ll have to try the buttermilk I still have a freezer full of beef I do not care to eat…

  25. We bought grass-fed beef for the first time late this fall, and the taste is MUCH different than that of corn-fed cattle…..they really can’t even be compared! I wouldn’t describe it as “gamey”, as it’s nothing like the flavor in venison. It has a taste all it’s own, and, according to my mother and her memories as a child, milk from 100% grass-fed dairy cattle will have the same strong “grassy” flavor. Being from MN, I’d never eaten grass-fed beef until now, and I am a huge fan of wild game, including venison and wild waterfowl, but to compare grass-fed beef to the “gamey” taste of wild game is very misleading. I love the “gamey” flavor in wild game, but I discovered I DO NOT like grass-fed beef, AT ALL, nor do my parents, with whom we split the quarter we purchased. It’s not only the taste, the smell is very strong, too, both raw and as it’s cooking, and the smell while cooking can be overwhelming if you’re not accustomed to it. My parents finally gave up and gave us the remaining meat pkgs in their share of the quarter. I can’t make myself throw away/waste all that beef, so I’ve been looking for ways to use it up. As stated here, using the hamburger in dishes like spaghetti sauce and chili, where alot of seasoning is used, disguises the flavor enough to make it palatable for me and my husband. We haven’t yet tried the steaks or roasts, but my parents say the flavor of those, while definitely “grassy”, isn’t nearly as strong as it is in the hamburger, so I’m not sure what we’ll do with those cuts when the time comes. Another thing that really helps dampen the taste is DRAINING OFF AS MUCH FAT AS POSSIBLE after the hamburger is cooked. Taking it one step further and putting the cooked hamburger crumbles/pieces in a colander and running them under water will help rid the meat of even more of the fat and, therefore, the grassy taste. Unless you like the flavor, making gravy from the fat drippings will out of the question! (OOF….the thought of it!) You’ll never completely get rid of the distinct flavor, but getting rid of as much of the fat as possible will definitely help. Many farmers around here do pasture/grass feed their cattle through a good portion of the summer months, finishing them with corn, which replaces that grassy flavor with the beefy flavor most of us have become accustomed to. Being a “farm girl”, born and raised, we grew crops but never raised cattle, so I don’t know how long ahead of slaughter beef producers begin a corn diet to rid their cattle of the grassy taste. Bottom line, we will NEVER again buy 100% grass-feed beef! Some people may like the taste, some may be able to accustom themselves to it, and that’s GREAT! I’m proponent of having a choice in all our food products, but, I can’t see grass-fed beef accounting for a big portion of the beef consumed in this country any time soon. For my family, personally, we found the more we ate, the more we disliked it until, finally, just the smell of the hamburger frying in the pan was enough to nauseate my parents. It’s definitely an “acquired taste” that we’ve unable to acquire, but hooray for those who DO like it. Finally, if you’re accustomed to the flavor of the “more traditional” corn-fed beef, I’d HIGHLY recommend purchasing and trying a small amount of the grass-fed alternative BEFORE you jump into buying a whole quarter of an animal and are, like me, left searching for ways to use it up.

    • By the way, As we have for years, we purchased the grass-fed animal directly from a local farmer, it was a young Angus, and we had it processed at a local locker plant. Over the years, we’ve purchased from 3 different local farmers (NOT including the producer of this grass-fed beef), and all of the beef we’ve purchased locally is pastured for at least a portion of their life, usually early-on, then finished on hay and/or grain. largely corn, that is, in all but that same single case, produced by the same farmer. Again, with the exception of that one case, the hamburger from this grass-fed animal was less lean than all of the traditionally-produced beef we’ve been buying. (And I’m speaking of only the hamburger since, as of this writing, hubby and I haven’t tried the grass-fed steaks and roasts. In our previous experience, those are TYPICALLY, at least as, and usually more lean than the hamburger meat.) I’m not sure why this grass-fed hamburger was more fatty, since most of what I’ve read claims grass-fed cattle to be more lean than the corn-fed alternative. What I do know is that, in the last decade or so, the cattle farmers in our immediate area, from which we’ve purchased, have been producing very lean corn-fed beef…. tender and flavorful, yet lean. YUM!

  26. The farm where we used to buy our beef from is organic, grassfed. It never tasted “gamey”, but when their prices went up to $9.00/lb, we had to switch to another local farm (not organic, but 100% grassfed). We still buy from the first farm as well, but only as a special treat, not a regular part of our diet any more simply because we can’t afford it. Thing is, we loved the beef from the first farm, absolutely no gamey flavor, but I can barely stand to cook what we get from the second farm because it is so gamey smell-wise and taste-wise. I literally gag. So I just assume that it comes from the grasses they graze on since neither farm uses grains. I have found that if I brown the beef on the stove, then cook it with other ingredients in the crockpot for 4-6 hours, it really tames down the gamey flavor and gets rid of the smell, and I am able to eat it. Since I hadn’t been eating any beef for many years, my taste buds are not *conditioned* to grainfed products, as many people state. I’ve persisted in finding ways to eat grassfed beef because I do feel that it is not only a healthy choice, but a better choice for the humane way that the animals are raised. If I felt we could be healthy without meat, that’s the way we’d go, but I do believe it is a necessity for health. That is why we only buy from our local farmers – people we know, trust, and visit their farms. I think that some people who comment about this aversion to the flavor and smell are just plain rude, condescending, and I’m really tired of reading to ‘just suck it up and get used to it.’ As a kid, we lived in KS and hominy grits were a staple in our community; however, I couldn’t eat them nor stand the smell of them. At our cafeteria at school, everything was homemade and I was usually pretty sick by lunchtime just from the smell of hominy grits day. We weren’t allowed out for recess if we didn’t clean up our plates, so one day I just decided I was sick of spending my entire lunch hour in the cafeteria all by myself so I forced myself to get 3 bites down before I started to get sick. Went to tell the teacher I was going to be sick & needed to go to the restroom, but she just held up her hand and told me to get back to the table. My response? I threw up on her! There are just some things that you just can’t ‘suck up and get used to’! Needless to say, there was never hominy grits on MY plate again!

    • I have lived in OK over 20 years, and I am still not a fan of grits. I will eat them, but they are not my favorite. :-) On the beef I think a lot of it does have to do with how they are raised, what they are fed, how old they are when butchered, and the butchering process. I don’t think we realize that so much goes into getting good quality meat. The more animals we have raised ourselves and the more we have bought from local farmers and ranchers the more I realize that it has to do so much with the entire process and not just grass fed vs not grass fed.

      • Lynn – Thanks for adding that additional information about beef and all that’s involved in raising, feeding, etc. There are so many people trying to eat local as well as healthy and supporting local farmers, and that is so terrific to see. So I really hate it that there seems to be such a stuck up attitude (by some, not all!) toward those of us who struggle with the odd gamey flavor but still keep working on how to fix it so we CAN eat in a way that we truly feel is healthier, as well as humane for the animals. But if you can’t stand to swallow it, you can only continue on so long. I’m just glad I’m not as adverse to it as I am hominy grits. Then there’d be NO eating it EVER, LOL!

  27. michael says:

    Wow lots of great comments and sharing of real experiences with Grass Fed Beef here.
    I live in Hawaii and local beef is virtually all grass fed and up ’til recently 90% has been shipped to US mainland for grain finishing. Now that the benefits of grass fed is permeating society a lot more, ranchers have more demand for grass fed; although it doesn’t really get mainstream grocery stores, but rather restaurants and locals who want a deal, or just are seeking out for the health benefits. Have you seen the price in health food stores? Frozen ground grass fed beef for up $14 a pound! (Hawaii costs are high anyway).
    That said, I’ve been getting 1/4’s from a local farmer for years and have to admit that aside from tougher, and a bit stronger flavor, I’ve never had much problem (if its good for you I’ll come to like it) with the flavor until recently; there’s the odor of fresh butchered beef that sort of gags me and it doesn’t smell like “food” if you know what I mean; its kind of a chemical smell.
    Also the flavor of the cooked fat was wow! strong, in a bad way, not rancid, but just strong and unpalatable.
    I have always liked the flavor of cooked fat on a steak or even in stew, but now I trim as much as I can.

    Reading about all the different factors for flavor in this post is very helpful, but the average person who might not have access to a grass fed beef source, or can’t choose is at a loss. From this article we can deduce from this or that; hang time, how old, what kind of grass, temperament of the animal and etc… I’d have to say that for health reasons, I would not eat conventional beef even if it does taste “better” (due to our conditioning, and yeah, just tastes better) and stick with other animal protein choices.

  28. michael says:

    I also wanted to share that the Documentary “Steak” was very good, showing how the commercial beef raising today differentiated; i.e. Wagyu, Kobe, and some of the most expensive comes from animals many years old, pampered, massaged, and living the gentlest lives which is said to be good for the meat value too. One of these can cost astronomical $ and the marbling is unreal.
    It said that most beef in America are slaughtered around 18 months.

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