Skip to main content

A Blind Tasting: Corn-Fed vs. Grass-Fed Beef

If you've read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore Dilemma, you likely have an opinion about corn-fed versus grass-fed beef. I certainly do. I read the book years ago and no other has affected my food purchases more; it was even assigned reading in my 5th grader's class this year. It's no surprise that food choices, environmental impact, and nutritional concerns are hot topics of conversation around my dinner table.

In any case, Pollan's book caused me to re-think my beef purchases and I have, as much as possible, switched completely over to organic and 100% grass-fed. There are distinctions between grass-finished and grass-fed, but that is for another blogpost.

A good friend of mine raises cattle in Ohio. Corn-fed. He and I have talked about what is most important, for me, as an informed consumer, in purchasing beef. Will I buy organic before grass-fed? He was weighing the benefits of switching to organic corn; apparently, there is virtually no market for grass-fed beef in his part of the United States. I was honest: As a rule, I don't buy corn-fed beef. Ever.

He asked if I would do a tasting, if he sent me some. I am relatively open-minded (don't laugh, Richard!) and agreed. So, I roped in two other families and did a blind tasting with Mumford Farm corn-fed beef and Panorama organic, 100% grass-fed beef.

What we ate...
I used the ground beef to make Swedish meatballs. [recipe to come]

And we had grilled porterhouse with whiskey mushrooms. [recipe to come]

What we thought...
I found the results surprising. I really don't know what Richard was anticipating our response to be. We'll see.

Across the board, the comments about texture were definitive: the grassfed, both meatballs and porterhouse, was more dry. "Dryer [sic], smaller," wrote one little taste-tester. "Juicyer [sic], bigger, tender," he commented on the corn-fed. " Other comments mirrored those sentiments - more moist, moister, oily, amazing texture.

But the comments about the flavor ran the gamut. The adults were all over the place. One adult wrote that the grass-fed meatballs were "milder in flavor" while another commented "slightly gamier" about the grass-fed. "Moister, more flavorful," came up on the porterhouse tasting notes about the corn-fed. "Sweeter" was also a descriptor. Strangely, all five of the kids, probably because that's what we buy, gravitated toward the grass-fed in taste. They are accustomed to it.

What does it all mean...
Corn-fed beef is more moist. No doubt about that. But, regarding flavor, it's a matter of preference. Corn-fed is more mild. Grass-fed is, well, grassier; it's gamier and stronger in taste.

I, myself, love the grassiness and can work on texture based on preparation. But I will readily admit that the corn-fed beef was more delicate, in texture, and more sweet, in taste.

So, will this exercise change how I buy beef? No, not at all. There are still the impacts on the environment and the cows themselves to consider. But I really appreciated the opportunity to do a blind, side-by-side tasting. Thanks, Mumford Farm!


  1. Glad to see you were open to trying corn-fed. I would've sent some different cuts out as well if I would've known! :)

  2. I, too, loved Michael's book. It was his book, along with others, that made me decide to grow my own chicken, turkey and pork. I buy my beef from a friend who raises them on grass with some supplemental corn. She describes it as if we humans eat mostly fruits and vegetables as we should but sometimes splurge on dessert. That is how she figures it is with her cows. 80% grass fed and 20% corn or dessert. Her beef is delicious and that explanation sounded reasonable to me.

  3. Very interesting results to read! Thank you for sharing - love the shared tasting notes. :)


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Quick Pickled Red Onions and Radishes

If you've been reading my blog for even a short amount of time, you probably know how much I love to pickle things. I was just telling a friend you can pickle - with vinegar - or you can ferment - with salt - for similar delicious effect. The latter has digestive benefits and I love to do that, but when I need that pop of sour flavor quickly, I whip up quick pickles that are ready in as little as a day or two. I've Pickled Blueberries , Pickled Asparagus , Pickled Cranberries , Pickled Pumpkin , and even Pickled Chard Stems ! This I did last night for an upcoming recipe challenge that requires I include radishes. Ummmm...of course I'm pickling them! Ingredients  makes 1 quart jar radishes, trimmed and sliced organic red onions, peeled and thinly sliced (I used a mandolin slicer) 3/4 C vinegar (I used white distilled vinegar) 3/4 C water 3 T organic granulated sugar 1 T salt (I used some grey sea salt) 6 to 8 grinds of black pepper Proce

Hot Chocolate Agasajo-Style {Spice It Up!}

photo by D For my Spice It Up! kiddos this week, I was looking for an exotic drink to serve while we learned about saffron. I found a recipe from food historian Maricel Presilla that mimicked traditional Spanish hot chocolate from the 17th century where it was served at lavish receptions called agasajos . When I teach, I don't always get to shoot photos. Thankfully, D grabbed my camera and snapped a few. Ingredients serves 14-16 1 gallon organic whole milk 3 T dried rosebuds - or 2 t rosewater 2 t saffron threads, lightly crushed 3 T ground cinnamon 3 whole tepin chiles, crushed 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise 1 C organic granulated sugar 1 lb. bittersweet chocolate Procedure In a large soup pot that can hold a gallon plus, combine milk, dried rosebuds (or rosewater, if you are using that), saffron threads, ground cinnamon, chiles, vanilla beans, and sugar and warm over medium heat till it steams. Whisk to dissolve sugar, then lower heat an

Jamaican Stew Peas #EattheWorld

  Here we are at November #EattheWorld event. What a year this has been! This challenge has been one that gave us some excuse for virtual travel as we've been sheltered-in-place with the coronavirus epidemic for most of 2020. So, we've been able to read about different parts of the world and create a dinner, or at least a dish, with that cuisine. This Eat the World project is spearheaded by Evelyne of  CulturEatz . Read more about  her challenge . This month, Evelyne had us heading to somewhere tropical: Jamaica. I have actually been to Jamaica, but it was almost thirty years ago...and it was just a jumping off point for the rest of our Caribbean exploration. I don't remember eating anything at all! Pandemonium Noshery: Pumpkin Rice   Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Jamaican Stew Peas  Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Jamaican Chicken & Pumpkin Soup   Palatable Pastime: Jamaican Jerk Chicken Burger   Sneha’s Recipe: Jamaican Saucy Jerk Chicken Wings With Homemade Jerk Seas